My Toy Purge Experiment

After reading This Mom Threw Away Her Kids’ Toys and Got Her Life Back, I got rid of most of my toddler’s toys.

I wasn’t “drowning” in toys but little B had too many and he didn’t seem to be handling them well. Our little guy seemed to be losing his ability to focus on what was in front of him, a habit essential for learning and school success.

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This really concerned me.

Before the toy purge, I encouraged him to focus on one item by placing him in his toddler chair for a few minutes with a project like painting or legos, or on a rug with cars or building blocks. I’d set the timer and tell him that he was going to do “paint time” or “block time” until the timer went off. Nothing worked. He wandered and I continued to redirect him back to his activity. This wasn’t working. I even sat in the same room with him as he played as he sometimes has separation issues. Not happening.

So, I decided to give the toy purge a try. Why not? At least my living room would be decluttered for a few days, right? One day while he was out, I bagged up all of his toys but 15. I hauled them down to the basement: two trash bags and one Rubbermaid tote FULL. (Don’t judge. When we first got B, people gave us a ton of toys because we didn’t have any in the house. Okay, and we like to buy him toys, too. ;))

I arranged a few open-ended toys on his little bench: a play silk, a ball, blocks. I also left his favorites: his Woody, a few Matchbox Cars, a Playmobil train set, an Octonauts playset, lightsabers and a Woody dress-up hat.

Bonus: My living room was gloriously uncluttered!

When he came home, I waited for his reaction. He sometimes freaks out at change. But, lo and behold, he ran into the living and exclaimed, “I found my Octonauts!”.

He sat on the rug in the uncluttered room and played for 20 minutes. I was intrigued and wondered if it was just the newness of the set-up.

The next morning, he sat and looked at his Cars and blocks on.his.own. for about 15 minutes.

This morning he came running out with a play silk around his neck pretending to be Superman.

I’m happy I tried this because I think he is the type of kid that needs an uncluttered environment to concentrate. (Aren’t we always trying to figure out how each child ticks?)

Also, having too much limits our creativity. Aren’t we most creative when we have to be? If we had everything at our fingertips, we wouldn’t need to be creative. I think this applies to imagination and creative play as well.

Seems this approach is not as uncommon as I thought. Apparently, some preschools are getting rid of toys.

The program grew out of an addictions study group that worked directly with adult addicts. They determined that habit-forming behaviors started in childhood, and that these adults used toys to distract themselves from negative feelings. As they got older, they turned to other things.

 

I know these are small steps, but I’m encouraged to see him sitting and interested again. I’ve always believed that typical children can be taught to concentrate in the right environment.  (Obviously, I realize that there are exceptions to this!) With my older children, I kept a low-key atmosphere in the house. They weren’t bombarded with television that was too hyper or allowed to sit passively and be entertained on a regular basis. (It’s impossible to compete with the TV, am I right?)

I encouraged lots of play time, crafts, outdoor play, and audiobooks as I felt that it was very important to learn to “listen”, especially for school.

I’ve also realized that our little guy’s viewing habits need to change. He came to us loving movies that were fast paced, and I’ve tried to slow the movies down. Like, way down. Did you know that you can get several seasons of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood free with an Amazon Prime Membership? They aren’t as “flashy” for sure, and the first time he watched one he reported that it was “boring” but I like that the child can be thoughtful as they watch. Some movies are like trying to get a drink from a gushing fire hydrant. And with the constant barrage of images, who can process or make any kind of judgment about what you are seeing? It’s hard to keep up. (YES, I realize how old-fashioned this sounds.)

So, I’ll let you know how we progress. Have you found that too many toys actually limit your child’s creativity? Do you think limiting toys and “noise” is extreme? How have you encouraged your kids to learn to focus? I’d love to hear your ideas.

5 comments

  1. Elisabeth says:

    We’ve started enforcing cleaning up of one toy before moving on-clean up Legoes before getting cars out, etc. He’s 2.5 and he seems to get it. Either 1) he gets distracted and plays for another 10-15 minutes, or b) I get a fairly neat living room. :) Recently he’s started cleaning up spontaneously if he wants something (usually to watch Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood) and thinks I’ll let him if the room is clean. :) But I look forward to getting rid of more toys!

  2. Johanna Ray says:

    This sounds like a great idea! Do you have all the 15 toys available for him at the same time, or do you keep them stored and he takes them out one at a time?

    • Sarah Beals says:

      Yes, all out at once. The blocks I encourage to use then put away but everything else is out as he wants them. I think I am going to change out his Playmobil train set for another toy because he doesn’t use it at all right now. Will try to re-introducing it again in a few months.

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