Recently, we went to see the new Disney/Pixar movie, Toy Story 3. With the original Toy Story and Toy Story 2, we watched a young boy named Andy enthusiastically play with his lovable toys, including his favorites; a space ranger named Buzz and a cowboy named Woody. These dear toys would then come to life out of the presence of humans, along with a hilarious cast of other toy characters who resided in the boy’s bedroom. In the new movie, however, Andy is now grown and moving away to college. As he cleans out his bedroom in preparation for the big move, he debates what will become of his beloved toys. In Andy’s absence, the toys also worry anxiously about their uncertain future. When the movie ended, and after I had shed many tears, I wondered how would I ever again get my own child to donate his old toys? Many parents I know also frantically fret about what to do with all of their children’s toys and how to contain the clutter and chaos. Here are some suggestions that I have gleaned from other parents:
A Place For Everything and Everything in Its Place:
- All toys should have a place, or home, where their are always kept. Children return the item to its place when finished playing with it.
- Shelves and storage baskets are a great for creating a specific space for toys. Children can remove the baskets from the shelf, then easily return it.
- Toys should be organized for easy use and ease in locating them. For example, all the superhero toys are housed in one basket, all the blocks in another, and the marble run set in yet another basket.
Involve Your Children in Rules and Guidelines Regarding a Rotation and/or Donation of Toys and Stick to These Rules:
- Some parents choose to have children donate a toy to charity or (the garage sale pile) for every new toy that enters the home.
- Another idea is to have children periodically clean out the toys for donation at several designated times throughout the year. For example, before a birthday, a gift giving holiday, or spring cleaning, everyone donates 5 toys, or 10 toys, depending upon what you have agreed upon with your children.
- Other parents allow children to keep only a certain amount of toys for “in use” at a time, storing the remaining toys in a closet, spare bedroom, garage, or attic. When the child wants one the stored toys for play, he or she must trade it with one of the “in use” toys to go into storage.
- Another parent I know donates the toys that have been out of “in use” rotation for 6 months, indicating perhaps the child no longer desires the toy.
- Regularly examine the children’s toys to determine if they are still in proper condition with which to play, as well as considering if the toy is still age appropriate for your child’s developmental stage.
Less is More and Simple is Better:
- Children do not need to be overwhelmed with too many toys. Follow the “less is more” approach by keeping toys in rotation and refusing to buy so many. (The latter is of course better for the environment and your budget!)
- Many of today’s toys have extremely loud noises and are already programmed to “do” everything for the child. Consider purchasing timeless classics that encourage children to create their own noises, role play, and facilitate the development of their own imagination and creativity.
Consider the Safety of Our Earth, Our Environment, and Our Children:
- Carefully choose toys that are safe for your children and the Earth. Many toys have been found to be produced with materials and chemicals that are unsafe for humans, especially young, developing children, as well as the environment. Research and choose wisely.
- It is important that children learn at an early age to care for the Earth and know how to reduce, reuse, recycle. Donating toys to charity, other family members or friends, or selling the toy in a garage sale can help eliminate the waste inflicted upon on Earth.
- Consider buying only products created with sustainable or recycled materials, natural dyes, and non-toxic glue. Also consider the packaging materials. Much of this is wasteful and harmful to the Earth.
- Buy locally. Products shipped from nations outside of your home country increase your carbon footprint on the Earth. Find local artists, such as toy artisans and woodcrafters, and support them when possible.
One Final Suggestion:
- Enjoy this moment playing with your children! Childhood is fleeting. Soon our children will become “Andy,” cleaning out their bedrooms and packing for their own big move. Only then will we miss the clutter and chaos of the toys, as we sit in our clean, but quiet, empty homes, fondly reminiscing about the days when our homes and lives were decorated with the beauty of childhood.