Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Parenting Tips: Toy Swap

After my oldest's first Christmas, I realized that we had received quite a LOT of toys. I took a few of them still in their packaging and put them away in a closet. I figured Little Man might enjoy one on one time with just a few of the new toys. Once they started getting less love from him I put them in the closet and took out a brand new toy. He was in Heaven all over again. Eventually, I made this a routine. About every couple of months I'd pull out a toy from the closet and replace it with one that wasn't getting played with. I was amazed at the utter focus and sheer attention he would give to the new toy (even if he'd seen it before and/ or forgotten about it).

Well this past Christmas, having now TWO boys, we received triple the amount of toys (how does that work?). It looked like half the toy store exploded in our house, enough to make two little heads go spinning?!

My sisters who live within driving distance have little ones now as well. In my attempt to realize stuff is just stuff- I decided to share some of the toy wealth. I put together two small tubs and labeled them the "Cousin's Traveling Toy Box". I gave one to my niece and one to my nephew.  They now had new toys to play with, and we had less toys to store. When our toys do come back to us they feel like "new" toys all over again.

There are only two rules to the "traveling toy boxes": {One} Clean the toys before you give them back- just a quick water/ vinegar solution rub down,  {Two} Only put in toys you don't mind getting broken or lost. (FYI rule #1 is sort of optional if you have little ones hanging all over you.)

Now that my niece and nephew are starting to accumulate their own toy surpluses, we've had the added benefit of getting some of their toys to play with.  Sure we've lost a few toys, or had a few broken, but we're saving money with this toy lending library AND my boys are also learning the more we have, the more we can share with others.

PS I'm currently reading "Simplicity Parenting: the extraordinary power of less to raise calmer,  happier, more secure kids" by Kim John Payne. {I highly recommend this book} One of the first things the author talks about is simplifying our kids toy piles. He says "no toy at the bottom of a large toy pile can truly be loved or cherished". He says that children don't need another toy to make them happy, they need more uninterrupted free play. Less "educational" toys (the noise makers) and more imaginative toys (objects that can become multiple things with the help of a little imagination) that children can pour themselves into time and again.

"So many choices and so much stimuli rob them of time and attention.  Too much stuff deprives kids of leisure, and the ability to explore their worlds deeply"

After reading his first step to simplifying, I realized I had been doing this with the toy swap, but hadn't always been watching for the signs of too many toys out.  When the boys are bored with the toys we have, I found they just dump them out of the baskets and walk all over them, ignoring the toys completely. The boys become wild and a little crazy. Last week I did a toy swap and put almost three quarters of our toys in the closet. Only leaving two small toy boxes on each level of our house. This might seem extreme to most families, but it has lengthened the playtime each toy receives. Less really does equal more.

Do you know a relative or friend who'd love a few "new" toys to play with? Simplify your play areas, share a tub of stuff and see what happens.

(Linking up to Sew Much Ado)


Vuong Family said...

Love this post. I just recently did the same thing, though I haven't swapped them with anyone. I was just planning to donate them to get them out of my house. I packed up nearly three tubs of toys that seriously never get used. I think the same is true for adults- the more you have available to you, the less creative you are. If I go on a trip and only bring a small selection of beads, I'm more likely to really be creative, because I have to, and I'm not wasting all my time trying to figure out what to do wiht all my stuff!

Margaret said...

It's so true. When all I see is clutter around the house, I feel completely stressed out. I loved this book and the steps the author laid out for simplifying other areas as well. I hope to make another post to summarize those I found most useful.