“Kids Shouldn’t Have Toys”

September 3, 2007 at 4:30 am 1 comment

This is the title of a newspaper column written by one of my fellow Mama, Ph.D. contributing writers, Jennifer Margulis.

Jennifer spent a year in Niger with her kids, and saw how the imaginative level of their play, and their inner joy and creativity, blossomed without toys. When she got home and unpacked her kids’ plethora of action figures and such, she realized how these items had actually been destructive to her kids’ creative development.

This is also very much like the philosophy of Waldorf education, which we’re looking into for our daughter. (Ironically, though, we are having trouble figuring out how to afford this pricey school in order to keep her life simple and natural — go figure! But, I digress…)

It’s the idea that too much “stuff” clutters the imaginations and development of children. With a clean palette, just nature and the simple items of home, they can create stories, games, ideas and worlds. If we pile their palette with too many colors (toys, activities, etc.) they don’t have room to make their own art.

For me, the same principle applies to adults. Too much stuff, too many toys or activities, and I start to get overwhelmed, disorganized, anxious. My body starts to wobble, a sore back or a sore throat my typical too-late wake-up call that I’ve pushed too hard. The stuff or activities aren’t really enjoyable if I don’t have breathing room to step back from them and process.

It’s a fine balance, but in both parenting a child and my own grown-up life, I am finding that the less clutter I accumulate, the happier I and my child seem to feel. This doesn’t mean I go to the extreme — I do have stuff and she does have toys. I just try to contain it. For me, if two days of the week are booked, I leave the other days empty. My vanity and closet are much less cluttered than they used to be (vanity as in bathroom cabinet, but I suppose the other kind, too). For her, a new toy comes in, an old one goes out. A crazy morning, a quiet afternoon.

Breathing room. Imagination. Fresh air. Quiet. Thinking time. Creativity. Togetherness. Sand on toes. Wind in hair. These are what make me smile, and exhale. And I have to agree with Jennifer, toys are not necessary for any of them.

Entry filed under: Parenting.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Heather  |  September 4, 2007 at 6:15 pm

    I have to agree.

    My husband and I recently moved into a new home that is several hundred square feet smaller that our previous apartment. We’re in the process of deciding what we really need, what we can get rid of, and how we are going to put our home together so that we can spend more time enjoying it and each other. I’m getting addicted to getting rid of things, and we’re talking to family about going present-free this holiday season.

    Just thinking about it gives me a light, airy feeling in my heart.


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