My girls are sweet, smart, and silly. I love them more than life and I admit that I jump on any opportunity to bring them happiness. Unfortunately for my kids, that often meant coming home with unnecessary toys...usually after a trip to Target, amirite?! While this gave them great joy in the short term, over time I think I overloaded my kids. They came to expect a toy every time I came home...from the bank, the grocery store, the mailbox. =/ And I'm sorry to say, I delivered on almost every occasion. Between me and the grandmas, well, it was just redonkulous.
But it all started with an iPad. A magical device, really. Loaded with hundreds of educational games and a few just plain fun ones. I didn't regulate my kids usage. Whenever they wanted to play, it was there. But I noticed a change in June. She loved games like Hay Day, Littlest Pet Shop, and My Little Pony. She was obsessed with collecting all the different pets, growing her crops, and building the towns. She began playing it non-stop. Checking on the queues every few minutes, waiting for the building to finish so she could buy another one. And when she wasn't staring into the iPad, she looked wild, she couldn't sit still and her eyes would dart from one spot to another. She was totally overstimulated and it really scared me.
So that day, I took away the iPad. I put a password lock on it so she couldn't access it. The first few days, she went through a sort of iPad withdrawal. Fine one minute, teary eyed the next. But about a week after I took it away, she had almost completely forgotten about it. Success!!
But then I came across THIS post and really started thinking hard about how much good all those toys really did for them. Not much, I decided. They never played with one toy for very long before they quickly lost interest. I want my kids to be able to focus on one task at a time, build their imagination, create stories...that just wasn't going to happen with so many distractions. So, we wiped them out. We removed all their toys. Drastic, yes. But something I felt was desperately needed for my family.
I was worried about the reaction. My kids have never been ones to throw tantrums but if anything could set them off, this would be it. But surprisingly, they happily helped me pack them up. We did allow them to choose a few favorites and organized them into themed bins. They have a Doll bin, a Dress-Up bin, a My Little Pony bin, a Kitchen bin, and a Lego/Block bin. We set those in our closet for rainy days but so far, we haven't needed to take them down once. And we did leave their dollhouse, which is too big to store anywhere else.
As far as the iPad, we have reinstated it, but with conditions. They get one hour on the iPad on days they get all their chores done. Since they forget a chore most days, they haven't played with it in weeks. But the option is there. They just aren't interested.
So what have we learned the last month without toys and iPad?
Well, a great perk to not having toys is there are none to clean up at the end of the day. That's June's favorite part, she never has to clean her room and my living room is always toy-free.
My favorite though, is the change in June. She is calmer, more focused, easily entertained, and more active outside. Homeschooling is easier too since there is nothing distracting her from her work. She finds ways to entertain herself which is usually playing pretend with her little sister, reading, or coloring. And any chance she can get to play outside, she takes it. I thought they would be all up in my grill with no toys to play with but it's been quite the opposite.
Too many toys in the bedroom was just too tempting for Marie. We would often find her hording toys in bed hours after she should have been asleep. With no toys to distract her, she goes to bed easily. The room is calming and relaxing...what a bedroom should be for restorative sleep.
My kids imagination has flourished without toys. Things are more open-ended now. They played with my broom, which changed from a pony, to a guardsman's sword, to a river of lava they have to get across over the course of the day. A broom. Entertained them. ALL DAY.
I'm calmer too. The girls no longer fight over who gets to play the iPad which is great. And I no longer have to stop everything to search the house for Barbie's missing shoe that they just desperately need at THAT MOMENT (only to find them moved on to something else after I searched for an HOUR to find it). The days just seem to go more smoothly than they used to. Lots of quiet time with them sitting at the dining room table, coloring or crafting, which I'm happy to partake in.
All in all, the Great Toy Purge of 2014 has been a raging success. Now that Winter has come, I expect to have to pull out a bin to get through the day, but I imagine they will be able to entertain themselves all day with those bins. We'll see.