Toys Are Meant To Be Played With
Over the years, one of the biggest challenges my clients have dealt with has to do with toys. From tripping hazards to ninja swords sticking out of sofa cushions parents are simply overwhelmed when it comes to their kid's toys. The central issue is the battle between the grownups desire to have the toys off the floor and the kid's desire to play with them.
The first issue that needs to be addressed before any playroom system can be designed is volume. Thanks to free trade and the rise of plastic toys are fundamentally not expensive (I know, I know LEGO are). In theory, if the whole class is invited to a child’s party plus factoring in relatives a four-year-olds haul from an annual party could be almost 40 toys. So how do we get rid of toys if my kid loves them? The answer lies with the kid. Watch them, how do they play and what really interests them? We all know the old adage about the kids playing with the box it came in and ignoring the toy. If we take away the concept of them merely enjoying the new toy and observe their play habits, we may find that that beloved new toy quickly collects dust in a remote corner of a shelf. I have found that simply taking unpopular toys out of rotation often goes un-noticed. Another useful strategy is to collect the toys and talk to the children about all the kids in the world who may not have any toys and have them select some for specific donation.
The Gate Keeper
Now that the number has been reduced what about next year, how do we stop more toys from coming into the house? A possible respite from the onslaught of birthday and holiday toys is to become the gatekeeper. Ask party guests to donate to a charity instead of toys knowing that you will get your kid one or two actual toys that she actually wants. I know what you’re thinking, what about the grandparents? They love to shower the grandkids with gifts (all the time). We want to focus their gift giving on experiences. Tickets to the Lion King are not cheap let them take your little birthday boy. How about swimming, soccer, piano or guitar lessons. All those extracurricular activities add up so why not let mom and dad pick up the tab. Of course, the real grandparent dilemma is that they may still want to have your kids rip open wrapping party and have something tangible in their hands at Christmas. The solution, assign blame. Tell Pop-Pop that you would love to have him get a million toys for his only grandson but the doctor feels too much stimulation is making it hard for him to learn to read. Or my favorite all the stuffed animals are creating a dangerous dust situation that makes your granddaughter’s allergies flair up.
Lastly, knowing that the work of childhood is play, think about the goal of each toy. Is the same joy level reached with the 45th Matchbox car compared to the 2nd?