I love the way our toys look like pieces of art! In fact, most of the toys we own are works of art created by toy artisans that share our values of simplicity, quality, and sustainability.
Toys for our family, are not merely playthings, they are building blocks for our children’s future. They teach our children about the world, themselves and communicate our values. So for us, it is important that we are intentional with space we create and with the toys we bring into their childhood.
But too often, I see and hear about toy proliferation – toys show up, they are received as gifts, our kids see other kids with new toys and want them and somehow, they make their way into our lives…. unnecessarily. So, I wanted to share our strategies about how we manage to avoid unwanted toys and toy clutter.
Limit screen time. My kids do love screen time, but when they do watch something, we usually limit it to under 2 hrs and they watch shows on the ABC kids app or movies so that we avoid the commercials, marketing to children about the latest greatest toy gadgets.
Teach them to save, spend and donate. From a young age, we have spoken to our kids about mum and dad going to work to earn money so we can afford food, housing, car, etc. They also occasionally earn some ‘pocket money’ and we give them a clear jar to hold their savings. My older son understands that this money can be spent immediately, saved for a bigger item or donated to people who might need it more than he does. This helps them learn the value of money.
Teach them where toys come from. Most of our toys are natural, they come from a tree, a toy maker creates these by sculpting, sanding and painting the toys by hand and they have a rich history before they make it into our home. [Can’t tell a good story about a plastic toy].
Teach them where plastic toys come from. Teaching them that too much plastic is bad for the environment is equally important. We do own plastic toys (like Lego), but much of it is bought second-hand.
Read them books. The first that comes to mind is the classic tale of Corduroy. This loveable bear just wants to go to a good home. The girl who feel in love with him, her mum tells her she has no money for a new bear. She did not nag or cry about it… She used her own savings to bring Corduroy home the following day. This is a positive message!
Talk to friends and family. They can be a culprit, but we need to talk to them about swapping buying toys for experiences for special occasions. After all, which of these will last in terms of a memory? A trip to the Zoo or a new toy?
Say "no" to plastic junk toys. I’m talking the freebies, the giveaways, the things that come inside chocolate kinder surprises (we buy chocolate that has more chocolate than toy in it). But when we occasionally each fast food like McDonald's, we ask the staff not to add a toy, because our kids don’t need them.
- Model the behaviour you want. As a parent, we need to model what being a mindful, intention consumer is like. We choose simplicity and minimalism, and this means going against advertising and media giants in a big way. This is the behaviour we want to model for our children.
Finally, if all else fails, think of the Beatles song – Can’t Buy Me Love. Buying toys doesn’t equate to showing love to your children. This was something I wish I figured out sooner. As a first-time parent, working full time, I felt that buying a toy was a way to show my son, that even though I was at work all day, I was thinking about you. It’s not necessary, so don’t be guilted into it.
Thanks so much for reading! I’d love to hear your views and ways you avoid the toy clutter.