Toy Overload! And What To Do About It (Episode 109)
Did you know that fewer toys could actually benefit your kids? Sometimes in our desire to provide for our children, we end up with toy overload in our homes! But maybe toy overload isn’t the solution.
Of course you know that – but do you know WHY it’s so important to pull back on the toys? We break it down according to Joshua Becker’s “Becoming Minimalist” report.
As a mobile family, our toy overload was eliminated by pure necessity. Living in less than 240 square feet, we quite literally can’t add the weight and space of a bunch of toys. We had to get super intentional.
There can be all kinds of benefits with toys – there are super educational ones and ones that our family absolutely loves. However, toys have also brought out the worst in our kids, and I bet it’s done that for yours as well.
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Boredom is one heck of a stimulant for creativity
Where are we this week?
The number of pictures I have from a week on a farm is insane. Here is just one of a gazillion with me doctoring some adorable little kittens we found! They had horrible conjunctivitis, but after some tedious cleaning, they are all recovered and now running around following all the humans everywhere. After possibly 2 weeks of not being able to see, I guess humans were the first thing they laid eyes on!
Follow us on our journey on Insta as the FieldTripGypsies!
Becoming Minimalist - Joshua Becker
There are several bloggers I follow regularly, and one biggie is "Becoming Minimalist" by Joshua Becker. I love his summary emails that give me multiple links to check out, and I periodically find ones that really resonate. This is where the idea for this podcast came from, and we base it on the top tips he has laid out in this article - Why Fewer Toys Will Actually Benefit Your Kids:
#1 - More Creativity
Do you allow for any “white space” for your children to simply be bored? In our desire to keep our kids stimulated, we oftentimes fill every moment with something, and don’t just allow them to sit there.
Even if you do have a toy, don’t just lay out the instructions for how to use it; give them the opportunity to create their own way to play with it. For example, yes, my kids know how to play Monopoly. But even more fun than that is how they play “bank” using the Monopoly money as their funds!
Some additional resources for you
- Setting Boundaries: Your Children are NOT the Center of the Universe
- How to Live Without Saying A Word: A Lesson On Awareness (Episode 21)
- How to Foster Awareness At Home
- Feeling completely overwhelmed and stressed out?
- Educational Gift Guide – apps, toys that ARE helpful and more!
- Ultimate Children's Book Guide - continually adding to this one!
- Curious what personality style your children are, and they aren't yet five? Check out the "Family DISCovery Playbook"
- Pick your battles with your children
#2 - Longer Attention Spans
When you have toy overload, you can have kids shut down due to so many choices. Have you ever had that kid that walks in and tells you they are bored, as they are surrounded by toys all over? Sometimes too many options makes nothing really stand out.
We found that even rotating the toys they had so they only had a few at a time translated to way more time devoted with the toy! Switching toys out keeps the “new” factor and kids don’t feel so overwhelmed with all the options that may be pulling at them. They can really focus in on one toy and enjoy it.
#3 - Better Social Skills
Kids can zone out to just go play with toys and not engage in conversation all around them. When they aren’t being entertained all the time, they may jump in and engage in conversation, or even observe and learn more about how others are interacting.
It’s not just cell phones and other screens distracting us. Maybe it’s time to put the toy down and simply be aware of your surroundings; not playing cars on the grocery cart, but watching the shopping and learning about this life skill.
#4 - Good Stewardship
Kids learn to take care of things when they have only a few things to manage. Toy overload can be overwhelming to keep track of. But a few things they have specifically chosen – and possibly invested in themselves – that can make a world of difference in how they care for them. Help them learn the value of ownership – taking care of, protecting and valuing their few toys.
Having your children invest in their own entertainment is huge – they value things more. When it’s not quickly replaced, when it’s up to them to take care of things – it creates more “skin in the game”.
#5 - Reading, Writing and Art Appreciation
When it’s not just about a ready-made toy, kids can get into creating on their own. Reading a book, writing stories, drawing pictures – they don’t all have to be ready-made. There can be a lot of joy in the process of creation.
#6 - Kids Become More Resourceful
When it’s not all handed to them on a silver platter, maybe it opens the door for them to come up with their own resources. Costumes they create from scratch, like Clara’s “Frida” costume from last year, or going outside and, instead of playing with that doll house, they create their own fairy houses out of things they find in nature, no Legos needed.
#7 - Less Fighting
This is a huge one for us – we believe this is the number one reason why we choose to have fewer toys. Having more community-style toys have really helped. We eliminate the possessiveness and desire for ownership on it all. Clearly this feeds over beyond our toys into life in general, and our desire to contribute to this world without establishing dominance over it all.
The biggie for us is identifying that no thing is more important than a relationship – so whenever a toy becomes more important than a person, then it’s time for us to re-evaluate whether that toy needs to be a part of the equation. Special lovies and things they really can’t part with can stay in their special areas and not be brought out in front of others.
I've found the amount of sibling squabbles can directly rate to the amount of toys they claim ownership of!
#8 - They Learn Perseverance
Kids with fewer toys don’t just drop it and move on to the next easy thing. They may be more likely to stick with it and really figure out how to play that game or how to create what they want with a toy because they have the space and time to really devote to exploring it.
Clara got a little obsessed with the rubix cube. With minimal toys in our home, she dove deep into figuring it out, and after multiple youtube videos, she finally perfected it and solved the puzzle. She was pretty excited about it!
#9 - They Become Less Selfish
Kids who get everything they want typically think they can get everything they want…which results in not really caring about what they have. As much as they are your world, your kids are not the center of the universe.
#10 - More Nature!
There is a whole world of experiences that can take place when they get outside and explore. The world is your playground! When we ask our kids their most favorite things to play with/on, they immediately spout off, “trees, rocks, water, moss…” It’s all of the nature elements they can do so much with!
#11 - Kids Find Satisfaction Beyond Toy Overload
There are so many alternatives to toys. Shifting from a materialistic perspective to one that fosters awareness and is focused on relationships can really move a child’s focus to valuing the relationships and finding satisfaction in the events and activities vs. a toy performance.
#12 - Less Toys = Less Clutter
The process we did to get to where we are now was to start weeding through the toys. Not just us as adults, but including our kids in the process. We started with a section at a time, and set out boxes to organize and eliminate.
We set up four piles:
- Keep (I love playing with this and play with it often)
- Give (this is a great toy, but I don’t play with it so it’s time to give to another kiddo)
- Trash (broken pieces and worn out items)
- Keepsake (this is special to me and I’m not ready to let it go, but I don’t play with it all the time/anymore)
Then we’d rotate through those items that were “keepsake” to really merit their worth. Rotating the toys they love can really help to keep the “new” aspect to them where they really enjoy it when it comes out again, plus when you set something back for a while, you become less emotionally attached. Then, when the toy comes out again, you can look at it in a new light and either be really excited, or ready to let it go.
Pay Attention to the Energy around you
Also, we’d talk about the emotions and energy – the WHY behind the toy overload and how it makes us feel. We talked about how it felt overwhelming and stressed us out, and how we couldn’t find anything.
Then we experienced what it felt/looked like when everything was emptied out. Then we got super intentional about what we put back into it.
Process through how stressed they feel when they are fighting over their toys and how the objects become more important than the relationships.
Look Beyond Toys As Gifts
There are other options beyond giving toys. For us, a biggie is looking at events and experiences vs. things. We may make an excursion or event with loved ones as their gift, or we have a “fun money” fund where we do something in our travels that was “sponsored by” a grandparent, etc. We share pictures and gratitude about how we actually used the money for a memorable event as a family.
Go back to the love languages – it’s not just about gift giving. What about acts of service or quality time? What about touch? Even for a small child, how often do they get gifted massages or other spa/pampering things? It can be really exciting for a child to get an “adult” type of gift like this.
Last year, Clara drew and created certificates for all of the family to teach us crochet, watercolor, and hand-lettering. It was such an incredible experience to have her invest in her sisters and teach and create together.
Your Weekly Challenge:
It really helps to shift how your children see the world and give back to it when toys are not the epicenter.
Get to know your kids and what their love languages are.
Think beyond the box of toy overload and look at other options that can feed into and enrich their – and your – lives. The uniqueness in each of us strengthens all of us.
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