by guest blogger, Deanna Cogdon Miller
We had a friend’s daughter over for a playdate this week and after running upstairs, downstairs and checking out our TV room, I overheard her say, “Well what are we going to do – you guys don’t really have very many toys.” To which my daughter very matter-of-factly answered, “We have toys.”
And she’s right, we have toys. There’s a kitchen set in one daughter’s room and a dollhouse and dress-up clothes in the other. We have a toy keyboard and a few small baskets in the TV room and then there are some doctor’s kits, a child-sized guitar, building blocks, Mr Potatohead, a basketball net and a doll crib, carrier and stroller in the basement. But I guess if you’re looking for the big playroom full of stuff, she’s right, we don’t have one of those.
And admittedly it’s on purpose. We used to have more toys haphazardly filling up Rubbermaid bins in the basement and kitchen eating area of our old house. When we put it on the market over a year ago we knew we had to de-clutter for showings so we packed up almost all the toys in the house and put them in a rented storage locker for a few months.
And much to our very pleasant surprise, the girls did not miss a beat.
Suddenly they were using placemats to make paths through the house and talking to each other about the things they “saw” along their path. Their interest in using crayons to draw and play dough to create things increased. They played more together – pretending to be animals, mommies and hiding on each other. We read more, we baked together and we had more family dances.
When we moved into our new place and finally opened the storage locker again after a few months, we were almost shocked to see all the “stuff” in there that we had forgotten about. As we looked at it, we very quickly realized that we didn’t need it and instead of bringing it home, we filled up the trailer and donated it all. When one of our daughters celebrated her birthday a few weeks after we moved in, we made it a “book” party so everyone who came brought a new book and we revitalized our shelves with new stories.
And now, more than a year later, I’ve realized that the things that get the most use around our house are the kinds of toys I would consider “props”. The microphones, keyboard and guitar are in constant use as the girls put on shows and sing along to the radio. The kitchen set and stroller are used when they play family. But most of the time, they still play make-believe games like daycare or baby that require nothing but a few pairs of my heels, my purse and a few blankets. Combining this with some great books and a cupboard stocked with creative “stuff” (paper, crayons, scissors, stickers etc) makes for happy kids.
I have nothing against toys. I guess I’ve just come to realize – somewhat by fluke – that if you don’t have tons of them, kids are going to find things to do to amuse themselves. It’s really a win-win situation. You can be happy not having to look at the clutter and by limiting what comes into the house, you’re really giving them the best toy they could ever have…imagination.
Deanna lives in Dartmouth with her husband and three children. When she's not reading stories, dancing to ABBA or burping a baby, she works in communications for Bell Aliant.