30 days of gratitude in the home -- day 14
Teaching children to be grateful for toys and possessions....
Too many toys can be overwhelming to young children. Instead of settling down for creative play time, they become restless. Plus, if they are given too many things at once, they often flit from one thing to another and scatter their toys about. Picking up thus becomes a chore that can be overwhelming to both mother and child. If a child is innundated with too much of a good thing, it's hard for that child to learn gratitude for his or her possessions. Deciding how many choices of play things to give to a child at one time is a personal decision best made by the parents who know their child's limits.
When my children were preschooler, another mother shared this tip with me. Her children would often receive several toys at Christmas and for birthdays. The givers of these toys -- i.e. grandparents -- meant well, but sometimes gave more than the mother thought her children could really enjoy. Instead of giving her children all of these things to play with at once, she divided the toys into thirds, bringing down only one third at a time in a year-long rotation. Thus, her children thoroughly played with and enjoyed a smaller subset of toys. When it was time for a new rotation, it was as if the children were receiving new things to play with. They were grateful and mother, children, and grandparents were happy.
Another mother shared with me that she was ruthless about culling down the toy chest by giving away toys that were no longer being used and disposing of items that were worn out or broken.
Letting a child pick a toy from among his own to give to a toy drive is another way of helping a child learn gratitude. This works best if the child thinks of this on his or her own because he or she sees your example of giving to others. It also works if the child is agreeable to the suggestion that each person in the family give to such a drive. Coercing a child to give when it's not in his or her heart is not as effective in teaching gratitude. Some children are not ready to give a toy in this manner, and it's best not to make the child feel pressured. Likewise, a young child may happily give things away without realizing that those things aren't coming back. In such cases, parents can encourage the child's giving spirit but ensure that the child retains things he would miss later.
Involving your child in the care of and clean-up of his or her own possessions is another way to help a child learn gratitude. Even young toddlers can help pick up toys and put them in containers or on low shelves. As the child grows, he or she can learn more responsibility for his or her own possessions.