Making the decision to stop buying toys for our kids was a gradual realization, but we’re going to stick with it.

It all began when my husband threatened to throw all the toys away.

Although we generally lock our kids’ toys and arts and craft supplies in a bedroom closet or child-proofed cabinet, usually by the end of the week, there’s an ankle-deep layer of blocks, railroad track pieces and dolls covering the living room floor. Sometimes we nearly kill ourselves tripping over toy cars.

I was never big on buying lots of toys, but I started to regret all of those cheapie items I picked up from the Target Dollar Spot that would quickly fall apart.

The final straw was when I overheard my 4-year-old daughter say after breaking a toy (a plastic grabber that no longer grabbed), “It’s OK. Mommy will buy another one.”

“No, Mommy will not buy another one,” I told her.

Something had to change, so out went all of the toys they outgrew or had duplicates of, and my husband and I simply stopped bringing more into the mix. Here’s what we’re trying to teach our kids (and ourselves) through this experiment — and how they’ve not only survived but thrived.

The Value of a Dollar

My daughter may be able to count to 20 and beyond, but she still doesn’t grasp the fact that dollar bills represent Mommy and Daddy’s hard work. For my kids to comprehend the value of a dollar, I have to teach them not to amass more than they need or can store away. We also learn to share. When we donate toys to the thrift store, my daughter says we’re “giving them to the babies.”

Be Creative

As parents, we want to give our kids everything we didn’t have while growing up. But are we doing more harm than good by buying too many toys?

An experiment by German public health workers found that removing toys from a kindergarten classroom ultimately urged the children to use their imagination and play with everyday objects in their surroundings instead. Fewer toys also mean longer attention spans, better social skills and fewer fights over toys as the children learn to engage more.

I’d much rather my little ones spend their days making up silly games or fashioning a “house” out of sofa pillows than watch their eyes glaze over watching a YouTube video about how to play with the latest Barbie.

Stay Active, Get Outside

Kids are spending more time in front of screens and less time outdoors. Nearly one-third of American children are overweight or obese, putting them at risk for other serious health conditions according to Let’s Move!

Instead of throwing more toys at our kids, we try to experience nature  by taking them out to the trails or at least the park. Nature walks are beneficial to your physical and mental health and can give your child a healthy start.

Spend More Time Together

Adults and children have become addicted to their smartphones. This takes time away from parents interacting with their children, which could not only affect their ability to learn to speak and read facial expressions, but also lead to behavioral problems.

While we significantly limit our kids’ screen time and have stemmed the tide of toys in our home, we make it a point to spend one-on-one time with them each day and encourage them to “find something constructive to do.”

As birthdays and Christmas holidays come up year after year, they’ll get a few special gifts, but my husband and I will keep it simple. We’ll also have to ask ourselves a few questions before buying:

  • Is it educational?
  • Is it developmentally appropriate?
  • Do we already have something that has the same function?
  • How long will it last?
  • Is it worth the cost?

For now, we’ll make an effort to rethink every toy purchase and focus more on creative family fun time — and I’ll promise to steer clear of the Dollar Spot.

Written by Margie Monin Dombrowski, who blogs at Margiemd.com

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