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Simple Toys Raise Calmer, Happier Kids

Soon after we moved in to our new home I read a parenting book. Over the last thirteen years, I’ve read many, many parenting books. This one stood out. It initiated a shift in my perspective which marked the beginning of my simplicity journey. The book is called Simplicity Parenting.I cannot recommend it enough.

Last year, we moved homes and I had the opportunity to give away a lot of the toys I didn’t want moving with us. Our new home wasn’t built when we sold our house so we were between homes for the Summer. Most of our stuff was in storage, and I was counting on the fact that the kids would forget about the missing toys by the time we moved again. Besides, I could always use the excuse that they got lost in the move(s).

It was just too good an opportunity to pass up!

I kept just one box of toys to tide us over the Summer. As I packed the toys, I noticed that we didn’t own any building-type toys (I like those kind). After a couple of hours on the internet I decided to purchase a box of Magformers. My two little ones still play with these on a regular basis and we’ve had them over a year now.

I also bought my son wooden trains and tracks – his first boy toys. Up until then he’d been playing with the girls’ old baby toys. Although I had already completed a make-over for our toy collection, Simplicity Parenting inspired me to re-assess the situation.

Growing up, I remember having a mere handful of play things. I had a couple of dolls, a teddy bear, a toy record player that played nursery rhymes and a lot of books (I loved reading, still do). As I got older, my toy collection included classic board games like Ludo and Monopoly. One of my favorite pass-times was imagining that I had escaped from the bad guys (my family) and I would spend (what seemed like hours) tip-toeing around the house trying not to get caught, and of course, to stay out of sight.

This kind of imaginary play is not something I often see in my younger kids, and when it does appear on those precious, rare occasions, it doesn’t last for very long. In contrast, my older girls used to make up all kinds of scenarios to act out, and it kept them entertained for hours.

I have a niggling feeling that increased screen time is to blame. I’m ashamed to admit it, but the simple truth is my fist born didn’t start watching t.v. until she was almost three. My son (my fourth child) started at the ripe old age of one. He also mastered how to use a computer mouse as well as how to navigate an ipad by the time he was two! I’m convinced that increased screen time has robbed my kids of their ability for creative, imaginary play.

The niggling feeling inevitably lead to a second overhaul of our toy collection. By the time I was finished, I had filled two garbage bags to donate to the Salvation Army.

Granted, our collection is smaller than what it was a year ago. However, all the toys get played with on a regular basis. The kids barely noticed the change. It helped that I added some items to the collection in order to promote simple play (we still had a serious lack of boy toys)!

Most of the toys in our collection are now made of wood which makes them more durable as well as nicer to handle. Very few require batteries. With fewer toys, the kids are much better at tidying up after themselves, so it’s a win-win.

Flashing lights and fancy sounds can be great for awhile and can certainly entertain, but nothing can unleash the imagination more so than simple toys.

I love listening in on the conversations my little boy has as he drives his trains and trucks around the house! After I saw how simple toys affected my kids play (for the better), I was eager to implement some of the other changes outlined in the book.

My journey began with simplifying our toy collection, but it doesn’t end there. One of the goals for starting this blog was for me to have a platform to share my simplicity journey. I’m hoping it will help me to stay accountable to my commitment to change (sometimes it’s easy to fall back into old habits). I hope to share many more of the simple changes I’ve made to our lives in future posts.

Do you reminisce about how things were simpler back when you were a kid? If you could change one thing in your child’s life to make it more simple what would that change be? If you don’t have kids, what would you change to make your own life simpler? I’d  get rid of the email and text functions on cell phones. I think it’s sad that no place is considered taboo and that people EVERYWHERE have their noses buried in their hand-held devices!

Your Comments

15 comments… add one

  • Selina Marie February 19, 2017, 7:38 am

    I completely agree. It is much better to give your kids simpler toys. Besides the fact that they are more durable, they also let our kids’ imagination go wild. And that’s what every child needs.
    Selina Marie recently posted..10 Best Binoculars for Kids in 2017

  • Dana Pazdernik October 28, 2016, 10:24 pm

    Hi. I also read the simplicity parenting book. I have a soon to be 1 year old and trying to get some ideas of what to have out as far as toys for him? Do you have any ideas of how many toys to have out at a time and what kinds? Thanks KS for any help!!

    • Saida February 22, 2017, 10:06 pm

      When my son was younger, he loved the Melissa and Doug wooden vehicles. We had the train with the farm animals and the flatbed truck that comes with four cars. He played with them all the time. He also loved playing with the wooden Thomas tracks.

      The magnetic Tegu blocks are also fantastic as are Magformers. Neither of these are cheap! We started with a small set and added to it when we could. My son is now almost 8 and he still plays with both of these on a daily basis.

  • Nessa October 24, 2015, 1:22 pm

    When I was a girl my parents would let me stay up one hour later at night, but with one condition… I had to be reading during that hour. It started out with me just reading for the sake of being able to stay up late but I blossomed into a full on book worm. There were many mornings I was sleepy in school because I’d sneak a flashlight into my room so I could keep reading after lights out.

    • Saida November 2, 2015, 10:13 pm

      My nine year old did that! She started reading in bed just to stay up a bit longer. She is also learning to enjoy reading for the simple sake of reading :)

  • Davina November 19, 2014, 12:20 am

    Hi Saida,
    I know this is an older post, but just curious how you handle Christmas now with your family? Over the last few years we have scaled way back, but sometimes I still feel like it’s to much. Just wondering what you do over the holidays.

    • Saida February 3, 2015, 9:14 am

      Hi Davina –

      Sorry about the late response. Hope you had a great Christmas :)

      Our family doesn’t celebrate Christmas. We celebrate Eid but it doesn’t really compare to Christmas. Generally, only the kids get gifts/money and only from close family (the adults don’t exchange gifts). We splurge twice a year on our kids (for Eid and on their birthdays). Other than what we give them, they get money from their grandparents, aunts and uncles but it’s usually no more than $10 or $20. Celebrating Eid is more about spending time with family and good food ;)

      I know it can be a challenge to balance the holidays. I’m not sure how I would handle Christmas, except maybe try to shift the focus away from expensive gift giving to enjoying family traditions that emphasize time spent together.

      Sorry, I can’t be of more help!

  • Wizard Toys March 7, 2014, 11:07 pm

    You may spend a little on better toys but the quality of it will be a make up, knowing it will lasts longer is a good way to look at it.

  • Inger June 16, 2013, 10:16 pm

    You are who I am……

    I’m a Grandmother, just about to retire from my career. I’ve downsized from the family home and wow how gut wrenching it was to do , but at the same time was cleansing after I said, it had served it s purpose and time to let it go, it was so emotional, but so very healing….it felt wonderful! I donated 3/4 of my home and only kept things that I loved!
    I’m happy, belong to a community garden walkable up the road and have great fresh salads from if every day! I live close to the water and Kayak out practically from my door step….but it is city living and that will be my next hurdle to overcome……. the noise of traffic.

    It is all just stuff……..Keep things simple. I’ve said for years……how easy it is to think “Oh, I might need that one day, so better buy it”….junk….don’t do it…..stop and think….do I really need it! With all that being said ….not buying stuff on the whim…you’ll need less money because you aren’t buying the stuff……. live simple with less…because it is………. more!!! I truly believe!!!And I”m hooked! But all good!
    Enjoy, be proud and be grateful for the les you have……..and pay it forward!

    • saida June 16, 2013, 10:40 pm

      Couldn’t agree with you more! :)

  • Raj December 23, 2012, 5:54 pm

    Hi Saida –

    I just stumbled on your website this week and am so glad I found it! Simplifying my kids toys and other parts of our lives have been on my to do list for too long – it’s time for me to get started. Your post gave me some motivation to tackle the challenge over the holiday break.

    Thanks for sharing,
    Pink Chai Style

    • Saida December 23, 2012, 9:28 pm

      Welcome. I’m glad you found me! My kids toys was the first thing I simplified in our lives and it was SO worth it. Once you simplify one area in your life, you’ll automatically be motivated to simplify further. Good luck!

  • Nina Smith December 19, 2012, 10:51 pm

    Hi, just discovered your blog. I’ve been on this journey my whole life and continue to explore it as a parent of an 8 and 6 year old girl and boy. My kids have a few more toys than I like but nothing compared to most. Our number one favorite toy-Magformers. We have a huge set and my kids have played with them going on 3 years at least once a week if not more. Love them.

    • saida December 21, 2012, 11:57 am

      Welcome! I know what you mean about the Magformers! They are limited only by your imagination. I only have the basic set but even then, the kids play with them all the time.

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