Today was a big day in our 4 year old’s eyes – the day we left for vacation. A day he’d wake up at 5am, crawl into our bed, and tell me again and again how “‘cited” he was about our trip. It was also at 5 am that he began making serious logistical plans on the care and travel of his stuffed animals during our trip. I asked if we might pick just one to bring, but he assured me we would bring them all. “If we leave any behind, I will be too worried about them being at home alone.”
At this point, I was glad we’d already simplified the stuffed animal collection – we could find room in the car for three. I also saw first-hand how true it is that more toys = more stress and anxiety for a child. My son hardly plays with his stuffed animals, but, still, each one represents to him an actual being in need of his care. I can only imagine what vacation plans would have looked like if he had to organize care for the much larger set he once had in his charge!
I was reminded of Kim John Payne’s words regarding toys - “Too much stuff deprives kids of leisure, and the ability to to explore their worlds deeply.” Conversely, he says, “As you decrease the quantity of your child’s toys and clutter, you increase their attention and their capacity for deep play.” Too many toys, too many options, leads to a sense of stress and overwhelm, but a small, manageable number opens up a sense of freedom and pathway for creativity. I found the checklist for a toy discard pile in the book to be very helpful as well as this simple rule of thumb – have no more toys out than a child can put away by himself in 5 minutes.
I know the weight of too much in my own life, the enslavement I feel when I am surrounded by too many things. The printer that is perpetually asking I run to the store for more ink, the espresso machine that wants a thorough de-scaling every month, the new dress that needs ironing…all small demands on their own, but together, they add up to too many things leading to a life that is about…well, the upkeep of things.
I want my kids to know an abundant life of unfettered freedom, of big dreams, of imagination, of joyful service to others.
I want them to discover a life that is more than upkeep of their stuff.
I want to make room in their lives for more – by filling their lives with less.