TOO MANY TOYS?
Well, you survived the holiday blitz. The holiday decorations are mostly up in the attic and the house is almost back to normal. The presents are all unwrapped and in their proper rooms. You and your children have found a space or made a space for all your new toys.
What do you mean, "yeah, right?"! Okay, I *am* more realistic than that. I know we all still have a stack of presents we haven’t found space for — and our children’s rooms are bursting at the seams. If we wondered whether our children had too many toys before the holidays, we know they do now.
So what can we do? This month I’m sharing an excerpt from my book, The Parent’s Toolshop on how to get rid of old toys to make room for new ones. Next month, I’ll give you suggestions for one of the most universal problems plaguing American parents: getting their children to clean their rooms — independently and without power struggles.
But first, let’s make some room and get organized by sorting and clearing out toy storage and play areas. I recommend doing this at least twice a year.
Before you start, have a plan for what to do with the unbroken toys. In warmer months, plan a garage sale. Let children keep any money they make from selling their toys. This motivates them to let go of a toy. Remind them that they can buy new toys with the money they earn.
In the winter months, the best time to clean out toys is just before or after gift-giving holidays. Remind children that they need more room to store their new gifts. Suggest they give their old toys to needy children. Many preschools accept donations, as do Goodwill and the Salvation Army.
Involve children in identifying broken and outgrown toys. If children don't want to give up their toys, have children select certain toys to box, then rotate boxes every one to three months. Instead of rotating entire boxes of toys, some parents have a one-in-one-out rule. For every toy children want to take out, they need to trade one in. The latter option involves more parental control and monitoring, which makes it harder to use.
If children never play with a toy, but want to keep it anyway, establish a place they will put it and get agreements for keeping it there. (I know, those agreements quickly get broken. We’ll talk about that next month. At least *get* the agreement, for now.)
Some children become very attached to their toys and may be upset about getting rid of them, even if they don’t play with them anymore. The number-one rule is: *never* sneak and throw out the toys. You’d be surprised how many children actually notice and feel terribly betrayed! (Did you ever have a favorite worn-and-torn t-shirt that was so comfortable, but your parent or spouse tossed it? Then you know how angry you felt — you still remember it!)
If children are unwilling to give their old toys to charity, suggest they pass on their outgrown toy to a younger sibling or neighbor. Make the donation a ceremonial event. Reminisce about the fond memories children have about their toys and how sad it is that they've outgrown them. Explain how much another child would appreciate the toy. Offer the choice of giving the toy directly to another child or offer to pass it on for them. They can even wrap it up or find some other special way to give the special give a meaningful "passing." If they just aren’t ready, suggest putting up the toy for a short time, to help them separate from the toy before giving it away.
Once you accomplish this task and the room is nice and clean and organized, we all know the room will probably stay that way for, um, probably one day to one week max. So, this month try to declutter the toys and I’ll give you some suggestions next month for keeping it that way.
Jody Johnston Pawel is a Licensed Social Worker, Certified Family Life Educator, second-generation parent educator, founder of The Family Network, and President of Parents Toolshop Consulting. She is the author of 100+ parent education resources, including her award-winning book, The Parent's Toolshop. For 25+ years, Jody has trained parents and family professionals through her dynamic workshops and interviews with the media worldwide, including Parents and Working Mother magazines, and the Ident-a-Kid television series. Jody currently serves as the online parenting expert for Cox Ohio Publishing’s mom-to-mom websites and also serves on the Advisory Board of the National Effective Parenting Initiative.
Reprint Guidelines: You may publish/reprint any article from our site for non-commercial purposes in your ezine, website, blog, forum, RSS feed or print publication, as long as it is the entire un-edited article and title and includes the article’s source credit, including the author’s bio and active links as they appear with the article. We also appreciate a quick note/e-mail telling us where you are reprinting the article. To request permission from the author to publish this article in print or for commercial purposes, please complete and send us a Permission to Reprint Form.