Simplifying the toys made us all happier
Updated: Jul 25
Do you ever feel stuck and overwhelmed by the mess created by toys in your home?
I certainly did. Toys seemed to take over the over the entire house - in the kid's bedroom, the living room, the dining room - I couldn't even have a bath without having to empty it of toys first!
I didn't feel like we had spoilt our children with an excess amount of toys, but the fact that I felt I was continually trying to keep on top of the toy tidying and it made me feel stressed and irritated mean that we had still allowed too many in the house.
We had all become overwhelmed with the tots without realising it. Me and the constant nagging at the kids every day to tidy up caused us all stress. I forgot how overwhelmed I felt when I was looking at a big mess that needed to be sorted out, but yet I was telling the kids to "just do as you're told" and get it cleared up.
Something had to change.
I decided we needed to simplify and be more intentional about the toys we had in our home.
This was two years ago (My children are now six and ten), but it was one of the best things we could have done, for us as parents and for the kids.
Here are just a few of the reasons why less was more when it came to toys:
A calm, happy mum is more important than any toy.
My kids needed a Mummy who wasn't stressed and shouting at them like a psycho to tidy up, and I needed kids who didn't feel down and defeated before they even started.
I wanted to be the Mummy who sat down and built Lego and end enjoyed just being with them, rather than the one who felt she had clear up the mess than play with the kids.
Simplifying helps to give kids their Mum back.
They were taking up more time and energy than they were worth.
My kids didn't even play with all the toys. I spent more time, physical and mental energy on them than they did. I was either stepping on it, moaning about it, moving it out of the way, attempting to organise it, looking for ideas on Pinterest that promise to magically organise it once and for all, buying more boxes and re-organising it.
When you have too much - the cupboards are crammed, the drawers are full, and playthings cover every inch of the floor - it's impossible to stay organised. It was only when we reduced what we had that I was able to finally feel in control, and keep tidying up was so much easier and took much less of everyone's time.
Kids play better with less.
Even if you have a large playroom kids feel and play better when their space is not overcrowded by toys.
The choice of what to play can be overwhelming and overstimulating and can make it harder for kids to focus. Once the excess is eliminated, children start playing more.
Research shows that fewer toys encourage imagination, storytelling and creative play. Children are naturals at play. Giving them lots of toys to do all the imagining for them trains them to need to be entertained and kills their natural tendency to come up with things on their own. By having fewer toys, kids will become kids and more creative with the toys that they have.
They play for longer periods of time and develop longer attention spans.
It reduces the "I wants" and "Can I get a toy?" every time you go shopping.
One more toy can't do any harm, and if it's going to give me 15 minutes of peace so I can get what I need from the supermarket without the whinging and tantrum, sometimes it's easier to say "fine - just have it". We've all been there.
But, it happened every time we went into a supermarket or anywhere that sold toys. I needed to get the kids out of the habit of begging for toys every time we went into a shop.
We had tears and tantrums over toys that they had to have and couldn't live without. The same toys that once brought were played with for two days until they decided they no longer wanted them anymore.
One week, my son had a rare meltdown in Tesco's over a massive Stormtrooper. I didn't give in, and we left without it. He talked about it for two days afterwards, and I felt guilty and wanted him to be happy. So, when he wasn't with me, I went back and bought it for him. He was excited about it for all of 20 minutes, and that was it. I cursed it every time I moved it from place to place, trying to find somewhere for it to live until it finally went to the charity shop.
I now remind them before we even go into a shop that we are not buying toys. It took a while, but after a few times of whining and crying and not giving in, we have an understanding.
Reducing the want for more toys helps them to focus on the important things in life, versus materialism.
You might be surprised by how little your children request new toys when they start playing more with the ones they already have.
They develop better relationships and communication skills with others.
Kids argue less with each other. Most parents believe that more toys equal fewer arguments as they are more options to play with, but the opposite is true. Siblings argue about toys. When there is less, they are forced to share and collaborate.
They become less selfish. Kids who have everything they want, think they can have everything they want.
It helps them to learn contentment and appreciation for what they have.
Kids rarely appreciate what they have when they have too much. Being able to choose which toys are important enough to stay can help create more appreciation for them.
When my kids complained that they were bored, I would remind them of all the toys they begged me for, that were still there waiting to be played with. The reply I got was usually "No, I don't like that anymore".
But, it wasn't their fault; they had got into the habit of flitting from one toy to the next and not fully engaging with what they had. They were learning from other people, the media and the cycle of consumerism around them that acquiring new toys (or other material things) is what makes you happy.
I wanted our children to learn contentment, appreciation and happiness in where they are and what they have now. I didn't want them to continue falling into the trap of always needing and wanting better things, and to find satisfaction outside of the toy store.
One of the things I loved most about simplifying our toys was watching how much the kids learnt to appreciate and take care of the toys that they loved and played with.
It teaches them responsibility.
Use it as an opportunity to teach your children about responsibility, ownership, giving their things a proper home to live in and tidying up after themselves. Even at the age of 3 or 4, you can start to teach kid these things, and in my personal opinion, it's a great lesson to learn!
I feel that it's also important for kids to learn what you have taking up your space has to have it's limits because it also takes up your time.
Of course, your child is going to want to keep every little thing if they have no obligation of responsibility and Mummy and Daddy tidy it all up.
I didn't want to dread the deluge of toys and crap every Birthday and Christmas.
Every birthday and Christmas I would dread getting the same questions from friends and family about what toys the kids were into and what they could buy for them. I'd feel anxious at the thought of any more toys coming into our home, and having to find more space to keep them.
My kids do love toys and treats on special occasions, but they didn't need the vast amount that they were getting. Most of the were only played with for a couple of days until they were forgotten about.
I didn't want to be at all ungrateful, but the short life span of a lot of the toys they were given didn't justify the money spent on them.
Now they carefully choose a couple of things from a 'Wish List', and we ask for donations towards an experience of a day out that will be remembered long after the toys have gone.
Decluttering the Toys
When we first talked to the kids about simplifying the toys, the kids looked a bit anxious, and we did have some concerns at the time.
But they didn't miss the toys that we donated at all.
We kept all the favourites, such as the Lego, Sylvanian Families, dolls, wooden train set, Playmobil and favourite cuddly tots, but nearly everything else went.
They didn't miss out with fewer toys at all; in fact, we all gained so much in the process.
I just wish we had done it sooner!
Think about how much time you are spending dealing with your kid's toys in some way?
Are you constantly hounding them to tidy up their toys?
Are the toys making everyone in your home happier, or are they a constant source of contention and stress?
Embracing simplicity in your family takes work, but it is achievable and wonderful when all the hard work pays off.