Tuesday, June 7, 2011

What you NEED to know about Toys for children under 10

When my first child was born I was a part of a mom and baby group. We went to each other's house once a week and let our babies play and agonized over how little we slept, how little they ate and what exactly we were supposed to be D-O-I-N-G with our babies all day long.

Such is the joy of being a first time mom. It is great to get baby snuggles- but by about 3 months old you look around and say- I've been slacking- I need to catch up. My baby hasn't learned anything in the last three months except how to latch. I'll get her some toys.

And so it begins.

Toys- Toys- Toys- Toys.

There is nothing as wonderful as seeing your child's eyes light up when they get a new toy- and nothing as wonderful as the feeling you get when watch them playing with the toy and loving it! It is almost addictive- such an easy way to get a smile and at least 20 mins of facebook time- a dollarstore trinket or a new toy to their set. Seems harmless enough.

And every different toy seems to come in sets- so you feel that it is somehow incomplete if you have the little people farm and no extra animals, and then you get a few more people with the animals and you realize you need a house for them, and school bus for the kids to go to school and a playground and the next thing you realize is that you have an awful lot of plastic. And year after year, child after child- birthdays and holidays = presents and you end up with more and more and more. And it all looks in new condition- so you cannot justify throwing it away. And you hesitate to break up the set you've spent the last 3 years collecting.....

What are you to do?

I know of some parents who keep the toys in large plastic totes, sometimes by set- one little pony tote, one littlest pets shop tote - or sometimes by color - all the red toys, all the blue toys, etc- and sometimes by skill types - gross motor skill toys grouped together, complex cognitive toys grouped together. And yet in time-and with enough children- the system falls apart and you are left with a heap of colorful pieces that no one uses for their once intended purpose.

I muse on this today as i have been cleaning toys for two hours this morning and am not finished yet. The puzzles were mixed up, the boxes overturned and now i'm left to pick up the pieces- literally. And i'm really struggling not to just toss them all away.

Alone they look meaningless and worthless. They are in a heap in my stairwell as I sort between what belongs in the toyroom downstairs and what belongs in the girl's bedrooms. It is now i am tempted to toss them. But I know that once they are in their place my resolve will have weakened. Afterall when the My Little Pony sits amidst all of her matching pony's I can fantasize about how all three children will come downstairs on a rainy afternoon and spend hours creating pony land and playing and growing and laughing. When the My Little Pony sits with the others there is safely in numbers. I know there is no reason for my 3 girls to have 26 ponies. In fact I feel ashamed of this fact. Yet, when they are all together I just cannot bear to start getting rid of some of them- how could I chose?

I've bought into the idea that our children need these toys. Each different kind of toy- figurines, blocks, balls, puzzles, animals, doctor sets, dress up clothing, sorting toys, pattern toys, fine motor skill toys, gross motor skill toys, and of course musical toys.

I'm wrong.

They don't need these toys- and in fact these toys are preventing me from being a good parent. I'm almost in tears admitting this- but for the last two hours and for at least a couple of hours EVERY SINGLE WEEK- when I could have been enjoying time with my children I've been cleaning their toys up, rotating toys, reorganizing toys.

My mother says clutter is whatever keeps you from living the life you want to live.

I want to spend more time one on one with my girls- i want to talk to them, create stories and let my pointer finger be Mr. Spider and go on an adventure around the house. Right now I couldn't crawl around the house b/c I would injure myself on the lego and itty bitty polly pocket pets which seem to find their way under my feet and knees.

What you ( and I ) need to know about toys is that they are supposed to be the accessories. We as parents are the outfit and they are just the accessories. Somehow along the way we've forgotten that. We've spent more money than we can afford on things that promise smarter kids and happier homes- but in the end we've created more clutter, more cleaning and more stress.

Why should our children have fewer toys?
1. When children have too many toys they are unable to form as strong attachments to their toys.
2. When our children have too many toys they are often unable to keep them tidy and they often end up not valuing each toy as much. While this may not seem like a problem to the mother who has forgotten to pack the treasured dinky car or polly pocket on a vacation- it does present itself as a problem when our children do not value or take care of what they have. What kind of adults will they become?
3. Ever wonder why today's children seem to lack long attention spans? A quick look around most bedrooms and playrooms might give a good answer. When children have too much "stuff" they are easily distracted and cannot focus on one activity with one toy.
4. Children with fewer toys are happier (?) It is a balance issue- a child who only has one barbie is not by her lack of toys going to be happier than the one who has a roomful. But let's not for a moment believe that toys make children happy- they don't.
5. Last but certainly not least- your children need fewer things if the things are taking away from their experiences as children, distracting them from being imaginative, creative and social! And if those things are negatively impacting the relationship you have with them- because you are too busy cleaning up the toys to play with them or because the toys act as a replacement parent.

So this week I have decided that my children do not need collections of Little People, Polly Pockets, Barbies, My Little Ponies and Littlest Pet Shops. They do not need multiple doll houses for each different kind of doll. They do not need multiple flashing lights activity toys. They do not need 5 different kinds of blocks. I will finish sorting the toys and then I will do my kids a favor and take away the "clutter" that is preventing me from being the best mom I can be.

Stay updated to see what i've purged this week!


Friday, June 3, 2011

Splish Splash- Let's Talk About The Bath!

When we were in our first prental class the teacher suggested that the dad have one child task that the mother never did- that way he could become the expert. We chose bathing. Now 5 years later my husband still does most of the bath nights- I help by getting towels and jammies. However last night daddy was working late- the baby C had mushed food in her hair- there was no avoiding it. I was going to have to bath the three girls. It starts off so well when they realize it is bath night........

The girls squeal in delight and run upstairs super excited- i clean the bathtub and fill it up with water- they clamber in. Then S. is "a mermaid" and baby C won't sit down and starts screaming when i try to get her to sit. Then S screams when i suggest we wash her hair. As if they didn't know that was what we were doing in the tub in the first place. Baby C screams b/c her sister is screaming. Tears start flowing, snot is flying. I have to haul Baby C out of the tub dripping wet and into her crib b/c she's hysterical and i cannot get S's hair done otherwise. S *almost* lays down and gets about 1% of her hair wet. I put my hand under her head and gently lower it- whispering soft soothing words. She screams at the top of her lungs. She starts lashing out like a cat. I put on the shampoo and let her lather it up. Then we have to rinse. She decides she needs to lay down on a pillow- our only bath pillow is too high and her hair won't get wet. We try to negotiate. Finally I just rinse her hair. She flails everywhere and gets water in her face. She screams and I think she's going to bite me so I cover her mouth. I finish rinsing her hair - i'm not going to stop now then have to deal with it all over again. Then I dry her face. She smiles- " i'm' so good mom I didn't even cry"....no kiddo you didn't cry.....you just screamed bloody murder. Then I get Baby C from her crib- she looks like a drowned rat and we've not even started. I bring her to the tub and she clings to me like a monkey and I have to pry her off and try to bring her to the tub. She looks very suspicious. I tell her it will be ok- i just need to get her hair washed then they can play - and i slowly lower her head to the water and she opens her mouth and screams and then flips over- face first into the water. If she wasn't mad before now she's spitting mad and a bit scared too. I try to move fast- by the end she's furious with me. I'm so glad N can manage it on her own now. This is the first year she is not screaming too. When i'm done i'm just d-o-n-e.

I've tried to use water to pour on their heads, i've tried to use water from the tap, i've tried the shower. The girls just scream and claw and climb up onto my head (in the case of the shower). Any suggestions- how do you bathe your children?

If my kids stink- pity me don't judge me.