Thursday, January 17, 2008

Good Little Boys and All Their Toys

We have too many toys now. How did this happen? We were trying to keep things simple around here. Our very young boys don't need lots of toys and we really don't have the space for them either, but now, especially after Christmas and their birthdays, they really do have more than they need. I actually really love their toys and I will say they do play with them --especially certain ones, it's just an issue of living with the clutter of them and somehow managing them in our smallish space. If we had some sort of toyroom/playroom (or even a bedroom for them for that matter!) it would be less of an issue (although I know clutter somehow grows to fill the space you have).
I'm inclined to cut back, way back, on the plastic made in China toys and emphasize the lovely wooden German toys. The wooden made in China toys fall somewhere in between, I suppose. Actually, I guess there are really two issues here: the clutter/storage issue is one but also, do I really want them having so much stuff? Does having too much stuff actually impair their creativity? Aren't we trying to teach them a simpler lifestyle?
I've been thinking about Christmas next year. How would it be to ask the relatives who do buy them gifts to go together with us to buy one thing? Some fabulous German thing like this or this? It would be from all of us and we would tell them that. I think it would be a little awkward to ask that, but would it be tacky? Or seem presumptuous? Or ungrateful? I wouldn't want to offend, but on the other hand how awesome would it be to have a simpler Christmas? And to be able to get them something so fabulous? We're mulling it over. In the meantime we're trying to come up with some system for managing all these toys.

19 comments:

Mary said...

We too have a small house with 4 kids. For my daughters birthday, her grandparents paid for her swim lessons and for the past 2 years she has chosen indoor soccer for 8 weeks instead of physical gifts. It was really great and didn't add anymore clutter. I don't think it is tacky to suggest it.

Claire said...

I've been reading your blog for a couple of weeks now and love hearing about your daily activities. Its great hearing about somebody else enjoying motherhood and homemaking and managing the whole young children, step-children, older children family. I find your out look on life so refreshing and inspiring.

I had to comment on todays post because: 1 - we have those Holztiger wooden animals and I just LOVE them! Aren't they just the most tactile things ever? And so much nicer than lots of other toys on the market. 2 - we were faced with a similar problem before Christmas and actually asked relatives, in as diplomatic a way as possible, not to buy certain brands or stuff from China, etc. and perhaps grouping together would work. It fell on deaf ears. We still got some really nasty plastic junk(from some, not all), that even the kids don't really want. HOWEVER - my ex and his family all club together each year to buy larger presents instead and it works really well. So I guess it depends on your family. I hope you find a way to ask, I do not think it is tacky at all to ask, that farm house is gorgeous!

Amy Turn Sharp said...

We are in the same boat
I have been asking for bigger things instead of tons of toys and other items...Like I asked for bookshelves for birthdays this year...(and for christmas i plan on asking for classes and memberships to places)My mom is a doll, but she buys and buys and honestly- Christmas was a bit over the top...
two thing s I do here is rotate the toys-keep some in hiding :) and pull out... and also...Big woven baskets everywhere...deep and they keep the clutter down
:)

Amy said...

This is something we struggle with too. We are lucky enough to have a playroom. It seems to me that she has WAY too many toys, but then I compare. My bro and sil have four children ages 2-12 and there is not one room of their house that does not have shelf after shelf of toys. I mean -the living room, all the bedrooms, the freakin' bathroom, even in the kitchen...AND they even have a playroom overflowing with toys. Now, as you can imagine all four are very undisciplined, ill-mannered, and always always always bored!!! We try hard to keep Zoe's quality high and quantity low. But as always there are people in her life that find buying crap after crap is best especially when you can "get a good deal" which it really is not because it breaks within months or weeks. For example, my parents wanted to get her a play piano and rather than searching for something of quality and durability they found some $10 item that was already broken when she opened it (the freakin' volume button is stuck on high) and my mother shrugs her shoulders and says "well is was only $10" so on and so forth. I find people feeling like you are ungrateful for asking for better quality and less. We would be happiest if instead of ten toys they would just get her one really nice quality item. Our friends on the other hand usually give her books. Which in reality is all this child really wants...she is hooked. What is up with the stinking stuffed animals too!!! Her toys box is overflowing with stuffed animals alone! WHY? Why does everyone think that is what a baby needs??? Too much I tell you too much! Good luck asking and just be firm! We are going to try again for her birthday which is in a few months, but I just talked to my mother yesterday and apparently she is already buying Christmas gifts!!!!!!!!!!!! Who does that!!!?!?!???
p.s. I really do love my parents (lol) but sheeesh!
p.s.s.wow this was a long rant...you hit a nerve!

Amy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mama said...

We ask for help with memberships too for the holidays/birthdays. We have a little, tiny space with no room! Somehow it seems easier for people to help with the expenses of "experiences" over a big toy several people bought together (in our family). We have a children's museum membership, family zoo pass and Netflix (for us!) because of the generosity of our family members, and fewer toys as a result. Throughout the year as we use the memberships I try to reinforce how wonderful it is and send photos, etc. It's been a really good thing for us (and helps us do things we might otherwise be unable to manage financially).

graggirl said...

I struggle with this so much. All our friends kids have so many toys, then reading about rotating toys etc. I feel the need to provide a lot of stimulation. But, it is TOO MUCH! I wonder where the cut off point is between not too much and enough.
As far as the chipping in. We have done this. We always find something that we think both our kids would want and then ask everyone to chip in. This year it was an Angels and Elves kitchen. Last year it was a doll house. They didn't get the specific one and it was a little sticky. This year we did have a bit harder time and everyone ended up just sending me money. I think that our parents are not happy with this. But, it works really well for the kids.

graggirl said...

Oh I also meant to mention that I think next year we are going to ask for money for classes. They are getting to that age. Like gymnastics and art.

driftwood said...

this is a really tough one, we tend to make a few suggestions to family, and often they appreciate the ideas.

AnnieB said...

yep - the clutter does seem to incraese to fill space available. we moved from small 2 bed flat to large 4 bed victorian house and still don't have a spare inch. I know exactly where you are coming from and want to simplify our stuff in a big way too. I think your getogether gift is a really great idea and surely if you explain sensitively no-one could get offended? go for it... start mentioning your thoughts now so the field has been prepared so to speak!!!

Carrie said...

I don't think it is tacky at all to ask everyone to come together and buy one thing. We have done that for years and it works out great! I do believe children treat beautiful toys more gently,somehow they know that they're special. When I was a pre-school teacher,I rotated the toys,then when I brought old toys out,they were "new" again! For when they are older,I read a great idea on someone's blog:keep a candy and plastic toy "bank"-the children fill it when they want to give them up. The incentive is,when the bank is filled,they get something(non material)-a coupon to stay up late one night,etc. Sorry for the long post!!!!!!

jessi said...

I am so feeling the same way! We are being overtaken by toys and I really need to sort through and keep the things that we really like and get rid of the rest.

And I agree with everyone else - not tacky at all to request everyone chip in or get the same sorts of toys. We did this with our boys this year - grandma got them a play kitchen and we asked everyone to get them play food and kitchen tools to go with it. And I think for birthdays and next year I will definitely try to go for something like a membership to the zoo. So much nicer than being overtaken by stuff!

Lina said...

First, I have to say that I definitely agree about the space issue. The more you have, the more stuff you fill it with. Compared to their friends my children have far fewer toys (although more than I ever had!!)and I think their imaginative play is pretty good as a result. I do try and rotate things so that they don't get bored. Also I do give away/recycle etc quite a bit otherwise we'd just be overloaded. I love Mary's idea of giving lessons as a gift.

amanda said...

Oh I love the toys you linked to. I can't imagine not wanting to contribute to such a gorgeous heirloom. Of course, it's all in the approach I suppose. I'm sure you can find a delicate way to drop a few hints here and there. You've got a whole year ; )

Somehow we've ended up with too many toys, too. And we only have one child! I think it's time for a de-cluttering. Again!

taimarie said...

This has been a big one for us too. We decided this year to make a on-line list of the things we would like for our little guy and allow the relatives to look at it "for ideas." Almost everyone bought stuff from it and it was great. A bunch pooled together to get on of those very Holzkram farmhouses and it is wonderful! Sometimes I worry that it is tacky to suggest things, but then, so is packing up the things we don't want and donating them, so it seems a better option!

Florence said...

I've had a similar dilemma about toys from China...as has my 6 year old, who eversince being told about Chinese toys has been turning all her own toys upsidedown to try and find a place of origin on them - she finds the whole idea as upsetting as we as parents do. Like you though, I find there's something that feels safer about a wooden toy made in China, than a plastic one...even though that actually makes no sense at all.

In terms of storage we always find that having everything laid out on long shelves works for us - the children can see everything, we edit often (because I want the shelves to look nice) and they get into the habit of being able to put their own toys away easily before getting the next one out. I find cupboards tend to mean that things get forgotten about.

Thanks for an interesting post (I've read 3 in one go on my bloglines as I've been busy the last day or so), and I also really enjoyed reading about your daughter going out in her wonderful clothing ensemble as well!

Melissa said...

I think most relatives would be grateful for the gift suggestions. I know in my own family it is absolutely welcomed to pick the gift out. But I know not all families are like that. Maybe mention it far enough in advance so that other gift planning will not have happened yet.

mom go green said...

I have been working on this for awhile now at our house. I'd say I started last summer, sneaking out BAGS of toys and crap that either i didn't like or the kids didn't really play with. I have taken over 3 car loads (SUV trunk loads!) to the consignment store. The shop gives the profit to our preschool.

To make a long process short and sweet, the house is much cleaner now, more organized, and the kids play so much better. Really! Not to mention how much more relaxed I feel in the home. The only plastic we have left is legos and playmobil (which I have checked on for safety).

Before the holidays I did offer gift suggestions to my family. I used the china toy scare as one of my "excuses". It went over pretty well. I gave them ideas of some games and puzzles, clothes, donation to college savings plans, rain boots, etc.

Am I crazy? Maybe. But we are all so much happier.

Lil D said...

I would love to ask for fewer plastic things. 3 of the 'modern' style toys from Christmas have already broken. I do write wish lists, when asked, but they seem to be rarely used, which has made me shy away from saying anything.