I did something a little crazy the other day. I took away all of my kid's toys. All of them.
Just like the Grinch on the infamous Christmas DVD, I snuck around the house during naptime with a bag thrown over my shoulder while whispering chortles of glee and with crazy eyes popping out of my head while non-manicured fingers selected every "fun" item and packed it away.
"WHY OH WHY" I can hear the sympathetic ones among you asking. "Why would you take away their TOYS???"
It's a strange thing that I've been noticing. My children have a lot of toys. We have pickup times. We have an organizational system. We rotate out toys. And yet their biggest joy with their toys these days seem to be dumping out ALL of them....spreading them throughout the house...and then playing in the pantry or asking to stand on a chair next to the kitchen counter so that they can "help" me cook.
When we had all of the therapists still coming to our house, all of the toys were amazingly helpful because they gave the therapist a lot of variety of material to cycle through. Now? Now the toys were sending me right over the edge.
At the end of a long day...kids in bed...husband home...my job was then to meander around the house (stepping on random blocks) to figure out WHY there's a green tractor under my pillow, stuffed animals soaked in the bathtub, small various objects placed carefully in every corner/under every furniture item/in my kitchen cabinets.
The toys were bringing me down. We live in a small house with no playroom, and for the longest time our system in the Living Room has worked. Bins to store toys? check. Corner to keep larger toys contained? check. But now? The toys were suffocating our living area- growing over night like a virus or a mold that touches everything in the house and leaves no family member unaffected.
The kids seemed so used to having toys that they no longer served the purpose of fun and merely were "those things we can throw around and scatter."
Before taking this drastic step, I simplified the toys. I took a third of them away, and felt like my problems would be gone! Turns out there 2/3 left still got treated the exact same way right before the children then concentrated their efforts on tearing apart the pantry. And while I stood in my house that always seems to be a disaster these days, breathing in the toy fumes, and feeling my sanity slip slowly away into that pink picnic basket that was singing my name in a voice that sounded a lot like the Phantom of the Opera...I had a brilliant idea.
Well, I wasn't sure if it was brilliant. It just seemed like the next thing to try: a toy fast.
I packed away all of their toys, had a date with the steam mop and the floor I could finally see again, and felt the atmosphere of my house return to peaceful once again.
I did leave out:
1. Books (although I am feeling the need to maybe cut back on the number I have available to them)
2. Bath foam letters (I love working on letters with them during this time)
3. Coloring books and crayons (out of their reach)
4. The kitchen playset (with no play food or utensils in it. It's part of the Dining Room decor right now)
This is now our third day of Addison and Carter Toy Fast 2013.
Some observations so far:
1. They have been spending a lot more time with their books and perfecting their dance moves (we did not replace toy time with DVD time)
2. This has forced us to make an afternoon trip out for just a little bit each day...which lets face it I probably should have been doing anyway
3. We went to a store yesterday that had a small Duplo table. The kids sat very quietly and played with this table for a good fifteen minutes, actually allowing me to get some shopping done. Last week they would have rolled their eyes at this table and proceeded to do some unauthorized shopping of their own.
4. This has forced me to be more present and aware of what they're doing each minute. Coming up with creative natural "toys"- bowls of rice to spoon onto another bowl of rice, spilled frozen peas and corn became a game for them to pick up into separate bowls...and of course important science lessons that involve keeping your boots on even when the forces are against you (ha)
5. At the end of the day AND throughout the day, my house is so much more picked up so that I can focus on other household chores that were previously getting neglected. Since the house was always covered in toys, my motivation to have everything else done shot down to a fat ZERO. Now it's looking pretty good, and I feel challenged to up my game on everything else (with helpers, of course)
I'm not sure how long we're going to fast, but this week so far has been amazing. When we do bring some toys back, I think it's just going to be a handful at a time. I've been thinking a lot about the best way to handle toys around here. They're too young to pick their favorites and fill their own bins (plus they only want what the other one has), but I like the idea of having Carter's room toys, Addison's room toys, and Living Room toys and rotating them through.
How do you do toys at your house? Have you ever done a toy fast? How long did you do it for and did it seem to help?