Sunday, August 07, 2011

Simple Living: Toys

We have worked hard as a family to eliminate much of the toys in the house, keeping only those things that spark imaginative play, are handmade.and made from natural materials. We went around the house with large black bags removing (almost) all plastic toys, barbie dolls, even markers and other synthetic art materials. Sometimes the kids were upset with the loss of a toy but most of the time we worked together and talked about how all these things were getting in our way and how much better we would feel when we could be creative using natural toys. We talked about how special it was to use something that was made by someone's hands and that we could spend time together making our own toys to play with.  They were thrilled when I showed them their new art supplies that were not only made from natural materials like bees wax and real clay but worked so much better. The colors on the paper were so brilliant and the feel of the natural wooden pencils and wax in your hands was calming to the touch. I set up the dining room as an art table and space for them to express their creativity right in the middle of the house so we would all be together. They loved it. I did let them keep 10 (I still think that number is too high) dolls or stuffed animals each. They choose their favorites and the others went in the bag to donate. We kept board games that were not filled with bad messages or overly competitive.
So what did we notice with this major change in the house? Well, peace.  After only about one day we notice a sense of calm had entered our home. The kids would sit for hours at the art table quietly creating, or find a little basket of wooden blocks in the living room, where a mountain of toys had previously been, and quietly build something. The fighting over toys had all but disappeared. It seems that these natural toys and materials just don't have that addictive pull that so many of the mass markets children's toys have these days. The biggest discovery for me was that they didn't seem to miss anything they had given away. I never heard a mention of it again, like that stuff had never been here. They used their imagination to create things out of sticks and shells and anything that was around. Life was simpler for all of us this way. My house didn't look like a toy store and the kids were more excited and free from the clutter that was their life before. We have been living this way for almost 1.5 years now and we love it. It is such a help to have a set of guidelines when you walk into a store and are pulled in by all the bright colors and the million dollar marketing strategies. Well, we are really not even walking into those stores much any more, but that will be another post.
We are making our own toys together as a family. John just loves getting out his tools and working with the kids. I love how taking this one step toward simplicity has brought us so much space to explore, more peace, and   togetherness. We do have the occasional desperate plea for an American doll because "everybody has one!", but we talk about it together and come up with a better solution than going to buy a plastic doll that "everyone" has. Our solution today... we are off to the fabric store with pattern in hand. John loves to sew and is going to help the kids make their own dolls. They are so excited about the whole process. Dreaming of what their dolls will look like. That brings joy to my heart. It is not always easy to go against what the masses are doing, but if you follow what nature intended and what feels right in your heart, you can help your children make decisions that will bring them more happiness and joy than any company that is just trying to make money off their little innocent souls can. I feel like I have been freed from some of those entrapments myself and I am going to work my hardest to keep untying my family one day at a time.  It is amazing how happy kids can be when you take their toys away.

Here are some of my favorite places to get toys and art supplies:

1 comment:

Gretchen Stuppy Carlson said...

I love the feeling of simplifying. It is so easy to end up with rooms full of toys even when you aren't buying any of the toys. Great post.