It's also that time of year when I start seeing Facebook posts like 'what do you buy the kid that has everything?' or 'anybody have suggestions on what to get a 5 year old for Christmas?'
First of all let's be so grateful that our children have way too much.
And then let's take some of it away.
I'm not kidding and I'm not evil.
I've read several articles and books by John Rosemond about 'common sense parenting' that have really helped open my eyes. One of the main things that really hit home was the fact that when children have a ton of toys, they play with none of them. Why? Because it's overwhelming!! Think about how you feel walking into a Yankee Candle Store; so many smells! It's overwhelming! And there's not just a simple 'apple' scent (my favorite) - there's pumpkin apple, apple pie, apple spice, red apple, green apple, rotten apple, happy apple (okay so I don't know exact names of scents but you get the idea). I smell them all and then my nose gets confused so I leave the store and go buy a cinnamon pretzel instead.
That's how kids feel when they have too many toys. They can't decide what to play with, so they play with nothing.
I know we live in a competitive society where we want our children to have the same things as every other kid (and more!) and some of us feel like buying our kids crap expresses how much we love them. Or some of us have children that can work that guilt - 'mommmmm if I owned this I just know I would love it forever and it would be special and every time I play with it I would think of you' (well I might be translating 'mom I want this' all wrong but that's how my brain works when it comes to my kids) - so you buy it and then it gets tossed into the mound of untouched toys in your home. Sigh.
So I've been majorly downsizing our toy collection this fall. My rule is if doesn't get played with more than once a month, it gets sold through online yard sale sites. Many of these transactions have been secretly done right under my kids' noses and I'm getting so skilled at this I feel like a drug dealer. Of course as soon as you try to get rid of a toy it becomes your child's 'favorite toy in the whole world and they can't go on living unless that toy is part of the unplayed toy mound.'
Trust me; they get over it. They usually don't even know those toys are gone.
So what do I suggest keeping for you kiddos to play with? Well I'm a teacher with lots of childhood education and development courses under my belt, my mom just retired from teaching 40 years of KG and 1st grade, and John Rosemond is my parenting guru; so with a combined knowledge from these resources here are my suggestions for Christmas:
1. Toys that I consider 'educational' or 'I'm raising a future engineer' - toys that require kids to THINK and use their imagination and their hands:
-wooden building blocks - even babies can stack them up and knock them down. It's great fun apparently.
-Legos / Mega Blocks - these come in all sizes for all ages!
-kinetic sand - this stuff is so cool!
2. Artsy fartsy stuff. Toys and crafts that encourage creative and imaginative thinking skills and helps with hand-eye coordination:
-paper - Yep; simple paper. Lots of colors and textures. Lined paper to help them practice writing skills. Plain paper for them to draw on, paint on, cut up, glue, fill plastic ornaments with, etc.
-stuff to use on all that paper - penciled, crayons, markers, colored pencils, paint, chalk, glue, blunt scissors, stickers, stamps, etc.
-any other supplies to use for art projects - glitter, popsicle sticks, cotton balls, scraps of fabric; you would be amazed at the stuff little ones can create when given a selection of supplies.
3. Toys that I consider 'role play' items:
-dinosaurs - boys and girls go crazy about dinosaurs!
-baby dolls - for girls AND boys!! Boys that play with babies are being daddies!
-doll house with simple furniture - my daughter and son both love playing in my doll house Santa brought me in 1987.
-Barbie style dolls - Morgan has the entire disney princess collection. The princesses spend the majority of their life naked though so be prepared. Kids love stripping clothes off dolls.
-train table - for boys and girls!! Both of my kids love their train table.
-cars, trucks, trains - once again, boys and girls enjoy pushing these around.
-dress up clothes - for boys and girls! So much fun to dress up like a fireman or porn star (okay so she was a fairy princess but I swear she looked more like a drag queen porn star that evening...)
**important public service update: items in the 'role play' category tend to be items that end up in the toy mound. Be sure to keep quantity under control or the little humans will get overwhelmed.
4. Outdoor toys
-bikes, tricycles, big wheels, scooters, wagons; anything with wheels that can be ridden, pushed, pulled.
-sand box table - love the table option because they can stand and play
-water table - what kid doesn't love a water mess?
-trampoline - purchase at your own risk. Many parents are against buying one but I love them. They are calorie burning kid exhausters.
-bubbles - ummm bubbles make kids go looney
-dump trucks, shovels, pails, anything that they can dig and pile dirt into.
-hoppers - those ball things that kids jump on. I let my kids use it in the house. It's a kid exhauster.
-balls, ball gear - soccer, kick ball, basketball, football, etc.
5. Electronics - don't be in denial. My kids had my iPhone masters by 6 months. We live in a world full of technology and your kids have to keep up.
-Leap Frog anything - great stuff. We love the LF readers - the books with reading wand.
-kindle, iPad, nook, whatever else is out there that I don't know of. Morgan got an iPod touch as her 'big sister gift' when she was 3 and a kindle last Easter when she was 4. There are soooo many educational apps and games and you can find great stuff for them to watch on YouTube (check out the British series called Numberjacks).
-video game systems - there's nothing wrong with letting your child play wii or PS or X-box. It helps with hand-eye coordination. However; please monitor how much time your child spends playing games. Morgan is 5 and is terrible at video games and we don't have time to play Mario Kart just so she can watch, so for now our wii, X-box, and PS3 are used to play movies.
-computer - not that your child should have his/her own PC but they need access to one because starting in KG they will be using computer skills.
6. Brainy toys
-books!! Any and all books!! Both of my kids love books and have their favorites. Jack is obsessed with a DK My First Dinosaur Book and Morgan has always been a fan of The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
-games - we introduced board games to Morgan when she was 3. Candyland, Giess Wjo, Chutes and Ladders are all favorites. Of course there are also games like Doggy Doo Doo that kids love and parents hate. Our dog is always constipated.
-globe, wall map
I'm sure I've left out lots of stuff in each category but ya'll get the idea right? Get your kids stuff that inspires them to use their imagination and be hands-on. Some popular toys this year are Doc McStuffins dolls that walks and pulls her medicine cart (uhhhh okay...so my kid can watch the doll walk? That's it?) and Lalaloopsy diaper surprise where you feed the doll and she poops out a charm for a bracelet (wait WHAT?!). I think I will pass on both of those.
Also encourage your kids to enjoy 'practical things' - Morgan wants a bedside table for her room. It's her main request this year because she's 'tired of not having anywhere to put her tissues next to her bed.' Jack got a 'big boy bed' for Christmas because he's 2 and doesn't know any better.
Keep it simple! Don't overwhelm your kids with STUFF.