where did all this come from? tips for keeping toys at bay

When I was a new mom I had my mind set on keeping things simple.  I saw no need for fancy crib bedding or extra things you don’t really need.

I nannied for a few families before having my own kids, so I knew how little you actually needed.  In fact, I would argue that in the very beginning all you really need is a boob, diapers and a few changes of clothes.

As Elijah grew and started showing interest in toys, I just knew we were going to be toy minimalists.  No plastic and no piles of toys from cartoons (because obviously my kid would never just sit in front of a TV).

Fast forward a few years… we were drowning in toys.  Where had all this crap come from? I am terribly embarrassed of the picture below… but just want to keep it real.

Between splurges, yard sales and gifts… STUFF just started piling in. I was irritated I had become what I thought I wouldn’t, and at the same time I felt that I was letting Elijah down.  It seemed like the more toys there were, the more hectic the house was for everyone, including him.  I needed to get back to my original vision.

So one day when the kids were out with John I cleared out his room.  I gave away some, donated a lot and put some stuff in storage.  When Elijah got home 75% of his toys were gone and he never even noticed.  It was wonderful, and we have managed to keep things simple since.

If you haven’t entered into the toy stage yet, I encourage you to be proactive and have a plan.  If you are in the thick of the toy stage, it’s not too late. Here are a few things that help me:

  • First things first…. Boredom.  It’s a really, really good thing.  Kids don’t always have to be stimulated.  In our house… boredom has encouraged many forts to be built, many books to be read and  many silly songs to be written.
  • Store toys away.  I have a few large storage bins of toys that I store away and rotate every few months.  Only store toys away that you think are worth keeping.  Well over half of the boys toys are put away, and I try to keep no more than 2 small baskets of toys around.  It’s amazing how there can be so few toys and his room can still look like it has been taken over.
  • No batteries.  We try to not buy toys that require batteries.  In our experience, these toys don’t encourage creativity or physical movement.  Soccer balls and sidewalk chalk hold my kids attention a lot longer than any LeapFrog ever has.
  • Gifts.  I think it is best to just let gifts be gifts.  Unless someone specifically asks me what gift they should give either of my kids, I keep my mouth shut.  I know my family loves buying gifts for them and I don’t want to dictate their joy.
  • Stop buying.  It seems simple, but for me it took a while to learn.  When Elijah was an only child we would be out and about a lot.  I found myself buying him something small just about everywhere we went.  It seems innocent at first, but it got to the point where he expected something every time.  I talked to a friend about this, and they gave me the advice to just explain to Elijah that this had to stop.  Now, before we head into any store, I let him know that we will not be buying (or looking) at toys.  To my surprise this has worked really well.

This has been an story of trial and error for us, and I am still trying to figure out if I love or hate these Legos.  Things are far from perfect around here, but one thing I know for certain is that more toys does not equal more happiness!  And remember, you are the parent and you are in charge!

Good luck!

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