25 toys are enough (and other thoughts)…

American parents give their kids too many toys. Period.

Finally after 4 kids, when my 4th kid turned one…I had figured out that I was one of those parents. I was ready to change. I retrained my brain in this and we started over.

I purchased very few toys that he was extremely drawn to, why is this is a life-changing concept?  We filled a little push wagon with his favorite toys…maybe 5 or so. We gave him one medium sized toy box in his room with about 20 toys. Every day he would fill his little wagon, push it all over the house. Then, when the day was over…we put them back and pushed his sweet wagon into his closet. It became the most precious playtime for him. Oh how he loved our little system. He memorized it! He was the happiest 1 year old I’ve ever parented.

And, you know what? On days he was having some boredom with his 25 toys…we played in laundry baskets, colored cardboard boxes, banged on pots and pans, sorted tupperware or simply ran around outside. Toys are just one small piece of educating, growth, and development. Again after a decade of parenting, why am I just now coming to terms with this?

For parents of small children, I can’t say it enough. Live with few toys. Count them, care for them. Act like you love them. Even just one pair of sunglasses can be pure bliss.

I’ve had moms say to me, “Uh, oh. We counted. It was ugly. We have nearly 300 toys.” I know, right? It’s amazing how as parents, we lose track. We just don’t know what we own many times until we put all the toys in the middle of the room and start counting.

I met with a mom once that let me know that she simply forgot to rid her home of toys that were outgrown. (Normal!) We’re a little faster to recognize a 9 month shirt that doesn’t fit our 18 month old, but often times forget to notice “He’s done playing with that.” These kinds of shifting elements to home are going to forever be the moving parts we have to manage.

Here’s a scenario. Is this happening every day at home? Do you relate?

You can be making dinner and look back and literally lose your mind over the mess of toys in the living room.

But, then…this is a good time to ask ourselves…is this “problem” just evidence that we have too many toys? Since my kids are small, I think it’s just pure silliness to say they play with all of these. They don’t. They absolutely can’t. An overstuffed playroom is not fun for kids. They get more fun out of dumping every bin out then engaging with their toys individually. Right?

I find that our children don’t need to access 100% of toys all at once.

Many items can be stored out of reach: crayons, markers, play doh, anything intricate with small pieces, puzzles, games. I’ve spoken with several parents who complain of their kids coloring on walls, furniture, floors, or whatnot. I ask one question, “Where are your crayons and markers stored?” This is 100% an issue of access. Only so many times can a child color on the wall before it’s time to be sure the crayons are stored up very very far away or they are just too immature to handle crayons. I think the instinct is to blame the child for the bad behavior.

Children can be trained, but hold yourself responsible to order your home in a way that works well. This is like me stopping and saying, “No more. 25 toys is enough.” That was me holding myself responsible rather than blaming the kids.

My mother-in-law did this when her kids were young. She would leave only about 50% of toys out to be accessed and used. She stored extras for rainy days up high in a closet or attic. She rotated toys, which is a great idea! At first, it feels like limitations, but it’s actually very manageable. We even put a “for a rainy day” label on a box and up to the attic it went. Oh the excitement to revisit toys we forgot about. The newness to them is an exciting thing.

Holding myself accountable. Taking responsibility for too many toys is something a responsible parent will do.

I don’t even know how to admit this, but having three daughters we are knee deep in baby dolls. From the dollar store, from this birthday party, from that store, from grandparents, from everywhere. They ranged from completely precious and special to worn down and “well-loved”. I decided to take an inventory of just how many baby dolls we owned. From all crevices we gathered them. Every room, every toy box…we just kept piling them. We saw our pile and I nearly choked on my own spit. Gosh. We had 67 baby dolls. 67! I lined them up and told my girls. “This is embarrassing. Look at us. No wonder our playroom is a mess. We are overstuffed with babies. Girls, pick your favorite 3 dolls.” We were all in shock to be honest as we could not even walk in the room as we perused the rows and rows of options.

Marie Kondo, a leading organization expert, says that “because most people don’t bother to store similar items in the same place” we literally cannot grasp the sheer quantity of items we own. Every single time I’ve addressed a category such as “toys” this has been beyond true and borderline shocking.

Took some sorting and counting and gathering toys into one spot and some decisions about favorites, but I’m happy to say we finally have a grasp on this. 25 toys for one toddler is enough. 

 

 


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