Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Toybox

Due in large part to some overly generous relatives, our kids have a lot of toys. A lot of toys with a lot of small parts, to be more specific. The pieces get scattered, they get lost, they end up embedded into the tenderest part of your feet in the middle of the night. And kids being kids, they get just as much entertainment out of the turkey baster and the lazy susan as they do out of the electronic singing turtle.

Part of our bedtime routine is that all the toys get put into the toybox. Unfortunately, from time to time, the volume of toys exceeds the capacity of the toybox. So every so often, after the kids are asleep, we gather up a bunch of toys and stash them away in the basement, or sometimes donate them to charity. But invariably, our son starts asking for some obscure toy that happens to have been culled in the last batch.

So I decided it was time to take a different tack on this problem. I suggested to my son that maybe he could help pick out toys that he no longer wanted, so that we could give them to the local thrift store. I explained that they wouldn't be our toys any more, but that other kids would be able to buy them and play with them. He's been to the thrift store several times, and usually, in addition to some "new" clothes, we bring home some toy for fifty cents or a dollar, so he has some idea how this works.

But much to my surprise, he loved the idea. He couldn't wait to give away his toys. So tonight, after several days of him pestering me, we got a cardboard box to put some toys in that he no longer wanted. He filled the box in no time and said we needed another box. Having no other boxes handy, we switched to a trash bag. I explained the concept again, to make sure he understood, and the comprehension seemed to be obvious.

He then proceeded to fill almost two large trash bags with toys. The pile of toys he wanted to keep was quite small, and the toybox is nearly empty. (I saved out some key toys for Amelia as he was purging.) He asked if we could go to the thrift store immediately, so the other kids could have his toys. It was too late to go, so I promised him we'd go over there tomorrow.

Now, what's interesting about all this was that as I'm watching him fill these garbage bags, I keep having to fight off these urges to save certain toys - for sentimental reasons, or because they're a set, or because I think they're cool toys. I have this temptation to go back and rescue a few things, and I'm torn as to whether to do it, or to just let him make his own decisions.

I'm also proud of him. I'm humbled by his generosity, and motivated by his aparently inherent understanding of "less is more." It'll be interesting to see how it plays out. If suddenly, three weeks from now, he goes into a screaming fit because he changed his mind about a toy that's long gone, or if he asks us to buy him another of something he gave away, it may be a bit of a hard lesson. The other possibility is that he just has a short attention span and gets bored with toys very quickly. But for now, I'll assume his intentions are good and his understanding is clear.

Now with the holidays approaching, I've just got to figure out how to rein in the relatives a little. Maybe I'll just tell them to keep in mind that whatever they buy may be selling for $0.50 on the thrift store shelf within a month...



At 11/10/2006 2:55 AM, Blogger Suzer said...

Kids are so much better at letting go than adults. I think they understand that stuff is just stuff. What a wonderful lesson he is learning at such a young age! Good parenting e4!

At 11/10/2006 7:25 AM, Blogger barefoot gardener said...

I did something similar with my 7yo, and was shocked at how much she was willing to part with. It is no guarantee, but it may reassure you to know that in 8 mo my little one has never once asked for any of the toys she gave up.

I totally understand your reaction of wanting to keep things for sentimental reasons, etc. I had the same reaction. It was so hard to let her decide for herself what was important. I have to admit to secretly rescuing just a couple items. I guess I need to learn some lessons from my munchkin.

At 11/13/2006 8:02 PM, Blogger Mia said...

This is a holiday (and mid-year) tradition with our kids. It is helped by the fact that the first year, instead of donating to Goodwill we called a local agency that works to prevent child abuse by working with at-risk families in their homes. The woman at the agency was so touched by the kids generosity, and went through each thing with Sprout and told him how much it would mean to the kids in need. Occasionally Sprout will ask for something back, months later when it's long gone, but we just emphasize how much more it means to another little boy now. It's definitely a great lesson to teach kids and learn from, by turn.


Post a Comment

<< Home