Bottom line? We have too much. We have too much!!
Everytime I do a complete purge of low-use items in the entire house, my life becomes so much simpler and less stressful. I haven't done this in a while, so I need to get busy. I need to start with the perpetual toybox. Because the kids won't really miss most of the stuff anyway, when its gone.
What do you think is reasonable to have on hand for toys? And ... gadgets? Hmmm.
I love anything that fosters imaginative play, especially classic toys and games. Lego, Playmobil, cars and trucks, dress-up, dolls and kitchens. Lifeless things that your children must actively animate using mind and body. Therefore, electronic devices, computers, video games, and TV time do not rate in my books, though we do have them in our home. Too much of this stuff means too little time spent on worthy passtimes such as books, outdoor time, hobbies, imaginative play, spending time with your family. It has always been our instinct to limit electronics, but I could never fully articulate why, beyond them being a time-sucker and time-waster. Gotta make the most of the time!
"Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil." Ephesians 5:15-16 (RSV)
Low-effort, big thrill.
Low-effort in exchange for high thrill toys and games represent a cultural message rampant in today's world. The message? Entertain me. I have the right to be entertained. This entertainment should come easily. Passively. Shouldn't have to work for it. Wouldn't want to use my brain. Why work for a thrill when its so readily available and attainable. Life is all about fun. Once kids get a taste of low-input, high-thrill toys, its hard to go back. And, once kids get a taste of low-input, high-thrill, they begin to lose the drive and ability to work hard for something. Does it limit the ability to experience the wonderful high from a job well done, purely for the sake of a job well done?
Electronic toys and gaming devices are not the only culprits. What's in your craft closet?
Have you ever bought your little ones glitter glue or some other fancy product, and in one sitting they squeezed the entire tube out in globs onto paper, with no real rhyme or reason or element of creativity? I have witnessed this first hand; my kids have done just that! In other words, they used the product for the thrill of using the product, consumed it haphazardly, and then - done. Dollars wasted.
On the other hand, really good art supplies like quality paints and good paper, treated with respect, can be the window through which our children can imagine and create! Do you get the difference? Some things we buy, kids just consume them for the thrill of consuming. Other items are used for the sake of creating. THAT's what we're going for!!
We want high-effort/input, high-reward experiences!
What about this. Do your kids go through reams of white paper (such as printer paper) just drawing scribbles and then do you end up shoving them in the recycle bin? Ahem, we do. Never thought much of it, because we do recycle so you think its all good. But what if we gave our children special sketch pads and modeled their use as something reserved for their very best efforts? What would happen then? What message would we send?
On our recent trip to AZ, I decided to buy the little girls Leapsters. Thought it would be nice to have something for them to do during the long drive. They can be thought of as somewhat 'educational.' (Although from what I saw when I played it with the girls, the educational value was pretty pathetic). And while it did provide some "peace" along the way, we really did pay for it. Maria got completely addicted and couldn't get it off her mind - she is so stubborn and persistent at the best of times - she kept asking and asking and crying and whining to play. And asking and crying. Sure, I believe in moderation; kids will have to learn self-restraint and so on, but I did not like the power the Leapster had over her in particular. And if I'm really honest with myself, the purpose of the Leapster was not with their best interest at heart, but mine, for the sake of some quiet mommy time. Ouch. What did we do before DVDs in the vehicles and handheld devices? Well, maybe we were a bit bored, so we had to play travel games, listen to audio stories, converse, or just daydream.
Next time you think about toys and other playthings, ask yourself where the creative process occurs. Did the creative process already happen when the toy was made? So, did the designer think of absolutely everything and then package it up? If so, chances are the toy will be played with for a short time and then abandoned, because there is nothing left for the child to discover. For example, craft kits might fit in this category, because they are scripted. An electronic train that just goes around and around might fit here, too.
Alternately, does the creative process happen when your child receives the toy? A plain baby doll or dress-up clothes can be played with over and over again, with the child providing the scenario each time. And in doing so, the imagination is strengthened over and over again. I love that!
Why is a strong imagination important? Consider this excerpt from The Power of Imagination:
Imagination is a creative power that is necessary for inventing an instrument, designing a dress or a building, painting a picture or writing a book. The creative power of imagination has an important role in the achievement of success in any field ... It gives the ability to look at any situation from a different point of view, and enables one to mentally explore the past and the future.
I'm going through the toybox and listening to Kerri again. Join me?