A recent Time magazine article The Joy Of Less noted that, “U.S. children make up just 3.1% of the global kid population, but American families buy 40% of the world’s toys.” It makes me feel better that I don’t buy my nieces toys (except for that Barbie with the pooping dog…read here for that fun blog.) I’d rather buy them jewelry or other fun, unique things from my travels, things they can actually use, things that will grow with them, things that will be meaningful to them, things they can have forever. So, why might it be beneficial to limit toys?
- Too many toys can actually lead to stress and difficulties with focus, and I mean for your child, not you. Children can become overwhelmed with too many choices. This is why you have most likely noticed that your child tends to gravitate towards a few toys, which are their favorite. Think about how overwhelming the cereal aisle is…too many toys is like that for your children.
- Too many toys limit imagination. A friend of mine once made a house for her daughter out of a cardboard box. She was not thrilled when she realized that she would have to live with that box in the living room for a very long time. Yes, her daughter preferred that box to many of her toys. Just give a child any ordinary object and see how their imagination unfolds.
- Fewer toys can help foster responsibility by making clean up easier. How many times have you walked into a room and been overwhelmed by the sheer volume of toys strewn everywhere? If you are overwhelmed, imagine what your child experiences. I am sure that you would like your child to clean up their mess. Well, that will be much easier if there is less stuff to pick up.
So, in a consumer culture, how can you limit your children’s consumption?
- Most importantly you want to get those who most often give your children gifts on board. This is most likely family. For birthdays or holidays, put together a wish list for them to choose from.
- For events such as birthday parties, you can have a theme and ask everyone to bring a gift within that theme, such as tools, art projects, or family friendly events such as movie tickets or museum passes. You can also have a charity party where you set up an account and ask that guests donate to a specific charity rather than bring gifts.
- Focus on experiences rather than things. This helps teach your child that happiness comes from these experiences and not from material items. And if you are rewarding your child, take them to their favorite restaurant or allow them an extra 15 minutes at the park.
Of course, not all toys are bad. And some of the best toys are those that foster creativity such as Legos or dolls. The goal really is moderation.
“Toys have taken over my family room. I watch Mary Poppins, and no matter how many spoonfuls of sugar I eat, action figures won’t march into a bin with the snap of my fingers.” – Barbara Brooke