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Little Hands' Great Toy Experiment of 2014
Jul 08, 2014

Do you ever feel bogged down by "stuff"? I don't know why, but I am a chronic organizer. If it takes me more than ten minutes to clean up a room, then that room has too many things in it, and I start purging it. I've never noticed an impact of "things" much on my children until this past winter. We had Story's autumn birthday, followed by Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine's, and London's February birthday. And BOTH of my children received gifts for every one of those days, yes, even Thanksgiving. We attempted slowing the stream of things at Christmas by asking grandparents to each by only two gifts per child, and my husband and I have always bought three gifts per child, then one large Santa gift. With three children, if you limit that to just those, we now have almost thirty gifts for our children. Thirty. And that's not including all the great grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins and and and. It's overwhelming.

Now why am I talking about Christmas in July? Well, by the time February rolled around, I suddenly had two precious, greedy girls on my hands. We couldn't visit a store at all without the girls asking for everything they saw there, which was a brand new issue we hadn't had to deal with. It wasn't really their fault, everyone in their life had showered them constantly with candy and gifts for months. Meanwhile, I had been mulling over an idea for more than a year.

The girls were suddenly breaking everything and trashing their room every time they went into it. I am not a clean freak, by any means, but where was the line between them being children and teaching stewardship? The final straw was the week of London's birthday. We had bought her a large dollhouse and they had taken such little care of it that they had broken two pieces of the furniture within a few days and had zero remorse about it.

Enter: The Great Toy Experiment of 2014. I bagged up almost all of the toys and put them in the attic to go through later or their closet. I put the cars and train in a bag in the closet, the blocks in their boxes, doll accessories away, everything. I left them their favorite stuffed bunnies, a doll each, and the doll house furniture. They also had all of their puzzles, books, and art supplies in their art cabinet and drawer.

I wanted so badly to try this, but I was also so afraid of their reaction. They walked in the door that afternoon and squealed with excitement over their clean room. I'm not even making that up. I could have cried with relief. They danced and hopped about all afternoon. The next morning, during their time they play in their room, I almost gave them more toys back because I felt bad for them. They did not ask for more, they did not complain, nothing. They sat happily looking at books or playing made up games with their bunnies.

Fast forward 20 weeks. Here we are today with just as few toys out. Occasionally, I'll get the girls a bag from the closet out, but more often than not, they are busy coloring pictures, pretending, or looking at books. It has done wonders for the harmony in our home and the girls' attention spans. Every four weeks, I switch out the toys for different ones, always leaving the favorite stuffed bunnies. We also have a diamond system in our home where the girls get craft diamonds for positive behavior. If I catch them being kind or considerate, or if they do their chores all week without complaining by Friday, they get one. When they get to ten, they can choose a trip to the zoo, park, ice cream for dinner, or a bag from the close to keep for a weekend. Almost always, they'll choose doing something as a whole family over things. That's the lesson I want them to take away most. That moments will always be more important than stuff, and that we are so blessed to have all we have already that we don't need to revel in more and more and more.

Our choice isn't for everyone, but it works so well in our family and inspires us all to purge the excess from our lives and enjoy the moments more.

Until next time,
Heather

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| Jul 21, 2014 - 7:04 pm
Ok, this story is so what Ive been going through for the last 3-4 years and the ironic part is the authors name is my name! I love the idea of taking all these things away because yes the children even get bogged down and their creativity crushed and their want to spirits smolder rather than burn with zeal because they cant see through the mess and clutter, they get overwhelmed. amen to you for braving the decision! yes, the more these people give to our children the more they are going to want. on a side note, please do not ask children to flip through the catalogs and pick out everything and anything, because this creates greed and expectation that cannot be fulfilled nor should it be. thanks again for sharing your story! Heather R.