It was a Friday night and I had promised the kids a date night including pizza and a movie, however before starting the movie, my husband and I realized that toys were everywhere downstairs.
See, last year we moved into an amazing home – bedrooms upstairs, kitchen, dining rooms, and living areas on the main floor, and three bedrooms plus a craft room and storage in the basement. Because of all of our extra space (we had just come from a five-room apartment), we basically gave the kids the basement including a room just for their toys, but that didn’t mean they kept all of their toys in that room. It just meant they had three rooms for playing and they used them well, especially when friends would come over. The first time the kids had a large amount of friends over, the girls claimed a room, the boys claimed a room, and the youngest kids could be found roaming between the three rooms. Coming from an apartment that had no toy area at all, this home was like a mansion.
Well, that fateful Friday night when I went downstairs to check on the toy situation, it was like a tornado had literally run through the basement. After giving them 10 minutes to clean up the toys, I ended up finding all of the toys stuffed under a play tent and in closets. I found toys behind doors. Toys were shoved into boxes but the boxes were over-spilling. It was a mess.
So we gave the kids an ultimatum. The kids could choose to watch the movie for family date night but their toys would go away for a long time or they could keep their toys but no movie that night, maybe we could watch it the following evening. Well, of course they chose the right-now option and chose movie now, no toys for a long time. After watching the kids put the toys away more orderly than before, we closed up the doors to the toy room and locked them – including string to remind them it’s off limits.
The kids didn’t ask for the toys for about a week and then I found this:
I asked them about it later and they said they just sat next to the door and looked at the toys but then went back upstairs.
I’ll be honest. The first day was the hardest … for me! I don’t think the kids ever thought twice about their toys that were locked up but I worried about it all day to the point I shed a few tears in the afternoon but as more days went by, I realized there were some seriously great gems in having no toys around the house!
How no toys strengthened our family:
First, the obvious occurred which is that there are never any toys that needed cleaning up. Normally before we leave the house, the kids need to clean up the house so we can come home to a clean house. I also like them to only have a few different toy options out – so if the cars bucket and play kitchen foods & utensils are out and they also want to paint, I like them to clean up the toys first before they start painting. I know, we run a tight shift around here. But it helps keep our house clean (stay tuned for a post about that soon).
Second, the children became a lot more artistic. The kids do a lot of coloring, painting, cutting up papers with scissors, and other crafty things. The downside to this though is the fact that we’ve been through about a ream of paper in less than a month.
Third, the kids spend a lot more time together and get along almost all of the time. With the toys, it seemed as though they were fighting constantly over toys (like we didn’t have more than one) and they were getting hurt more than necessary. Now, I hear and watch them running around the house, giggling and squealing at their new game. I find them rolling around on the ground together, laughing like crazy. They just seem happier.
Fourth, their imagination has expanded. They are constantly coming up with new games and using the few things around the house they have to create new situations. There’s a lot more random singing with a lot more made-up words.
Fifth, as I already briefly touched on, there’s less crying! I am still shocked by this result but it is the best. The lack of toys has stopped them from fighting so much and they seemingly enjoy their time together more. And with less crying, there’s less stress for me which means everyone is happier. There’s less time outs. There’s less hurt feelings. And there is just a lot more happiness.
Lastly, and most important in my opinion, our family has been strengthened because I have felt more of a need to spend more quality time together. Without toys to entertain the kids, it’s just me most of the day. We read a lot. We pretend a lot. We spend time outside on walks and playing at the park. We exercise more. We enjoy running errands together. We visit neighbors more. And honestly, our family has never been happier.
It was a big deal in the beginning to take away all of the toys, however, I don’t ever want to go back. I love our cleaner, happier house.