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How many toys does a child really need?

In America, we are blessed with abundance of choices for everything. My daughter, who just returned from living abroad, was struck by how little “stuff” people had in Europe

compared to the US. And how much happier kids were when they had less toys and spent more time playing outside and using their imaginations.

Full disclosure - we were prime offenders. With twins, my children often received two of everything – two horsey rockers (well, one was a cow), two puzzles, two Lego sets, etc. Add this to doting grandparents who never lost an opportunity to shower gifts on the kids – with oodles from the Dollar Store – and you get a sense of the “toy overwhelm” condition our household was in.

Sometimes it seemed that the kids were so overwhelmed with choices of what to play with, it became stressful to make a decision! I have since learned the wisdom of only putting out enough toys to play with, and store the other ones away for a tradeout later on.

But even then – we had too much stuff! Do you have this problem too?

As Thanksgiving approaches, we start to think about how lucky we are, and remember those who are not so blessed. There are homeless kids who don’t even have one doll or book. Children from economically challenged homes where a single toy truck becomes their whole universe. Or those who suffered losses due to hurricanes or other natural disasters and have literally nothing.

So why not cull through your toy closet and thing hard about how many toys you really need, and what you would like to “bless and release.” Here’s how to sort it out –

1. Get two large garbage bags and a big toy box (or cardboard box). One for “Toss/broken,” one for “Donate” and a box for “Love these/keep.”

2. Sort it out. Take an armful of toys and children’s books, and put on the floor. Sort through, placing each toy in the pile you want it to go in. Make a game of it, see how many you can do in two minutes!

3. If it’s broke – be realistic as to if it’s fixable, if you really are going to fix it, or if it’s ruined forever. If it’s a lost cause toss it – remember that plastic things can be recycled, so you may want a sub-category for these.

4. Do they love it? Is this a toy that enjoys lots of play? Or is it something that is perfectly good but somehow is never or rarely touched. If it’s not really treasured – donate it to someone who needs a toy to love.

5. Is it heirloom quality? Many times we think we want to keep something for our children’s children to enjoy, like fancy Barbie’s, Lego sets, or stuffed animals. If you’re in this boat – keep the heirloom toys to a minimum. I guarantee you that your grandkids won’t want more than a small to medium size box of their parents’ old, outdated toys.

6. How many do you need? How many bouncy balls can a child actually play with? Look for duplicates, and sort out – especially if you have twins or triplets!

When you’re all done – put the “Toss” bag right into the trash, the “Donate” bag into your car or by your front door, and the “Keep” box in the playroom.

Now – not only can your child enjoy a room full of toys they love and use, but you have de-cluttered the space and, most of all, shared with needy kids.

Then – celebrate with a special treat!

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