With our first child, our apartment came to resemble a small toy store. We quite literally bought into the idea that our child needed to have a huge variety of plastic, battery-operated "educational" toys, five million little toy cars and plastic animals, and anything and everything that we or others felt compelled to buy him. Blah!
Over the past few years, we have come to embrace a simpler life, and in the process, our approach to toys has changed as well. When it comes to our stuff, we want to surround ourselves with those things that we love and actually need and use on a regular basis. We don't want a bunch of excess. Likewise, when it comes to playthings, we want our children to simply have a few things that they truly love and play with regularly. Good quality is important, as well as toys that encourage creativity and imagination. We also try to avoid battery-operated toys, partially because they're so annoying, and partially because they require very little imagination. Pushing a button and hearing an electronic voice count to ten in Spanish or recite the alphabet or name the primary colors doesn't require imagination or creativity, nor is it really all that educational.
There are several reasons for our approach to toys. For one thing, when your home is overrun with toys, kids get overwhelmed. They can't seem to find or keep up with anything, and they totally ignore 90% of their toys. Also, it is very important to us to teach our kids to be generous and to not become too caught up in getting more and more stuff. Going through the kids' toys with them every now and then and having them pick out things they want to donate teaches a great lesson about giving to others, not becoming too attached to stuff, and keeping things simple. Besides all that, being selective about toys and activities actually ensures more quality time spent with our children. Sure, we could get some "educational" battery-operated toys that teach various things, but we prefer to teach new concepts by spending time playing with our kids, reading to them, and pointing things out in our daily environment. And before you ask, yes, these kinds of toys can have their place. However, they also can too easily become parent substitutes, relied on to entertain and educate kids so parents don't have to. Because of this, we want to be very intentional about what toys we choose and why we're choosing them.
Recently, we've been working on simplifying our kids' toys. My next post will go into more detail about decluttering, organizing, and the types of toys we do prefer and why.