Jorie and I try very hard to teach the boys to treat their possessions with respect because their possessions and toys are gifts from people who love them very much. We try to help them understand that their toys have been difficult to come by for some relatives and even myself. It takes resources such as time and money to be able to give gifts which are given mostly out of love (and social etiquette in the case of birthday parties).
I personally believe that treating their things poorly shows a lack of respect for the people who love them and the thoughtfulness they showed in giving the boys gifts. It shows a lack of respect for the people who work in both good and miserable jobs to earn an income to support themselves and their families. For example, a $30 full-sized Buzz Lightyear that gets thrown around and left behind could buy enough milk from the Matanuska Creamery for about a month for a small family.
While some of you reading this may argue that these ideas will be lost on a 7 and 3 year old, and that children shouldn’t be expected to understand such things, I believe that they need to be taught early that nothing should be taken for granted and that they are blessed to have their needs and many desires provided for.
Honestly, most of the time I think my children are happier playing with things like sticks and stones, rocks and rope, paper towel rolls and tin cans, and cushions from the couch. I don’t think they need toys.
An ancient proverb says, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” I think that holds true for a child’s need for play. They can turn anything into something awesome. A stick becomes an Intergalactic Demon Vaporizer. They don’t need a plastic gun to do the job for them. Frankly, I’d rather hear my boys making their own sound effects than listen to the whirling, head spinning, headache making, eardrum ringing sound effects of some electronic plastic gun that disturbs my Chi, wastes batteries, and breaks after a week’s worth of use and winds up in the mountain of garbage buried in the municipal landfill.
A couch-turned-fort becomes a fortress being defended against a hoard of attacking dragons. They don’t need a $50 Lego set from Wal-Mart that takes “Adult Supervision” to construct. “Adult Supervision” means that I need to spend 5 hours reading the directions and constructing a Lego set that will get constructed ONE time the way it shows in the directions, before it gets “blown up” into a thousand pieces, and stuffed into the Lego bin with all the other long-lost Lego pieces which inevitably get left on the floor only to be chewed up by our Jack Russell, Rigby.
Sunday, I finally launched Operation: T.O.Y.S. (Throw Out Your Stuff)!
First, I had the boys clean their room. While they were busy completing that task, I gathered all the toys from the toy bin downstairs and the toys in their cubbies upstairs in their bedroom. When their room was clean, I dumped all their toys into a pile in the middle of the floor.
Then I gave the boys their instructions:
1. Anything chewed up, broken or incomplete gets thrown away- Period.
2. The only toys they would be able to keep must fit in their bins and cannot be overflowing. (I gave the boys two rows of small cubby bins each).
3. Pick your favorites first.
4. Everything else goes in this Rubbermaid tub to be sold in the garage sale or donated.
And then, as a family, we went to work. Jorie said, “I think it went so well because we all worked on it together.”
I agreed, but I also think that allowing the boys to make their own decisions about their toys helped tremendously by empowering them, and giving them a sense of voice, and control over their own future.
I asked David what he thought the hardest part of going through his toys was. He said, “There was no hardest part.”
That surprised me. I’m proud of them for handling the resignation of their toys so well. Hopefully, with a more manageable amount of toys they’ll learn to appreciate them even more.
Below are just a couple of ideas for places to donate toys, but keep in mind most places will only accept gently used toys. Please do not donate toys that are broken or have parts missing; clean and stain-free stuffed animals are accepted.
Abused Women's Aid in Crisis, Inc. (AWAIC):
100 W. 13th Avenue, Anchorage, AK 99501 – (907) 279-9581
Office Hours Monday-Friday 8am to 5pm
24-Hour Crisis Line: (907) 272-0100
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Alaska:
600 W 41st Ave # 101, Anchorage, AK 99503
Call (907) 563-1997 in Anchorage, Eagle River or Mat-Su for a pick up.
1100 Gambell Street, Anchorage, AK 99501
(907) 279-6328 or in Palmer: (907)745-4215
Open Mon-Sat 10am-5:30pm
300 West Northern Lights Boulevard, Anchorage, AK 99503