This "Toy Story" isn't animated, doesn't star Woody & Buzz, and can't be viewed in a movie theater.
This Toy Story is real life, stars my 19 months olds Asher and Eli, and takes place in our living room.
It all started before the boys were born. I decided our house would not be cluttered with toys once we had children. Of course, this was before we had children, so I had no idea what I was talking about, right?
Once they arrived, we realized how much *stuff* kids came with. *X 2* since they were twins. Two cribs, two bouncy chairs, two carseats....even without too much "extra" baby bells and whistles, it's still a ton.
We tried to eliminate what we didn't need. We went without baby swings even though everyone swears they are the best. We try to have just enough clothes for the boys and never an overflowing closet of stuff they wear once (or never). And then there were the toys...
Once the boys became mobile, the toys really started coming into the picture. That was around the same time we moved into our first house, so I had the opportunity to start fresh and decide how the toys would fit into our new living space. Like most parents, I didn't want toys taking over the entirety of the family living space, but I did want their toys to be included, just like everyone else in the family's possessions.
So at the time, the solution was that the bottom two shelves on each side of our entertainment center would be for the babies. That left two open shelves for larger toys, and 4 baskets of loose toys. But in addition to their designated toy area, they also had a basket of books, 2 walkers, 2 large balls, and an activity table in the living room. (And that was after putting half their toys in storage and taking great effort to keep toys minimal! The stuff really does take over before you know it!)
This solution was fine with me for about a year. Yes, during the day the toys were scattered ALL. OVER. the house. But it was really fine with me because the boys are home playing all day, of course toys will be involved and get scattered like everything toddlers touch does. At night, the toys were scooped into baskets and hidden on the shelves, so it was fine.
But yesterday, something happened to interrupt this system that I only thought had been working for us. Earlier in the day, I had taken all the toys out of the tub to make room for the boys to finger paint (didn't go so well but that's another story). Then in the evening when it was bath time, I still hadn't put the toys back.
It was the best bath time ever. The boys splashed together, giggled at each other, babbled to me, and didn't have a rubber ducky to squabble over. I thought wow- a bath without all that clutter is so different, in a nice way. I was always able to close the shower curtain to hide all the toys: that way they were out of sight and I didn't give much thought to them...
Then my mind wandered to the living room. All those toys I was able to scoop in baskets and not think about in the evenings. But during the day they cluttered not only our floors- but maybe even our lives and our minds?
It suddenly occurred to me that it's not how the toys *look* or *fit* or how well they can be stored in the physical space of our living room, but it's about how they actually function as a part of our daily family life.
A lot of our day is just spent with all the toys out, all the time. The boys jump from toy to toy, but rarely sit and explore one for any extended amount of time (normal for a toddler, but that's not my overall point...). But most (frightening) of all, the toys function as the boys' main source of entertainment and activity throughout the day. Things like reading with mommy, exploring the outdoors, or taking part in *real* home life ("helping" me with dishes, watching me fold laundry, etc) are the rare treats.
In an instant, I decided I wanted that pattern to change right then and there. I want time in the kitchen together, sitting and "talking" with each other, and playing/learning *together* (instead of just with toys in the same room) to be the new norm. So out went the toys. After a few hours of purging and storing, this is our new living room toy stash:
(And it's not letting me upload a picture, but imagine two woven baskets, one with about 2 dozen books, and the other with a half dozen small, non-electronic toys).
This Toy Story doesn't have an ending in which I've found the perfect toy solution for our home, but I felt the desire to share the beginning of this story with you (if anyone reads this) as a way to document this change in our lives and to see where it takes us and how this unfolds!
As for all the toys I removed: they are not banned by any means! But they will be taken out purposefully when it is time to play, I will intentionally sit and play and learn alongside them, and those toys will be put away before moving on to something new.
I could go on and on about the deeper meanings of different facets of this toy story and what they mean to me as far as my children's development, our home/family life, possessions, how it relates to the boys' discipline and sense of self, how our time is spent, etc etc etc, but this is just Chapter One and I hope to share more later on as I learn more and see it for myself!
Thanks for reading.
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.