What would you rather have, a zillion things to choose from on a menu, or a dozen things that you know you really like?
Jane Porter in Why Having Too Many Choices is Making You Unhappy tells of searching for a toilet brush on Amazon. With over 1,000 to choose from, the process drained her and she ended up at her neighborhood Dollar Store where they had exactly one to choose from.
Porter says, “Too many choices exhaust us, make us unhappy and lead us to sometimes abscond from making a decision all together. Researcher Barry Schwartz calls this ‘choice overload.’ And it's not just insignificant details like which brush to wipe the inside of the toilet with—having too many choices in our creative and professional lives can lead us to avoid making important decisions.”
If we, as adults, struggle with choice overload, imagine our children entering their bedrooms or playrooms piled with a plethora of toys. Entering that chaos, it’s no wonder children prefer the ease of sitting in front of the TV or electronic device.
I posted a question about toys to a moms’ group on Facebook. In the first four responses, two of them said they had recently downsized toys and found that, as a result, their children are spending more time playing with their toys.
In addition to the ease and enjoyment of play, there’s the element of learning that takes place. Kathy Sylva, professor of educational psychology at Oxford University conducted a study with 3,000 children ages 3-5 years old. Sylva reported, “When they have a large number of toys there seems to be a distraction element and when children are distracted they do not learn or play well.”
And, guess what? When there are fewer toys, there’s less to clean up! Yay! This is a great bonus for kids learning to pick up after themselves and for the mom or dad who’s doing the training. (Notice I didn’t give the option of parents cleaning up after their kids.)
So how do we transform toy chaos to this utopia I speak of? Check out today's Timely Tips and discover how less is more!
TIMELY TIPS - for less toys and more play!
Observe - Start with some intentional observation. Clue into how and where your kids are spending their playtime. Do they prefer playing near you, or do you find them happy to be alone with their Legos? What are they playing with most? It may be that they always play with the same thing because it’s the only toy they can find in the mess, but it also might give a clue as to the type of toy your child prefers.
Location - Based on your observations, determine where to store your children's toys. You might decide that some toys belong in the family room, if they are things the family plays with together or if your child is more social. You may decide to have the playroom be the boundary for toys so there are fewer places to clean up at the end of the day. My daughter recently transformed her dinette into the girls' kitchen/art room. Now they can "cook," paint, or have snacks while Mommy works in the kitchen or nurses baby in the adjoining family room. There’s no one right way to do it. You’re the expert when it comes to knowing what’s best for your family.
Purge - The one overarching goal is to not have more toys than your children can comfortably manage and choose from. When I organize children’s rooms, the first step is always to purge. Some no-brainers are things they no longer play with or things they haven’t grown into yet (store elsewhere), broken toys or toys with missing pieces, and too many of one thing.
Keep those things that you observe them enjoying. Be selective based on your space and goals for your children's development. Depending on their age, include them in the process so that they can develop purging and organizing skills. If there are some debatable items, put them away in a bin to be rotated in at a later date, or donated if not missed.
Containerize - The next step is deciding how much space you want to use for storing toys (now that keeping them scattered all over the floor is no longer an option). You will also want to choose a storage system or containers that make toys easily accessible both for play and clean up. This is where some Pinterest, Ikea, DIY, and Amazon ideas come into play. Keep in mind putting like things together, containerizing and labeling. If there are still more toys than will fit in your new system—purge some more!
Maintain - Honor the boundaries you've established. When new toys arrive, equalize by removing something else. Again, it's an opportunity for your child to learn decision-making skills. If you can connect with a family or organization that needs toys, help your child to see how his excess can benefit someone who is less fortunate.
NOTE TO GRANDPARENTS: Be wise and sensitive to your children's requests when it comes to purchasing toys for your grandchildren. Consider buying experiences (zoo passes, day trips, etc.) or ask if there are higher priced items you can contribute to that the child is saving for (like college).
Less toys, less mess... more play, hurray!