Today I got done boxing up all my kids' toys for the summer. Our basement feels so fresh and clean! And I'm so excited to have it stay that way.
Let me give you a little background to this story…
Why I Boxed Up All My Kids' Toys for the Summer
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Last summer we spent a weekend at my friend's cabin. I was a little worried since my friend's kids were older than mine, that she wouldn't have any age-appropriate toys for them to play with. I was also concerned this would result in me trying to entertain my kids the entire time, thus defeating the purpose of a little “getaway” with my friend.
What I discovered that weekend was eye-opening.
There weren't any toys for my kids to play with, but I didn't have to spend time entertaining them like I thought I would. For HOURS I witnessed them play outside with the other kids, with STICKS AND ROCKS. They went on hunts and they played make-believe, and they used their imaginations in all kinds of ways. And when they did come inside, they made forts or they told each other stories, or they exchanged jokes, or they hung out on the bunk beds and laughed and giggled.
THEY WERE CREATIVE. THEY WERE PLAYFUL. THEY USED THEIR IMAGINATIONS
So This is Why I boxed up the toys for the summer:
I have known for a while now that my kids have way too many toys. They go downstairs and pull everything out, and the mess is too overwhelming for their age, that they feel incapable of cleaning it all up without an adult's help. This is extremely frustrating for everyone involved (especially my husband and I).
I have gone through various stages of getting rid of things, but there still seems to be too much, and I've been left struggling with what things to keep and what things to get rid of.
The other difficulty lies in convincing my children that they don't need this many toys.
Study after study has shown that more toys equals less play. Kids become overwhelmed with everything that is available, that they end up not playing with anything for very long. They lose the ability to be creative and imaginative. Toys should be TOOLS, not entertainment. Tools for creativity and imagination.
We teach our kids to be amused by their toys rather than to play with them. They want the flashy “latest” thing on T.V., and then weeks later it gets trashed or ignored when it stops working, runs out of batteries, or simply isn't as exciting as it seemed.
Summer is the Best Time to Go Without Toys
Summer is the best time to have a trial period without toys, because there is so much else to do! Once the summer is over I will have a much easier time knowing which toys we should keep, by what they remember and ask for. Everything else can go.
The Transition Period
Although I do have high hopes of my children using their imaginations and being creative in what they decide to do this summer, I do understand that there will be a transition period. When we were at my friend's cabin, my kids didn't just start playing with sticks and rocks…they observed other kids doing it.
This means that I am prepared with a list of “summer boredom” ideas to jumpstart my kids' creativity. If you want to try this experiment out with me, I will have a blog post later this week with some fun ideas.
What About Rainy Days, Sick Days, etc.?
I did leave out one small bin of dolls that my girls love playing with (without the hundreds of accessories), and I left a small bin of trains and cars for my 2-year old boy. A small manageable amount that they can clean up by themselves without feeling overwhelmed. Since summer hasn't quite started yet, today was the first day of the trial run and they all picked up their toys without complaint. Because it was easy. Simple. They knew they could do it in a matter of minutes. And they were proud of themselves.
We also have coloring stuff and a few craft supplies stored in a closet for when we feel like pulling them out. And I'm not against some summertime movies either.
Ultimately I'm really excited for this summer. I'm excited that when someone invites us to do something, I don't have to say to my kids “once the play room is cleaned up, we can go.”
I'm excited to free up my Saturdays from endless hours of “please go down and pick up your dang toys so we can have Family Fun Night.”
And I'm excited to watch their personalities develop and their creativity grow.
And if my 3rd trimester belly is feeling up to it, I might even teach them how to play horse with their basketball hoop, or how to use chalk to draw up a 4-square court, or how to catch bugs, build forts and play in the sprinklers.
Everything that made my own childhood so great.
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