Toys – Delight or Detriment?
Giving our kids everything they want is one of the worst things we can do for our kids, even when it comes to their toys.
In the late 1940s, my friend spent three and a half years in five refugee camps in Denmark. During those three years, there were no toys to play with except the toys children improvised on their own. Balls made from fabric and stuffed with crumbled newspapers provided many games – until the newspapers disintegrated and more paper had to be scavenged. In addition to softball, the children had a number game using their homemade ball. In turns, the ball had to be hit with a head, a fist, or an arm, counting backwards each time. Children not only learned to improvise, they also learned counting and math while playing this game. Sometimes I think kids would be better off having less items with which to play and more opportunities to use their minds to create their own games!
It’s true that playing with toys helps children find identity, understand themselves and others, and allows for learning about real life situations. Sharing, taking turns, and improvising are all ways that playing with toys is beneficial. Wikipedia says that playing with toys can be an enjoyable means of training young children for life in society. That’s true. However, too many items to play with can be detrimental. Too many possessions circumvent training children for life in society. Having any toy at his disposal does not an unselfish child make. That (any toy) is not training kids for real-life society.
How Many is Too Many?
More often than not, fathers thinks their kids have too many toys. Moms think they could use some more. After all, this toy is so colorful, or so cute, or will be so much fun, or . . . you get the picture. Sometimes mom is the one who doesn’t want to deal with the small pieces of Legos, building blocks, or sand tracked in from outside.
It’s a struggle.
So what’s a parent to do? How many different toys does a child need that teach the same principle?
Here are some things to consider when contemplating the purchase of a toy.
Reasons to Purchase a Toy
- How will this toy help my child develop physically, emotionally, or mentally?
- Does my child have other toys that can teach the same thing? (If so, does he really need this additional toy?)
- What is my reason for wanting to purchase this toy for my child? Is it because he doesn’t have enough toys or because I think it’s cute?
- Am I wanting to buy this item for my child because I think it will be beneficial or because I am competing with other parents?
- Am I wanting to purchase this item for my child because I want him to have a lot to play with so he won’t bother me and my schedule?
- Will this item help my child become more caring, learn about sharing, learn about life experiences, or will it hinder those ideals?
- Does my child’s father think this purchase is a good idea?
Using, Storing, Keeping Toys
For a child who wants a new toy, consider having him choose one item to dispose of (either to Goodwill or some other organization) in place of getting a new item. Children need to learn to be unselfish and not to hoard.
You child can be taught to choose one item or two for play – and then put those items away before getting out another toy. If you are the one spending time picking up the toys, then there are two things wrong here: your child has too many toys and he has not learned to clean up after himself.
How many toys does a child really need? Could he survive in a refugee camp where he needed to provide his own entertainment? Is he so used to having so much at his disposal that he would not be able to come up with something ingenious to do with the lack of toys?
How Many is Just Enough?
When a child has too many toys, it’s difficult to decide what to choose. Just like going to an ice cream shop that has 100 flavors, it’s harder to choose than if there are only two choices. This is what we do to our kids when we over flood them with toys.
Our kids become more creative when they have to make do with what they have, improvise to get what they want, and find a way to be happy with what they already have.