Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Kid Stuff

I recently read a blog post that addresses the toll that too much stuff can take on kids.  While I feel like she has some valid points, I also feel like it was a little extreme.  Do I think that kids *need* toys to be happy and thrive?  No way. But I do think that there are a lot of great toys out there that are made just right to help facilitate some great thought processes and inspire imagination.

Ayden has been enjoying his new toys that he got for Christmas.  We enjoy using a toy rotation system at our house and the days that he has a fresh set of new toys is always a very peaceful day.  I don't have a specific schedule for this.  Whenever I notice days going by without him showing interest in a toy or days where he can't seem to keep himself occupied I realize these are clues that it is time to rotate.

Though we prefer toys and activities made from natural materials (wood, metal, leather, water, stone, etc.) he still has plenty of plastic and battery operated toys.  I don't think those do any harm per say, it is just my experience that they are more like one hit wonders.  They do one main thing and once he's figured it out and gotten his fill, it gets tossed aside. These are the items that need to be rotated the most. Other more open ended toys (blocks, instruments, art materials, books, etc.) offer constant entertainment.  Everyday they offer some different exploration and Ayden never tires of them.  They are the toys that are left available to him all the time.

The blog post I mentioned above has gotten me thinking about Ayden's toys and what we want to do about them during this downsize and purge we are trying to do this year.  I don't want to do anything extreme, but I also want to be able to make the most of the small space we will have in our new home.  I don't know that we would have the space to store as many toys while they are out of rotation.  Keeping everything out all the time is also not an option in my opinion.  Something else I have learned from experience is that too many toys to choose from prevents most children from playing with any of them appropriately which therefore prevents them from learning whatever it is they are supposed to from it.  It also just sets them up for making a mess that would be overwhelming for anyone to clean up.  We have a 9 cube shelf system downstairs as well as up in his play room with one toy on each shelf.  He also has access to books, blocks and art in both areas of the house at all times.  He will sometimes request a toy, or will want to bring one down from upstairs and in that case we just switch it out with one that was down there.  He has plenty of freedom to choose what he plays with.  Keeping toys a little more limited has allowed us to teach Ayden how to properly use each toy or activity and to clean up when he is done. This kind of system may not work for everyone but it is working great for us!  

In the end, I think toys are fun for kids and I don't see a deep reason to withhold them altogether.  On the other hand, I think it is important to set some limitations.  Only x amount of shelves and bins available and when they are full you have to use one in, one out to make room for anything new perhaps?  We are still working out the route we want to take.  All we know is that if something isn't worth keeping around, if it isn't going to contribute to Ayden's happiness or development, we shouldn't waste the space to do so.  

How do you manage toys and other kid stuff at your house?  Have you ever taken a minimalist approach like in the blog post above?  What did you take from it?


Flashback!  Here's what we were up to one year ago today: "Hunting for Treasures Part 2"

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  1. Like Aydan's, my son's birthday is fairly close to Christmas (his is Nov 20), which sets us up for some toy overloads (because he's getting the same types of toys for his age group almost all at once). We have set limits on our own Christmas gifts/toys we give him, and we are considering in the future enforcing limits for our families too (grandparents tend to go a little nuts!). Then every year, starting next year, around Christmas I plan on having my little guy go through his toys with me and pick some to donate. I think this will help keep down the clutter of too many toys and also teach him the value of giving to those less fortunate.

    1. Having him help you choose some to donate is a great idea! Someone told me recently about bagging up some old toys and leaving them under the tree on Christmas Eve for Santa to take with him. He'll take them back to his workshop, clean them up and take them to new kids the next year. We may consider starting that sort of thing next year.

  2. I feel the same as you - a total elimination of toys seems extreme and silly, but too much just causes them to be overwhelmed and not play well. I like to take nap time/bed time as a time to put away anything Mallory hasn't played with in a few days/weeks. We have a small condo, so its overwhelming to me as a home owner to have too much out. We keep a lot of things tucked away in our crawl space and she will go in there from time to time to get something new to play with out, or she will request something that is put away and we will get it out for her. At almost 3 years old, she definitely has her favorite things to play with which makes it so much easier! Plus, they get so into imaginary play at this age that she doesn't need too much (which I love!)

    1. Ayden is beginning to cross over into imagination land now and I am so glad for it! They can be entertained with so much less. It is wonderful.