why i don’t fill my home with toys

There’s no question that our kids have far more toys than any previous generation. Most parents I’ve talked to on the subject of toys will comment on how their children have too many, how they only play with them for a short period before becoming bored, or how their favorite toy is really the cardboard box the toy came in. And yet for most, the toys keep coming. I decided early on that I don’t subscribe to the trend of filling my house with baby crap I don’t really need. I very rarely buy my daughter toys, and when I do, I pick strategically. Here are a few reasons why.

Buying toys strategically encourages creativity and imagination.
Kids do need toys to play with. But I believe it’s important to choose wisely. To choose toys that are going to inspire the qualities you would like to create in your child. If I want Reagan to be creative and imaginative and have good problem solving skills, I try to stray away from toys that are time wasters, or are only entertaining for a short season. Instead, toys like blocks, for example, span the ages. As an infant, Reagan chewed on them relentlessly. As she’s gotten older, she’s learned how fun it is to knock them over, before later learning to stack them. Even later, she’ll be able to build houses and castles and create imaginative scenarios relating to each new creation. With toys, I have found that basic is best. Once the toy becomes too much of a niche, it loses its ability to span across ages and stages.

Fewer toys discourages a sense of entitlement and selfishness.
At the risk of sounding like an 80-year woman (“In my day…”), it seems like kids are becoming increasingly more entitled. There also seems to be a group of people determined to break the trend, and I’m hopping on that bandwagon. I have dreams of my child overcoming all the odds (the odds I’m still trying to overcome myself) and becoming a person who thinks of others, understands the purpose and meaning of the holidays we celebrate, and strives to live life for something greater than her own comfort. We love our children so much and we want them to have everything. But sometimes giving them “everything” can rob them of the most important things in life.

We simply don’t have the space.
When Pat and I first arrived in the city, we rented a 350-foot studio apartment. Needless to say, 2/3 of our possessions went into storage for that 6-month period. And I can honestly say I didn’t miss any of it. While we still have more crap than we need and are constantly trying to cut it back, one of the things I love about the culture of living in the city is that my need to collect stuff has been consistently diminishing. And I’m happier for it. Even in the 2-bedroom we graduated to before having Reagan, we simply don’t have the space or desire to make our home look like an indoor playspace full of needless plastic junk that will later become a burden to unload.

We shouldn’t underestimate the power of household objects, simple homemade toys, and of course, The Great Outdoors.
My daughter will play with anything that seems fun and new, and I don’t think she’s unique in that regard. There’s a box of kitchen tools on the floor of our kitchen that’s been entertainment for months. In her room, there’s a huge cardboard box with a couple “windows” cut out that with the right motivation (on my end) could become a colorful fort. Sometimes Reagan doesn’t even want to play with toys at all- lately she’d rather play grown-up and do chores with me. She “helps” me empty the dishwasher, puts shirts and socks in the dryer, and loves to stand on the stool Nana and Pops made her to play in the sink while I clean the kitchen. We don’t have a backyard, so at least once a day we get out of the house and breathe some air into our lungs. She would stay out there all day if she could. The earth itself is a magical place to a child (and when I stop and look at it with her eyes, I see it too).

If you have ideas of “strategic” toys for kids, let me know in the comments!

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