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Toy minimalism is a decision, it requires thought and intention. It also has quite a few benefits for the children, you can read about them here.
So, what can we do to support our children towards toy minimalism and where do we start? Let’s talk about four aspects to consider and how addressing them might help.
The “space” idea we talked about in the post “Toy minimalism – 4 easy steps to reduce the toy clutter with the kids” will help tremendously with keeping toys to a minimum.
Going shopping with kids in a shop that has toys is a scenario that might frighten parents and for good reason. What works in our case to make a trip to the supermarket and even the toy shop ‘tear-free’ is the magical wishlist!
I have two kids, so I always have two wishlists with me, on my phone. Whenever the kids see something that they would like, be it in a shop or at a friend’s house, I take a picture or find it on the internet, and save it to the wishlist. This way the child feels heard (“Mummy understands I want that toy, she is not ignoring me or fighting against me!”) and is not afraid that if we don’t get the toy right that moment, everyone will forget about it and never buy it.
Afterwards, we go through the wishlist, monthly or on occasion, and the kids make their own decisions:
- what to save money towards first
- which toys they don’t really want that much so we delete them from the wishlist
- what we might want to do first before buying something (like taking lessons before buying new drums or a guitar)
This way, they learn to prioritize, they learn to wait (to save money or learn a new skill) and make conscious decisions (thinking about “How much use is it going to get?” or “Is it good quality?” for example) instead of impulsive shopping.
Ads can be a huge influence when it comes to kids and toys. The media sends messages telling the kids that they need the latest toy. Ads are designed to create a desire for a certain product. Marketing’s scope is to make the viewers believe they will be happier/popular/accepted if they have a certain product. This persuasive intent is something kids will start to understand after the age of 8 (1, 2).
Here is where screen time talk comes in, and I know it’s a controversial topic. Yet limited or controlled screen time means less exposure to advertising, therefore fewer chances for children to want things.
Also, explain to kids that the kids on TV are paid for the ad. They are just acting to sell the product. This way kids understand the persuasive intent earlier on or at least ask themselves “Will this toy actually make me as happy as this ad claims it would?”.
Kids will receive gifts containing toys. Receiving gifts is a wonderful experience. You learn how it feels to receive something and so you learn how to offer something to make someone else happy too. Still, gifts don’t need to be toys.
Once you’ve decided to adopt a more minimalist way of living and reduce the toy clutter, you can tell your family and closest friends about your decision. Share with them your views. Let them know that your kids will also be happy to receive tickets to a theatre or a movie, money towards a special item from their wishlist, a subscription to a science magazine or tickets to the zoo or to go-karting.Toy minimalism is a decision, it requires thought and intention. Click To Tweet
In case you want to read more on the topic, here is a short list of websites and books you might find helpful:
- Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne (aff link)
- Clutter-free with Kids by Joshua Becker (aff link)