Monday, January 26, 2015

I Took All Their Toys...And They Like It.

I like toys. I think they're cool and I like trying out new ones. I rarely buy them though, because I hate clutter and my kids hate cleaning. I only buy brand-new toys for birthdays and Christmas. That's 2 per child, 2 days a year, times 4 years. That is 16 toys. So WHY do we have so many?!? Somewhere, the math isn't working. Okay, so there's the occasional thrift-store yes, like the toy vacuum (I wish it were real) and the light saber. My kids also earn money for chores and they sometimes buy toys. Then there are the gifts from friends and relatives. But considering how many things they break, lose and give away, you'd think it would balance out.

 Some of you are laughing now. You know what I'm talking about. It never balances out! In fact, there is a tremendous worldwide imbalance. All the kids in less-developed countries who don't have any toys, ever wonder why? They're all in my house, that's why! (The toys, not the kids.) It's time to correct the imbalance! I'm sending the toys back to Uganda.

Here's the story. One night, I had told my kids to clean their room for the billionth time, only to hear once again that it was too hard. You know what? I believed them. I came in with a handful of large trash bags and said I was coming in to help. They believed me. One by one, we gathered up all the toys, organizing them by category, and stuffed them ALL into the bags. The kids looked relieved and never complained or protested. The bags went into the attic but we can't keep them all. Some really will have to be sent away and I still want to help out needy kids. I'm just not sure how to get them to Africa. In any case, my boys have not had to pick up toys in a week and they're much more relaxed.

I wouldn't recommend such a drastic approach in most cases, but we've seen some neat results from this experiment. Here's what happens:

My children are much more creative in their play. They have to be. They're building tents out of blankets, dressing up with sheets, and playing music with dishes. They're building puppet theaters using cardboard. (They don't have any puppets so Daddy's old socks might get repurposed.) They pretend to be gates, bridges, trees and banana splits. This afternoon, they were giving one another horsey rides. They appreciate shadows, colors and music more. The few straggler toys that escaped the sweep are much more enjoyed.

The boys are much more interested in learning about whatever I'm doing. Today they helped me assemble first-aid kits for their emergency bags and I taught them about preparedness. They talk to me more and tell me about their lives. They read more. My older son is teaching his little brother the alphabet.

I guess less really is more. Less is also less. Less whining, less TV and less mess. Less time looking for things, less fighting over things. Less time worrying about THINGS and more time with PEOPLE. I think this experiment is a success, more or less (I just had to do that.)

Playing with toys helps children learn about their world and be more like their parents. Not having toys does that too. I'm wondering what tomorrow will bring. Will my children start cooking and thinking that laundry is fun? Will they get excited about real tools and real vacuums? We'll have to wait and see. I'm sure that I'll bring the toys out of the attic sometime. But not today. Today, I'm a caterpillar, crawling around in a vegetable garden. So I can't go in the attic, can I?

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