It sounds more harsh than it really is but this past spring, we gave away the majority of the kids' toys.
The kids, ages 9 and 6 (twins), had been accumulating Barbies, Littlest Pet Shop figurines, dollhouse odds and ends, board games, stuffed animals, etc. for 9 years. Every Easter the stuffed bunnies multiply.
At first getting toys was exciting. As new parents, we felt a thrill being able to officially shop in toy stores to choose stuffed Elmos, toy kitchens and more that we knew our children would love.
But after a while, it was difficult to get in a routine of organizing and putting away the toys. I never taught the girls a system because the toys just truly overwhelmed me. I didn't know where to begin.
"How did we get all this stuff?" my husband would ask.
Birthdays and holidays were the real source of our troubles as toys that sounded good at the time really had a limited shelf life and did nothing more than stress out the family (even things as benign as puzzles and board games).
Even basics like bicycles began to cause problems. We'd start collecting peoples' hand-me-downs "just in case" until pretty soon, we had bikes in every size in every space of our garage that NO ONE rode.
It seems like I did a major weed and purge every few months, and we still didn't feel relief.
Finally, this past spring, after a mediocre yard sale, we donated most everything to a local recycle shop, Goodwill and to passerbys who picked up our goods at the side of the road.
The kids weren't sad. I think they were relieved too. Mom and Dad were in the best moods! And they loved that the basement was free for any kind of play.
Now, when we buy a gift for a new baby or birthday present, we think long and hard about the practical, trying to stick to the basics.
Our family room and basement are now clear, and our kids play with the things that they really love: paper/markers, blocks, stuffed animals, playing cards and books.They make up shows and skits, go on hikes, visit the library, watch movies and more.
And their most engaged play is with things like boxes, rocks (I know that sounds weird but "stuff" in nature), their dog, couch cushions, etc.
Now, as I look at their abandoned swing set out in the yard, I think...that's next. I know it sounds ridiculous to give away something that they could and should be using, but they don't. And I can't wait to set that corner of the yard free.
What has your experience been like with toys? Please comment here.