Fewer Toys a Greater Blessing?

I recently read this article, thanks to a recommendation from Amie, and thought it was great! I know that for many of us, our kids may end up having fewer toys than the average American family anyway, whether it be due to frequent moves, the often higher cost of quality toys overseas, a desire to live closer to the culture, financial limitations, smaller homes, etc, and this article discusses how this is actually likely a very beneficial thing. Actually though, even as this has been the case for us to an extent, we still have way more toys than we “need!”

The problem for me though is that the majority of my kids’ toys were gifts from people that I care a lot about,  many whom are far away, so I have a really hard time trying to pare things down, even when the kids have totally outgrown a toy. I’m not usually a “saver” when it comes to things that I don’t use, but when it comes to gifts for my kids, I just can’t part with them! Thankfully so far there has always been someone younger in the family to save such toys for, thus saving mom the heartache! Another great alternative to getting rid of things that you already have is to just rotate toys in and out so your kids can keep all of those treasures and still reap many of the benefits of having less.

But, then again, we could also write a separate post on the flip side about the benefits of having all of the fun stuff at your house so all of the neighborhood kids want to come! Having your place be THE place gives you the benefit of knowing what your kids are up to all of the time! I read an article about that idea recently and was inspired to hope our home would be the place that our kids and their friends want to hang out as they grow up. I don’t think it necessitates having lots of expensive stuff, but what I read did give some compelling arguments for having some fun things that naturally attract kids!

What are your thoughts on this whole less-is-more issue as related to kids and toys? Have you felt that your decisions about how many toys your kids have has been at all affected by where you live, either by having more or less? If so, how has this affected you and them?

(Post by: Ashley)


5 Responses to “Fewer Toys a Greater Blessing?”

  1. 1 Leigh May 13, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    That’s my old youth pastor that wrote that article. It’s very interesting, and as we depart for South Africa and are just beginning the raising kids process at the same time, I’m glad that we will automatically have fewer toys and possessions for our little one, just because of space and practicality. In the seven months we have lived in the States since having her, she has been given so many toys and especially clothes. I remember looking at her closet once and thinking, it isn’t good for her to have this much stuff! I know how easy it is for me to keep thinking I need more (clothes or whatever) and I don’t want that for her. Right now she still has way more than she needs. I’m not exactly sure how I will handle the amount of toys and other things she has when she’s older, but I definitely think this is true, that less is more. I have known children who have so many toys that they literally covet new ones and are not content unless their parents buy them the latest ones. They have so much stuff and its never good enough. Meanwhile there’s other kids who have nothing. I want my daughter to be content, to learn to be creative, to share, and to have compassion. I don’t want her becoming materialistic, greedy, and selfish.

  2. 2 Richelle May 13, 2010 at 5:18 pm

    oh ashley, i have that exact same struggle – a sentimental attachment on behalf of my kids for something given by a special aunt or uncle, grandparent, friend… and now i’m seeing some of my kids have that same struggle and it has been a wake up call for me.

    first, i’ve found that after years of hauling something around with us because it was a special gift – resentment can build up in my heart towards that person and what was given in a spirit of love and generosity becomes a burden that was never intended. secondly, i’ve found that i don’t tend to live that part of my life under Holy Spirit control – worrying more about what the giver might think, be thinking, will think some day if s/he finds out that we didn’t treasure their gift properly. thirdly, i see my kids putting expectations on those to whom they give a gift – after all, “expectations” were placed on them when they accepted a gift, right? (and the responsibility for that falls on my shoulders completely – not the shoulders of the givers). if someone doesn’t appreciate their gift properly, then my children get their feelings hurt… and the list goes on.

    then there are other dynamics – do toys become more important than relationships (sharing/selfishnenss issues among kids, mom’s priority on having everything picked up and in its spot instead of relationship and enjoying the kids…)? do they create so much work cleaning/putting them away that we can’t keep up with our houses and housework and therefore aren’t given to the biblical mandate of hospitality? does all the stuff create a temptation to sin for those who have so much less?

    verses that have really spoken to my heart on this issue – Phil 4 – “let your moderation be known to all” and then any of the verses that discuss our need to practice contentment – in want and in abundance. when i can truly grab ahold of that as a mom and walk it as well as talk it – perhaps many of these issues regarding toys will become nonissues.

    (by the way – i didn’t go and read the article you referenced and don’t have time at the moment, so if any of this is a rehash, sorry…)

  3. 3 Amie May 14, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    I struggle with sentimental attachment too (although less because we live so near to our parents). I have to say though that I remind myself that toys often connect me to the person more then they connect our children to that person.
    I am also getting better about asking specifically for things that fit into our lifestyle. We asked for gifts for our four year old that stimulated her imagination or gifts for activities. And we have found that having the “coolest house on the block” has less to do with toys and more to do with hospitality.

  4. 4 Sarah May 14, 2010 at 5:32 pm

    That was a great article and then after I read it, I spent a bit too long browsing the rest of the website. 🙂

    I agree with what the girls above have written, and the conclusion we came to (after having been on both ends of the kids having too much vs. kis having almost nothing spectrum) is pretty much what Richelle wrote about – wanting our kids to learn contentment no matter what our situation is and wanting their hearts to be thankful, happy, willing to share and give, and not always wanting more.

    During the years we lived in the Philippines, I sometimes felt a little bad about how few toys our kids had compared to kids back in the US, even though our kids didn’t care or know any different. At the same time I’d often feel guilty because they still had so much more than the children around them. Now we’ve moved Norway, and it’s sort of like the pendulum has swung way the other way. When we first arrived here in January, people showered our kids with toys…REALLY NICE toys. Up until then, my 5-year-old had spent his entire life playing with easily-broken plastic toys found at the market for a few cents or hand-me-downs from other MKs, so he was thrilled with all the cool stuff. It was a wonderful gesture and made us feel so welcome and I didn’t think much about it at the time, but after a while it got BAD. We met someone new and my son crumpled to the ground in tears because they didn’t have a gift for him. Another time, someone gave him something and it wasn’t what he wanted, so he began crying right then and there. I felt sick to my stomach when that happened and that’s when we realized that we’re going to have to be very intentional about what we give them, how many toys they have, etc.

    Still not sure yet about the whole gift thing…that’s tapered off now, but we’ve got a birthday coming up later this month for our 3-year old, and I’ve sort of tried to tell people that gifts aren’t necessary but if they want to give something, art supplies would be great…

    I guess the bottom line is wanting to reach their hearts, regardless of having much or little. Maybe it’s easier when they don’t have much, but I’m sure you can have unthankful and greedy children living in a minimalistic home. Just like children with a house full of toys can be raised to be thankful and content…

  5. 5 Stephanie May 16, 2010 at 4:26 am

    What a great topic for discussion!

    We have very few toys and the ones that we do own have all been gifts. It really is a wonderful thing. Less clutter. Less distraction. More creativity.

    That said, I also like your point abut wanting to have a house that is “THE place” that kids want to be. My husband and I definitely aspire to have that kind of house…but I don’t think toys are necessary. We have books, arts & crafts supplies, snacks, and smiles. I think those things are enticing enough. 🙂

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