It’s a common misconception that little people require big things in big quantities. The truth is, children don’t need very much at all to be happy.
Italian photographer, Gabriele Galimberti, traveled the globe photographing children with their most prized possessions for his project, Toy Stories. As far as I can tell, the photo series wasn’t intended to make any statements, but he did comment that, “the richest children were more possessive. At the beginning, they wouldn’t want me to touch their toys, and I would need more time before they would let me play with them… In poor countries, it was much easier. Even if they only had two or three toys, they didn’t really care. In Africa, the kids would mostly play with their friends outside.”
I’m not suggesting we inflict a povertous lifestyle on our children, but is there something to the idea of encouraging our children to have less?
When I was pregnant with my oldest daughter I started a new job working as a nanny. The family that I worked for had five lovely children, ages 1-8. In their basement they had a playroom with three walls of floor-to-ceiling shelving, filled to the fullest with toys. At first glace, it looked like a child’s dream. Every toy imaginable. But I quickly realized that that toy room was anything but fun for them. It caused massive amounts of contention, as the kids still faught over one thing in a room full of options. Cleaning up their toys was practically impossible. Keeping up with the mess in that one room alone would have been a full time job, and because of the layout of the storage system and quantity of toys, it was unrealistic to expect the kids to clean up after themselves unassisted.
Sometimes with children (and adults), it can be overwhelming to have too many options. This applies to a lot of areas of child-rearing, but I would like to focus in on toys for now. Sure, when my kids go to someone’s home with more toys, they basically die of happiness. But that is just a novelty. Eventually, the toys become old news. Why else would we constantly be buying more?
My strategy here is to keep a general stock of the staples for them. Toys that encourage them to use their imagination. Toys that are timeless and sturdy.
All three of my kids share a small room, so we’ve turned the coat closet under the stairs into a “clubhouse” for them, and it hosts all of their toys (with exception of a basket of stuffed animals that we keep in their bedroom). As you can see in the photo above, it’s a pretty manageable collection of just their favorite things.
This is what works for us, but I’m curious: what works for you? Do you have children? What have you done to keep the stuff at bay?