My eight-year-old paced the living room with slouched shoulders and the most pitiful expression he could muster up. “What’s wrong, honey?” I asked glancing up from my tablet.
He shrugged his shoulders. “I’m just so bored.” He sounded as defeated as he looked.
Frustration rippled through me as I thought about all the wonderful toys he was blessed with. Most of which were gifted to him by adoring grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends. Remote control cars, tablets, action figures, and just about every building toy you could imagine. Topped off with his wonderful imagination, I begged the question: How could he ever get bored?
I wrote a post earlier this year, titled, Ten Ways to Resurrect Old Toys. In this post, I shared some tips on how I managed to trick my kids into falling back in love with their toys. Although these strategies run their course after a while, these tips still work for me. But I realized I’d forgotten one. If I could rewrite that post, I’d add a number eleven—go on a toy fast!
You see, whenever my kids declared their boredom, I’d always threaten to take all of their toys away. Of course, I never meant it. I just wanted to scare them into gratitude. Sounds stupid, right? That’s because it is. But when my son approached me and said he was bored, for what I exaggerate to be the millionth time, I decided this was the moment I’d put my words to action.
Once my kids fell asleep that night, I collected all of their toys (the few that were in rotation) and put them into the garage with the rest of their toys. The only exceptions were the riding toys and trampoline in the backyard, and the toys we used in our homeschool classroom. I called this method, the Three Day Toy Fast. This is my account of what happened after I got rid of all my kids’ toys. (Cue the Law & Order theme song.)
1. They survived. Yes, my boys lived to tell the tale. In fact, they stopped asking me for their toys after day one. The phrase—out of sight, out of mind—rang true in this case. They simply stopped thinking about their toys and found other things to do. They colored more, drew more pictures, played outside longer, made up games, and yes, they watched their favorite cartoons on the days they drove me crazy. They even found things around the house to play with. Stuff like empty boxes, containers, and things they had no business playing with (like the hand soap in the bathroom). Turns out, toys had distracted them from using more of their imagination.
2. They got along better. Of course, sibling rivalry is always going to be a challenge, but my boys did get along better once we removed toys out of the equation. Since they no longer had toys to fight over, they had to work together to stay entertained. Phrases like “That’s mine!” “Gimme that back!” and “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!” had greatly reduced. I was really pleased to see how much better they interacted with one another—so many giggles and inside jokes were exchanged between them.
3. There was more peace. Ah yes, that thing called peace. We all have our own definition of it. For me, peace is partly defined as having less clutter in my life. Not seeing toys all over the family room definitely took me to that sweet place. I had less anxiety, was more patient, and more relaxed. I also got to give my vocal cords a rest, as I seldom had to yell the word “share!”
4. They had more gratitude. Whatever random toys my boys could find underneath the couches, beds, or other furniture, was like finding treasure. They sat and played contently with a few pieces of LEGOs, a small action-figure sword, and irrelevant puzzle pieces. They got super creative! Not to mention, they showed major love to all of their art supplies. Suddenly, it occurred to my boys that my husband and I could take away their toys at any moment; that they weren’t entitled to them. As a result, they showed more signs of humility (especially my eldest) and their disposition improved.
5. I stepped up my game. Chucking most of my kids’ toys sounded like a great idea until I discovered I had to step my game up. That is, I had to help them come up with creative ideas and be more involved during activities. I realized I couldn’t just tell my kids to use their imagination, but I had to show them how fun it could be. Thanks to my own imagination, and Pinterest, finding things for us to do was a cinch.
So the question you’re probably wondering is, after having such a wonderful toy-free experience, will you reintroduce your children to their toys? The answer is, yes, I already have. But after a few days of arguing and fighting, I returned the toys to the garage. Now we’re back to more peaceful, although not perfect, days.
I now see a strategy at work. My boys are starting to notice that if they bicker and fight, mommy will remove the toys that are causing the fuss. This, in turn, will encourage them to learn to get along better. It’s already been working! Even as I write this post, the boys are peacefully working on a craft activity I found on Pinterest. And although they still disagree, I’ve noticed when they are crafting their tone toward one another isn’t as harsh.
I want to end this post by saying that toys are obviously a wonderful addition to childhood. However, my boys are at the age where they are learning how to peacefully work out their issues with each other. Eliminating toys has helped during this time. So, no, this is not an anti-toy post. But one that I hope encourages parents to try eliminating distractions when their children need to learn valuable life lessons such as gratitude, the power of using their imagination, and the wonderfulness of harmony.
Anything to add? Let us know down below!
Stay tuned for more posts on “The Better Mom Tuesdays” series! Every Tuesday this month I’ll be sharing mom tips!