- Family and Parenting
Too Many Toys
Today's Children Have More Toys Than Ever - But Do They Really Need Them?
Whether we know it or not, almost as soon as our delightful bundle of joy arrives red-faced and screaming into the world, we have unwittingly become members of the Cluttered House Club. Gone are the days when our home is our pride and joy; where friends might turn up unannounced and find their own way from the door to the sofa. Deliberating over eye-catching ornaments for empty surfaces is but a thing of the past. Cupboards which used to house your own precious belongings will now contain little more than the Belongings of Your Sprog. For, as soon as said Bundle of Joy is old enough to walk (and supposing you are not rich enough to live in a mansion, you will have very little of your own space left at all.
Of course, we all want to see the wide eyes of our Adorable Little Bunny as she rips the paper of our lovingly chosen Christmas present. But then come the presents from Grandpa and Grandma (separate ones if they are divorced); that train from Aunt Matilda; the enormous teddy Uncle Sam couldn't resist; building blocks from the cousin she never sees; a miniature till with chip and pin from the relative she can't even remember..... The list goes on and on. And on and on. Children's toys take up a lot of space and before you can even blink, your once-sophisicated living room is suffocating under a sea of ugly plastic. And just imagine if you're planning on having another.....
A few months later, just when you think you've got the house straight (or applied for planning permission for an extension), it's the Loveable Sprog's birthday and the same thing happens all over again. Take into account all the other little 'gifts' idolising grandparents simply can't resist, and the awful realisation that Christmas does indeed come every single year, and you are starting to understand the Cluttered House Problem.
But why do we all do it? Why do we think our children need to own everything under the sun (or the roof of a cheap Chinese factory)? Is it the giant advertising campaigns that blast into our homes uninvited? Is it because we believe all these posessions give our child a better start in life? If we are truly honest, do we really want our children to have so very much?
My almost-two-year-old is just like any other child in the indulgent developed world. He has enjoyed just two Christmases and one birthday, and yet every corner of our living room is bulging with his belongings. Most of these things were not even purchased by us, his Trying-to-be-Sensible Parents, but by others who seem to think he appreciates it.
Does he appreciate it? Really and truly? Of course not. Just two months after Christmas, only one of these amazing new toys is played with on a regular basis. The rest are pulled out of the toy box, focused on for a matter of minutes, then ignored (or thrown about). Maybe he's got a concentration problem, you might ask? The beginnings of ADHD? He certainly has plenty of energy. Very manic energy, almost bordering on lunacy. Why can't he concentrate on all these lovingly bought gifts? Is it his diet? Are we not spending enough quality time with him?
The simple answer is, he can concentrate. In fact, he can concentrate very well. It's just that he spends a large amount of his day concentrating on things other than the Sea of Plastic that engulfs him. For, as time goes on, I have noticed my child gaining immense pleasure from many simple joys which do not Clutter the House. What's more he thought all of them up by himself - a true creative genius in the making. Some of the activities he likes to immerse himself in are:
Free falling from the arm of the sofa onto the cushions below
Pretending to hoover - with the real thing, not a miniature replica
Wearing other people's shoes and stomping through the house
Jumping down the kitchen step - over and over and over again
Hiding in the door curtain
Climbing on anything possible
Anything that belongs to someone else
Getting everything out of the tumble drier, way before it's ready
Lying on stomach on the floor and flapping about, pretending to be a 'fish'
Crawling through the house, pretending to be a 'snail'
Pretending the rocking chair is a 'horsey'
Getting his hands in the concrete rubble under the step his dad is attempting to fix
So, as we scour the shops for the 'perfect present' for either our Adorable Sprog or someone else's, we can rest assured that, while our small recipient may grin with pleasure at the surprise that jumps out from the colourful paper, our thoughtful gift is not needed at all. Even if we never bought our children any toys, they would, no doubt, still be happy and adept at finding other things to do. Most of us have seen clips of children in developing countries, with next to nothing and yet still smiling and happy. Scenes like these only reiterate what, deep down, we already know. No, our children do not need as many toys as they undoubtedly end up with. What's more, they would probably be just as happy without them.