This was the last straw. This is a lovely doll’s high chair given to me by a wonderful friend a couple of years ago for the girls at Christmas. It is sturdily built, and has made it through use by my friend’s daughters and granddaughter.
Up until about six months ago (give or take), my kids were actually pretty good at taking care of their things. There has always been a childish carelessness, but I didn’t have too hard of a time teaching them to do better. It was a rare event to have to throw away or repair toys. Over the course of the last several months, this tendency of theirs has diminished. Greatly. To put it mildly.
In short, their rate of toy abuse has risen dramatically. They have actually deliberately destroyed a couple of toys! This has literally never happened until recent months. Ever. I began “grounding” toys for a time, and trying to make sure everything stayed organized, with only a few things out at once. With so many toys to keep track of, it became nearly impossible for me to stay on top of things. Basically, I tried new tactics to teach them organization and good stewardship.
I now know why, after much trial and error, why this destructive tendency has risen so dramatically. We have too many toys. For a long time, I have really limited the number of toys we own, simply because of the size of my house. However, since they have always been relatively good about taking care of their things, I kind of backed off on the “one toy in, one toy out” rule, and we have accumulated quite a number of toys – mostly birthdays, Christmas, and thrift stores.
You saw that high chair up there, right? That thing is solid wood. Solid. Not cheap particle board. The wood itself is snapped. That is serious destruction. It is the last straw in a string of toys meant to be passed on that my kids have managed to destroy irreparably.
I now know how Mom felt when she came down the basement stairs after The Earthquake Incident. (That’s a whole other post, but I’m sure you can gather from its title what it might entail.) To teach my sisters and I – really, it was mostly me – to appreciate and take care of what we had, my parents boxed up every single toy we owned for the whole summer. It worked really well. Sure, the occasional toy still got broken, but not like before.
Following in my parents’ footsteps (aren’t you proud, Mom & Dad?), I put every single toy they own into their toy boxes, where they will reside in the garage for a full month. They were each allowed to keep a lovey to sleep with, but that’s it. Even their outside toys will be locked away in the shed for the time.
I also told them that when the month is over, they’re not getting all of them back. They will get a very slimmed-down version of their little hoard. I haven’t yet decided if they will get to help choose which toys stay and which toys go. And – we will also re-institute the “one toy in, one toy out” rule. It just makes life easier. I’m sure it will be hard for them, but I really think that, in the long run, this might be the best way to teach them to appreciate and care for what they have.
I’m considering putting all the books away too, because books are one thing I have always been strict with. More books have lost covers and had pages torn or cut up in the last several months than in the six-plus years before that. It’s ridiculous, and it must stop.
At any rate, we’ll be starting over, and I hope this is truly a last resort. I’m sure they’ll still be kids, and things will get broken once in awhile, but I really do hope this lesson sinks in well enough that we don’t have to resort to such drastic measures again.
I’ve always known that, when it comes to toys, less really is more, if I stick to good quality items and keep the quantity down. This was just a hard way to learn I can’t back off on that standard at all with five kids to keep track of.
What will they play with? Good question. There are still plenty of sticks and dirt outside, and they have their imaginations. I don’t think they need much more than that right now.
What do you think? Have you ever dealt with this issue? How did you handle it? What would you do differently, if anything?