Earlier in the year I made a Blog entry on Toy Management. I thought I would re-visit this in the lead up to Christmas. I have actually been very organised and already bought the kid's Christmas presents this year! I always find it difficult to stick to the budget and control myself when I am buying for the kids. It is very easy to get carried away. There are actually a lot of brilliant gifts out there for kids. My Amazon Wishlist overflows with books, CD's and DVD's that I'd love to purchase. The art and craft materials that I'd love to get for them is almost an endless list! Then there are the construction toys (blocks, legos, Mega Bloks etc), puppets and puppet theatres, dress ups (I got Billy 6 different helmets, including a knights helmet! He'll love them!), balls, bats, sand toys, felts, puzzles etc.
Of course, we have a VERY full house at the moment, the kids all share a room and our living area is not big. So how do we control the toy monster? Here are five ways we do it.
First, we set a budget. I'd do this even if it weren't necessary! I don't particularly want to raise children who have no idea how to live happily within financial restraints.
Second, purchase items that are high quality. I would rather get one item that will last until our grandchildren are grown than 10 items that won't last out the week! Poor quality items that break easily teach kids not to value what they have. Less is more!
Third, apply the "rainy week" test. Imagine the kids playing with this toy in the lounge room after a week of rain when your tolerance levels are low, there is minimum space (due to the clothes horses drying clothes by the fire) and the kids are most likely to misuse it. Is it going to drive you barmy? Is it going to make a huge mess? Is it going to be noisy? A toy that makes music may be sweet in the shop, but when the kids are banging on the on-switch to make it "rap" or you are hearing it for the 83rd time in four hours you may well want to send it through the nearest window! I have been known to remove batteries from toys within minutes of them being given because I can see where it's going to go!
Fourth, ask yourself when the kids are going to be able to use it. There are some toys that Erin only has during nap times for the boys because it may have small parts or little hands may just damage it. Having items like this can make those nap times special BUT there are a limit to how many of these toys she can use. I love toys that the kids can use TOGETHER such as balls, their trampoline, blocks, play dough etc.
Fifth, storage!! The bulk of the kid's toys are stored under Billy's bed. If it can't be folded down or packed up to be stashed away neatly, then we just can't keep it. A toy that we are falling over every day or that creates clutter is just a pain in the neck, no matter what other merits it may have. Toys that add on to toys that we already have such as blocks and dress ups often pack in easily with the storage we already have.
There are also the obvious standards such as moral and safety standards.
We go through and cull toys that have become excess, that are broken or we just decide to move on. This keeps things at a manageable level. Toys are there to facilitate the children's learning and help them have fun! If they can't access them easily and keep them in order then what is the point of having them? I have seen kids with ROOMS filled with toys who rarely touch them because they're overwhelmed by the MESS. It can be a bit of a reality check to get to the end of the day and realise that the toys my children used today were rocks, mud, a stainless steel bowl and a plastic container full of milk bottle lids. That tends to put the brakes on the spending!
At the end of the day, the kids don't NEED any more stuff. We choose to give them stuff as much because we enjoy giving to them as much as them enjoying getting. It's just all a matter of keeping it in perspective.