How do you know when your children have enough or too many toys? I’m sure some child psychologist has retired early on the capital raked in from a thesis on this topic, but I am willing to give you some advice for free. I, myself, feel like somewhat of a guru on the subject, having been through two birthdays, three Christmas’s, two Easters, all the “no occasion” gifts, all the toys bought out of GMS (Guilty Mother Syndrome) and all the toys stolen from other kids houses. I know my toys ok.
Do you have trouble keeping your cupboards shut because of the toys spilling out? Do you hear a squeak from a rubber duck or the beep-beep from a remote controlled car every time you try and shut the door? I personally have resorted to using a battering ram to keep cupboards closed. I politely ask the children to step aside, as I prepare to self-ram the toy overflow into the cupboard. They have been trained, warned and shown graphic pictures of what will happen to them if they so much as peep into that cupboard without adult supervision. I’d have to take a day off from work to wade through the toys to find them at the bottom of the pile, and mummy needs to go to work so we can buy food, so they know not to touch that cupboard. When they want a toy that has unmercifully been shoved into the cupboard, we first have to evaluate their level of need for that particular toy. Questions like “why not play in the garden” or “don’t you think that’s a silly toy” or “wouldn’t you prefer a big chocolate” need to be asked to ascertain the child’s real interest in the toy. The husband knows that under no circumstances must Barney or any Barney related toys be placed in the cupboard. These need to be in the toy baskets, which are slightly more accessible and more user friendly.
Ah the toy baskets. One for him and one for her. I try and keep the favourites in the toy baskets. There are cars in an array of shapes and sizes, there are musical instruments that would put an orchestra to shame, animals from all walks of life – the jungle, the ocean, the farm, you name it, we got it. There are “educational” toys, which really just make too much noise and the battery life on these things is phenomenal. In the stillness of the night, one is occasionally jerked out of a deep sleep by the “moooo” from a plastic cow or the tune of Yankey Doodle from some other annoying gadget. Books and puzzles have their own little chest, Lego and building blocks must stay in their box. Dollies and fluffy toys have their corner too. Right, that about covers the toys in the kids bedrooms.
In other parts of the house (and it’s just a little house at that) we have the larger items, such as the pool with hundreds of balls in it, we have the bikes and the little red wagon and way too many push toys, the outside toys like balls, skittles, bats and wickets; not forgetting the mega sized trucks, tractors, aeroplanes and choo-choo trains – we have the whole transport industry covered.
So here are the things that baffle me. With all these toys, why do I still feel bad when I walk through a toy shop and see something that my child doesn’t have? Another thing, with all these toys, why do my kids still sometimes look so utterly bored out of their minds, staring up at me as if to say “stand on your head and do something to entertain us now please?” AND why with so many toys to tickle their fancy, do they still insist on fighting over the SAME one ALL the time?
I try and manage the toy situation in our home by giving away toys that have lost their allure and haven’t been played with, within the last 6 months, or which are no longer age applicable to my own children. I have to undertake this mission in secret, as giving away a kid’s toys, even though old or broken or just not fun anymore, is like .. well.. it’s like taking toys from a baby. I’ve tried to teach my children about giving to those in need, but at this age, Liam won’t even let ME touch Barney unless he gives me permission to do so. So perhaps when they are a bit older we could share the surplus toys with others who would derive far more joy from playing with them.
Consequently, my advice is simple. If it keeps them quiet and allows you to have a cup of tea in peace, keep it. If it makes more noise than your child does, hide it. And if it causes a war between siblings, get the hammer out, smash it into a million pieces in front of them and tell them they are next if they don’t play nicely.