Last weekend I spent six hours going through bags and boxes of my kids’ toys. We had been culling the herd so to speak for years but still had so much stuff. I felt overwhelmed when filling bag after bag or either trash or goodwill donations. Why when we transition into parenting do we have to accumulate so much crap?!
When my children were babies and toddlers I bought stuff to alleviate my anxiety around entertaining small children all day. My oldest never really played with toys and used us (her parents) as her favorite play things. I breathed a sigh of relief when she was able to pay attention to shows and video games. Playdates also helped to take the pressure off me to be her playmate all the time.
My youngest plays with anything and everything. He took a pair of hangers and entertained himself for 30 minutes the other day. So why the hell did I buy that expensive Paw Patrol Tower?! I am going to make a concerted effort to choose Christmas toys that are not “fixed” which means they can only be played with in one way. I want to find open ended toys for my youngest and creative activities for my oldest. I am also going to make a huge effort to not over buy this year.
I try to remind myself that when we play with our children it’s about connection and not the actual toy. I really dislike board games but I will play one with my children if their underlying need is connection. You can also set limits on play with your children as well. I will often tell my children after a play session that I need a break. We were never meant to be an endless supply of entertainment for our children. Boredom is a good thing and can jumpstart creativity.
In returning to my initial topic, stuff, I am going to try to be better about acquiring stuff. As parents we need to model the behaviors we want from our kids. Do I really need that latest fitness gadget? Probably not. Could I check-out a book from the library (if they are open during a pandemic) or do I really need to buy another one? Our kids are soaking in our behaviors unconsciously and consciously all the time.
If you do want to buy stuff for your teens or older children try to make it something the whole family can play together. Play alleviates stress in families and can be one of the few ways to stay in connection with teens. We need less stuff and more being with one another.