Monday, October 09, 2006

Hints for Toys

Someone shared this hint that helped me when my children were small: She said that children are often overwhelmed if they have too many choices on their toy shelves or in their toy boxes. Their instinct will be to play with one toy for only a moment and then to pull out the next toy and the next and the next, until the whole play area is a chaotic mess. Reducing the amount of toys on shelves or in toy boxes helps the child settle down and play more creatively with the toys that are available to him or her. An added bonus is that pick-up time is easier for the child and for you.

My friend suggested boxing up some toys and putting them away. Leave out only what your children can manage. (Of course, leave out one or two favorite items for each child all year round). Let the children play with these toys for a month or two. Then, put them away and bring down the box you have stored away. The children will be excited to have something "new" to play with. Let them thoroughly play with this set and then rotate again.

This tip is particularly helpful for after Christmas or after birthdays, when grandparents and extended family may have showered your children with new gifts. Allot these toys out through the year, so that the child can enjoy them all along. That way, you don't hurt Grandma's feelings; You do, at some point, use all of the toys she sent But, you also don't allow the child to be overwhelmed by too much stuff. This was especially helpful in our family as our budget often precluded buying toys for the children throughout the year. So, we made the most of Christmas and birthday stashes.

Something else that is helpful is to talk to children about what your family is doing to help others. Involve them when you put together items to take or send to missionary families or to families in need. Your children may surprise you by wanting to donate some of their possessions, as well.

Of course, if they are very young, you may have to help them make wise decisions here. But, in the main, it's good for children's hearts to sacrifice a special treasure for the sake of others. And it's good for a mother's heart too. I found that it was much easier to sacrifice my "toys" than to watch my children sacrifice theirs out of their childlike faith and love. It helped my faith to see how God took care of them.

In one family I know, the family was holding a garage sale, the proceeds of which they were doing to donate to missions. The children begged their parents to let them sell many of their own possessions. The parents explained to the children that the family could not afford to replace all of these items and helped them think through whether this was something they really wanted to do. The children still pleaded to be able to donate their toys and to help with the garage sale. So, the parents let them. And, the children experienced so much joy. Not once have I heard the children ever mention that they missed the things they sold.

Another tip is to continually weed out toys that your children have outgrown or that are broken. Often, toys stay in the pile long after even the youngest child has ceased to care about them. This only creates more clutter. Also, the forgotten toy at the bottom of your toy chest might be another family's delight. So, pass those old toys on.

Now that my children are grown, I keep a small box in my hall closet with some of their old toys. I use these toys to entertain little visitors to my home so that their mommies can relax a bit. Every so often, I refresh this stash with some inexpensive item from the dollar store.

When I have grandchildren, I will keep more things on hand. But, I hope that someone will stop me if I start to go overboard. Now that this could become a real possibility for me, I can see why grandparents are tempted to spoil their grandchildren. :)


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