Kiddie Size Freebies

I ask my three-year old if he would like to accompany me to the dentist and get a quick ‘yes, they have the toy box’. By toy box he means the treasure chest from which he’ll get to pick one or two free tiny toys. Dollar store toys designed to last a day.

While my dentist is lovely and so great with kids, I know its the draw of the treasure chest that in part creates the positive association. Ditto for the hair dresser.

The minimalist in me wants to stop things at the door, but I also know that at this point I can still easily make toys disappear later if they don’t captivate my kids.

But most purged free ‘treasure chest’ type toys are not even fit for the donation bag. The quickly end up having the same fate as kinder egg toys and loot bag fillers…the landfill.

Knowing the devastating impacts of climate change it feels irresponsible to accept cheap toys with a one-day life span.

“We’re facing an immediate unprecedented crisis that has never been treated as a crisis…We need to wake up and change everything” Greta Thunberg

Greta Thunberg

But I’m torn. I don’t want to deprive my kids of the same experiences I had. I loved the treasure chest as a kid. I continued to eat happy meals despite my grandma insisting I was old enough for a Big Mac.

These small delights made ordinary things like dinner and dentists fun. I would feel like an extremist scrooge says ‘no’ to these things.

To avoid loot bags I’d basically have to turn down birthday party invitations or risk a melt down and offending another well-meaning mom by refusing the gesture.

I’ve been thinking of discreetly bringing in my own durable or waste free substitute for the dentist to offer. Perhaps a book that we fell in love when we loaned it from the library or a gift certificate to the local ice cream shop (if that doesn’t violate a dentist code of ethics).

My son won’t get same the thrill of choosing his very own toy from a mountain of toys but I think its still fun and definitely things that he likes.

I’m not striving to be a zero waster but this just might be one small change I can make for now.

Paring Down on Toys

80% of the kids toys disappeared overnight and their reaction floored us. The feared mutiny to minimalism has never come and we’re all happier.

Before hosting my daughter’s first birthday we stashed nearly all the toys in the basement. Save one small toy basket, play kitchen and a ride-on, the rest were hidden away. All this was done while the kids slept and I steeled myself for the meltdowns in the morning. Except they never came.

Literally 80% of the kid’s toys disappeared overnight and they didn’t even seem to notice. Like didn’t say one word about it.

So we stuck with it, swapping the contents of the basket and larger ride-ons every couple days. Nightly clean up time was reduced to minutes and no one seemed to be too restless with less distraction options.

Image by http://www.smallhousebigcity.com

It’s been six months now and I’m finally comfortable enough that no mutiny is coming to have sold our large toy storage unit and pass along quite a few less-loved items.

Simplicity Parenting

I’ve always tried to keep a thoughtful and small toy collection and found psychologist Kim John Payne’s book Simplicity Parenting an accessible and easy read on the benefits to children on having less stuff in their lives. https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/simplicity-parenting-using-the-extraordinary/9780345507983-item.html

Time and again he saw little people that were more emotionally balanced and happier when toys and busy schedules were simplified. And like my own experience, most of the kids he worked with didn’t even comment on a reduction in their toys, despite parents’ fears.

The book gives great advice on how to purge and the pieces to invest in, like kid-size table, costumes, a tent-like space. And those than can go, such as branded character toys with limited creative uses and noisy obnoxious toys (hurray).

Ironically after reading it I went out and bought something new for the kids- a small table and chairs as suggested. It seemed unnecessary but has become a place where both kids are drawn daily for self-directed creative play.

Simplicity Parenting offers no magic number of toys to possess and I never would have thought it’d be as low as our current number but for now its working. As the kids get older we’ll certainly need to adjust but I’m grateful for our little unplanned experiment to realize we can drastically pair down and all be happier.