Simplifying toys will change your life, it’s that simple. Most of us have too many toys and don’t even know how great our lives would be with less. Read on to discover the amazing benefits of simplifying toys in this first post in our Simple Play series.
Why Simplify Toys?
Kim John Payne, the author of Simplicity Parenting (affiliate link), speaks of four pillars of too much: too much stuff, too many choices, too much information and too much speed.
When you simplify your child’s world, you take away a good deal of the choices and stuff and sometimes even the information and speed.
Payne talks about parents as the family’s architects. I like that analogy as it means that no matter what your home and family life looks like right now, you can make changes.
You can establish new rhythms and make room for more grace. The easiest way to so is by simplifying.
Payne advocates simplifying four parts of your children’s lives; their environment, rhythm, schedules and filtering out the adult world.
In this blog series, we focus on the environment, specifically toys and I hope that you’ll see that even small changes in this area can have a big impact.
Most people find that their children play differently when they have fewer toys. This is rarely a bad thing.
In fact, I have one overarching rule when it comes to play: There is no wrong way to play as long as it isn’t dangerous to the child or her surroundings.
Play is a Child’s Work
I wanted to start out this section with a wonderful and famous Einstein quote:
“Play is the highest form of research”.
In doing my research for this series, I found out, however, that Einstein most likely never said anything of the sort. I decided to include it anyway because it sums up the point I want to make so well.
If you are familiar with the Montessori method, then you already know they consider play the child’s work, they even call it work instead of play.
In the early years, a child learns everything through play.
It’s their full-time job to work out how the world functions and their own place in it and they do it all through play.
Play is a lot of things, it’s enjoyable, it’s spontaneous, it’s purposeful.
In play, your child learns how to problem solve, he practises his social skills, develops his language and extends the limits of his physical skills. New ideas are explored and old ideas are combined in new ways.
Play is even how your child deals with emotional problems a lot of the time.
Play is Valuable.
Sadly, in today’s society, we so often take away playtime from our children. We enroll them in this, that and the other and when they aren’t doing their activities we pacify them with a screen.
Activities aren’t inherently bad, neither are screens but when a child spends so much time on them that he has no time to play, then it’s a problem.
We’ll touch on this again later in the series.
When you remove all of the distractions, the four types of ‘too much’, as Payne calls them, something magical happens to your children’s play. It becomes innovative.
When you, as the family’s architect create an environment that is simplified, time starts to flow differently.
The well-being of your children will increase.
When there are fewer distractions your child is free to spend more time on each item, each game, each moment. It allows them to stay in the flow of their imagination.
You may be familiar with the concept of Deep Work (affiliate link), coined by Cal Newport. While his concept is aimed at adults, the same goes for children. When you simplify their toys, you increase their ability for deep play.
Simplifying Toys Will Free up Your Time as Well.
Can you recall a morning of your children playing blissfully while you sip your coffee and read a book or putter around? In my home, most mornings start like that.
When your children spend their time in a simplified living environment, there will be fewer conflicts, less neediness and more time for you to show up when they really do need you.
You will start to focus more on who your child is, instead of what he does or doesn’t do.
Payne explains the most powerful reason to simplify beautifully:
“As your awareness of your children widens and deepens, so too will your love”.
Simplified play opens a new world to your child, a world of calm and peace, a world of joy and curiosity and a world of endless time.
These are all powerful things to give your child but nothing beats the fact that you, as their parent, will come to see them more fully for whom they are and as a consequence love them even more.
Play Without Toys
I won’t recommend to you in this series that you get rid of all your children’s toys. Later, we’ll take a deeper look at the toys I think are beneficial for all children.
You could, however, decide to live your life without toys. It’s doable.
Your child has all she needs for playing between her ears. A strong imagination is all it takes.
I want to warn you though. If you’ve ever heard someone say their children don’t have or use toys, it’s probably a truth with modifications if not a straight-up lie.
My son enjoys spending time in the kitchen with us every day. He cooks a lot of food with us and alongside us. He also ‘cooks’ a lot of food without us.
It’s not uncommon to hear “Mama, can I have a hot pad, please?” or “Mama, can I have a pot for my veggie-tables?, I need to boil them now”.
A Child Can Turn Anything Into a Prop in Their Play.
You have probably made the mistake already of assuming your child was playing with a snake when really, he was putting out a fire with his firehose or is that just me?!
I’ve learned to always ask what something is, instead of assuming that it is what it appears to be to my unimaginative adult eye.
Remember how I told you play was a way to practise problem solving for your child?
With fewer toys around, you will be retrained to use your imagination as well.
I have three pots. My son is not allowed to play with any of them. What he is allowed to play with is a bowl, that I’m not afraid he’ll ruin. It works brilliantly as a pot for him.
The first time he asked for one, instead of going “Sorry love, you can’t play with my pots…”, I said, “Sure you can, let’s go into the kitchen and find the perfect pot for you!”
As I walked to the kitchen I decided what he could have and presented it to him as his very own pot. It still lives in my cabinet and I can use it whenever I want, but it’s his pot.
The pot was an easy request to meet, you might get some that are much more difficult.
Let me be honest, it sucks when a two-year-old tells you “That’s not a king’s crown, that’s a hat!” But then you show them all the jewels on it. Maybe you put it on and talk in a very king-ly voice and all of a sudden it will transform into a crown.
Or you agree with them and ask them to find a fitting crown themselves. All of a sudden they are thinking creatively and having a great time with you.
All this to say that your child doesn’t need toys, but your child needs things to play with.
If you don’t provide them, your child will seek them out on their own.
All children really need to play is time and their imagination.
That said, let’s dive into the toys I think you should get rid of right away in the next blog post for this series. Until then, try to see what happens if you create a few toy libraries in your home. It’s a great first step to ease into simplifying toys.