How having less can help your child

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Does your child have a lot of toys? I´m going to assume he does. The simple fact that you have an internet connection indicates you own a lot of other things. Even if you don´t buy many toys for your child, I´m sure relatives and friends give plenty on his birthday.

I don´t buy too many things, but we ended up having a lot of toys accumulated over the last 3 years.  This excessive amount of toys started to become a big mess (ring a bell?). The living room was a playroom and to clean the house it was an extra task clearing them out of the way.

Besides the mess, I could see that my daughter would easily skip from one toy to the next, spending little time with each and abandoning them all at once to engage in another activity (like drawing, playing outside or watching a video).

This would also make us fight, because it was a hassle to make her collect the toys and I usually ended up clearing the space by myself with very little help on her part. I was frustrated at not being able to teach her to pick up the toys and she was frustrated with my bad mood.

And all this was happening, even though I had  already hidden a bunch of toys she wasn´t playing with at all. These toys were in a closet waiting for some time to reappear on the scene.

But then I was reading about how our brain works and how all the stuff that we own occupies a considerable part of our brain. Somewhere in the depths of our brain we are aware of every single possession we have and a part of us is worried about those things.

The more things you have, the more mental load you are carrying resulting in more stress for yourself. This leads us to waste a lot of mental effort that could be used to be more creative, for example.

It´s a fact that little children can´t handle too many options. That´s why when you are asking them about something, like the clothes to wear, you should give only two or three options to chose from.

So I started to think what this amount of toys can do to a child. They are worried about a lot of stuff they don´t even use. They lose focus when they have a room with so many options to play with. They lose attention on their work, which is to learn through playing.

That´s it. I made the decision to leave Luísa with only one box of toys (a big one) and nothing more. It wasn´t easy, but these are the steps I took:

I got rid of the toys that were kept in the closet;

I got rid of the toys she didn´t play with anymore;

And finally I moved to toys she plays very little with.

And I ended up with the big box plus some stuffed animals. I keep removing some items when I´m inspired.

It´s crazy, but I realized that we parents can be more attached to some toys than our kids. It was hard to let go of some that were nice and expensive or cute or which carried memories of the person who gave them as a present.

What I did when I was failing at choosing what to give away is that I reminded myself of the big goals. One is to make a better environment for your kid to develop and another one is to give them to children that don´t have many toys. So when you do this and you get stuck, remember the big goals.

The change was so positive! Right away I could feel the pleasure of it. Luísa started to play with the same toys over and over every day. She loves those toys and she is aware of everything that she has. When one toy or a part that she needs is missing, she looks for it and she finds it! Isn´t it great?

Now the house is neat and the toys are easy to collect (by her). Or they are left spread in her room and they look nice as in ready to be played with and not only an ugly bunch of clutter.

One secret is to do it when your kid is not around. Luísa didn´t miss anything. She never even realized all that stuff was gone. But I kept her tricycle to try to make her give it away. I explained that she wasn´t using it and asked her what did she think about giving it to a child that doesn´t have many toys. To my surprise she said yes. And after that, I managed convincing her to give away some of the stuffed animals away.

We ended up in a better environment and with a great lesson of generosity that we will keep.

Have you ever done something like this? What was your strategy? Let me know in the comments. And if you haven´t done it yet, how about starting today?

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This article was originally posted on Tripping Mom by Marilia Di Cesare on August 26, 2010. Republished with authorization. Click here for all other posts.

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