The No Toy No Problem Experiment

Did you ever find yourself falling over your kids toys and started wondering whether they might have too many? Did you ever have the feeling that you no longer live in an adult house? And that your baby likes it better to play with your set of pots and other kitchen gadgets, anyway? And most importantly, that you are tired of tidying up your kids toys for them at the end of the day? Well, we definitely found all of the above. And we took a big decision:

Remove (almost) All Toys!

This is a summary of the original French post about an experiment that we made in January. You can read it here.

The origin

It all started December 31st when everything seemed possible and crazy ideas are the norm. Papa Ninja had enough and said:

“The kids have to many toys!”
“What a bad timing to tell me that! Christmas is barely over and they just got nice new toys.”
“See, it’s the perfect moment to go through all that and declutter.”

At that point, we didn’t know yet that everyone would be talking about the Konmari method. The thing is, Papa Ninja is a minimalist kind of guy. And he often has great ideas, so he convinced me. And there we were: taking the decision that our little ninjas would play with way fewer toys than before. I remembered an article about a daycare that removed all toys for three months and that it was a positive experience.

To be honest, I thought we would not have to take a lot away because in my opinion compared to other families that I know, we don’t have many toys in the house. Friends and family think that we are already minimalist with what we allow to enter the house and we keep hearing things like “Wait until they are older and demand specific toys.” or “Wait when you will have another baby, then you will lose control.” But the thing is, we select good quality toys, avoid plastic if possible and just hate toys that make sounds. We believe that such toys entertain children but don’t let them learn playing skills. The truth is, I was shocked when I saw all the toys on the playmat in the living room.

 

Benefits of going toy free

First of all, when I look at my children playing I see a little girl making invisible sandwiches and a baby licking an old remote. Do they need toys? Doesn’t look like it! But still, as a responsible mother I didn’t want them to be missing something or falling behind in their development because of a foolish decision. So, I looked it up and found many benefits to fewer toys.

For the parents:

  • Less clutter in the house
  • Save money
  • Less impulsive buys
  • Reduce plastic consumption (did you know that 90% of the toys are made of plastic and most of them end up in s landfill? 😳 )

For the kids:

  • Encourage them to be more creative and resourceful
  • Encourage them to share
  • Teach them social skills
  • Develop longer attention spans
  • Teach perseverance
  • They take better care of their things
  • They play more outside, move more (even inside)8ru,

Keeping only the perfect toys

The next step was to decide which toys to keep because we weren’t game to take ALL toys like the Weiner family did in this french post. We decided on 5 main criteria:

1. Safety
Always, safety should come first. Always. Even the best idea in the world is worthless if it can harm my kids. And with a baby in the house, that means no small parts or fragile toys.

2. Not age specific
With 2 kids 3.5 years apart, it’s important that what we give them is age appropriate for both of them. We don’t want to take away a toy because it’s for older or younger kids. That means that each kid can play with all the toys not only half. And we don’t have to change them every 6 months because they will be good for a very long time.

3. Multi-purpose
That means that one toy will have many purposes, unlike traditional educative toys that target a specific skill. And with fewer toys, each of them needs to have the potential to fill many roles. Wooden blocks can be good, cars, figurines, furniture, roads, and much more. Here, the imagination is the only limit.

4. Material
We want our toys to be made of natural material if possible: wood, fabric, metal. It just feels right. A little bit like the feeling you have when you come home after a long travel.

5. Special attachment
Life is rarely straight forward and does not always unfold as expected. Sometimes, we have to accept that not everything is going according to our plans. Baby Ninja really likes his old TV-remote that my father got him for Christmas. It’s plastic, only he plays with it, but he loves it. So we kept it. At least it’s multi-purpose (remote, phone, teething toy, something to throw, etc.) and we didn’t have to buy it.

So here is what we took away

 

And here what we kept

 

Results

The most important result is that the kids didn’t stop playing. They play even more, with all kinds of everyday life objects . They imitate us and are practicing skills that will be useful all their life. Miss Ninja really enjoys playing to clean the house, and her little brother started to imitate her as well.

They also play differently. They are more active and creative. It’s winter, and to be honest we don’t go much outside to play in the snow, but Miss is moving more. She asks to play soccer or jump on the trampoline and she dances everyday. She also rediscovered the pleasure of crafting and really enjoys writing letters. I noticed that it helped her concentrate and focus on a task for longer stretches of time.

In fact, I think my kids didn’t even notice that their toys were gone. Only once, my daughter asked for a puzzle. But then there is her friend! She comes often to play and last time when she entered the house she wanted to play with the kitchen. Before, we had tons of fake food, including cupcakes and she was really excited about baking cakes that day. She was confused when I told her that the food was gone. She even said to me “But, I need it!” I suggested her to use what she could find in the house and I was really proud of her when she brought me a plate filled with fake cookies because she used her creativity instead of giving up.

 

Conclusion

After a month we found out that everyday objects and their imagination are all what kids need to play. And because they don’t even play with everything, we decided to remove even more toys.

And more importantly, by reducing the toys in our household and by being very conscious about which toys we add, we became in general more conscious about our consumption patterns and started to realize how our consumption behavior is driven by social norms.

The other day I caught myself once again in the toy aisle of a store looking for gifts for my little ones. It took me a while before I realized what I was doing and fortunately I managed to stop myself. It just showed me once again how deeply ingrained this habit of trying to please my kids with new toys is. However, this time I decided I would show them my love by spending more quality time with them and by baking some imaginary cakes!

 

Some links

Ces-enfants-qui-grandissent-sans-jouets

Why-fewer-toys-will-actually-benefit-your-kids/

Jouer sans jeux: comment et pourquoi jouer avec « rien »?

There’s a huge problem with kids toys that no one’s talking about

cbc. wasted-greening-the-plastics-heavy-toy-industry

A no toy week at daycare

Le défi sans jouet – le bilan !

Why taking toys away from daycare kids actually makes a lot of sense

 

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