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As the first year of homeschool approaches in our household I’m forced to confront the fact that I spend enormous amounts of my time managing “stuff”. This really came to my attention a few weekends ago as I was cleaning up our 2 & 3 year old boys shared bedroom. No sooner did I get all of the toys picked up off the floor from their room (and those that had spilled out into our dining room and living room) then our 2 year old happily trotted back into his room and proceeded to dump his toy boxes.Epic fail!My husband gave me that look. You know, the “Why do you continue to torture yourself in this way?” look.So I had the boys help me put everything back (and you know how it is with kids of this age, they don’t organize, they just throw things inside the bin). There. Done.Not so fast.About 3 minutes later the toy bins were again dumped.Clearly this had become a game of dumping the toys, not playing with the toys. And I have had enough. Particularly knowing in the back of my mind that I’m going to be homeschooling my 7 year old daughter in a month’s time, I knew this could not continue. There was no way I was going to be able to manage all this “stuff” and spend quality time with not just my daughter, but my young boys as well. Oh… and my poor husband who always comes in last. Geesh.So I did what anyone would do when they need validation. I consulted Google. “Do my kids have too many toys?”, I asked. Around all of the advertisements for buying new toys that Google apparently thought I was interested in… I found my answer. It turns out that YES, INDEED they have too many toys.Alright, I’ll be the first to admit that while I like to think of myself as a very independent thinker and personality, and I truthfully don’t buy a lot of “extra stuff”, I do have some issues with having too many things.My problem lies in two different areas:
- Feeling ungrateful if I get rid of gifts
- Thinking that I may need something later on (I grew up poor so I learned you keep every screw, rubber band, every tampon that feel out of its insert… in case you need one and can’t afford to buy another one, etc.)
And I’ll bet that you can relate to at least one of these yourself.So what did I find out about the “too many toys” issue, you ask?I’ll try to keep this simple and to the point. Research has been done that shows that too many toys is BAD for kids. Children, especially younger children, feel overwhelmed and will then feel compelled to touch each toy rather than immerse themselves in meaningful play. Source. In another study German researchers asked a preschool to remove all of the toys for 3 months. Amazingly they agreed. The teachers said that while on the first day the children didn’t know what was going on and seemed confused after 3 months time all of the children where engaged in wildly imaginative play. Source.(The scene from Little Women came to mind when I read this in which they are having the time of their life putting on plays in their attic with nothing more than old clothing for costumes).So validation in place that by donating the larger majority of toys while simply keeping a few that they love most and those that are educationally appropriate for their age would not scar them for life, didn’t mean that I was abusing them, and indeed would mean great things for them (and great things for me with much less “stuff” to mindlessly manage) – I set off.Too Many Toys vs. Less Toys – The Final VerdictThree garbage bags filled with toys donated to our local second hand store and 2 weeks later — and my boys are are happier then ever! They are actually spending time playing with their toys and coming up with their own activities to do that don’t require any toy whatsoever. And guess what! Not once have they asked about the “missing” toys.What a wonderful feeling for everyone! I’ve officially vowed to never go back to a state of toy hoarding again.So What Made the Cut for the Keep Bin?I only kept a handful of toys that I knew they enjoyed. Here’s a picture to give you an idea (okay, okay… I’ll get to this when I get to this, I have kids!… lol). Enough to play with, but not so much that their room is just a toy cluster. I also kept 2 “big items” that we’ve had for a couple years but are still very loved. Those would be the Step2 Deluxe Canyon Road Train & Track Table and V-Tech® Go! Go! Smart WheelsTM Amazement Park Playset. And finally I made an area for “every once in a while toys”. These are kept put away and pulled out for special times. They include all of our awesome learning puzzles, coloring books with crayons, and 3 remote control cars. My idea here was to stash away items with small pieces and those that required batteries to help keep lost puzzle pieces under control and battery usage at a reasonable level. And in our house, crayons left out are crayons destroyed! What makes this great is that every time we pull these things out it feels like a brand new item again, their interest is peaked, and their eyes sparkle! It’s simply fantastic!In the end there’s still toys that get pulled out (as I of course want them to) but cleaning up is now a simple, easy, and quick task that only takes about 5 minutes at its worst. Less is more they say and in this case, it’s undoubtedly true. We now have much more time to simply enjoy each others company and PLAY!