Gift giving occasions such as birthdays and holidays can often be overwhelming for young children and their parents. As the birthday celebration or Christmas morning comes to a close, you may have a pile of toys that hold your child's interest for a few hours or days, but not much longer. Many parents look for opportunities for their children to experience gratitude, appreciation, and develop the characteristic of honoring and taking good care of their belongings. Here are some suggestions and strategies that can help:
CONSIDER HIGH-QUALITY CLASSICS
Aiming for quality over quantity can be a good guideline when selecting toys. A well-made set of blocks, a realistic doll, a red wagon are all classics for good reasons...they are open-ended, inviting the child to apply his own creativity and allowing him to use the toy in many ways and will last for many years. I'm sure that many of us have watched children play longer with the box the toy came in than with the toy itself--but there's so much creative potential in the box! Look for toys that share that same characteristic.
LIVING IN THE REAL WORLD
Remember that younger children like best to participate in real life, so giving gifts that encourage independence and inclusion in the life of the family are very much enjoyed, such as child-size kitchen tools and personal care items (hairbrush, personalized bath towel and washcloth, etc.), gardening tools, etc. The gift of a child-size table and chair can be invaluable.
Donate Gently Used Toys
Give your child an opportunity to learn about others who are less fortunate by sorting through some of the things that your child has out-grown and giving them away. Older children can be included in choosing which items are given away and can go along to drop them off. This can become a family tradition and is a practice that your child will always remember.
Toys from grandparents (both sets!) and Santa and aunts and uncles and friends...can be numerous and overwhelming. Spread the gift-giving out over a period of time like one wise mother who reserved some of her young son's birthday presents and "doled" them out every other week until they were all opened. This limits the sudden abundance and overwhelm of numerous presents and prolongs the special day over a long period of time. Perhaps most importantly, it helps the child appreciate each gift and the giver in a way that can be lost when gifts are received all at once.
KEEP TOYS FRESH
When you notice that a particular toy is played with less often, put it away out-of-sight and replace it with a different toy. This will re-awaken your child's interest in a toy and prolong the life of the toy--a very budget friendly practice! You also will be able to observe your child's development over time, because you will likely be able to see her playing with the toy differently and she grows and develops.
GET RID OF THE TOY BOX
A toy box becomes a catch-all and dump for odds and ends, broken toys, bits of paper, and junk! Of course, the object your child wants is always at the very bottom, so you end up with a myriad of items strewn about on the floor and a child reluctant to take the time (or too overwhelmed) to put everything away. If you arrange a few toys on a shelf, the child can see and easily choose an interesting toy and replace it when he's done using it. Toys with many pieces can be contained in small boxes or baskets that fit on the shelf. If your child is very young, you can model cleaning up and soon your young child be helping you and then doing it independently, at least most of the time.
Putting a bit of thought and time into selecting and organizing your child's toys is well worth the effort.
You--and your child--will have peace, develop good values and characteristics, and enjoy the celebrations.