The nights are coming too quickly. My kids’ internal clocks are set to crave dinner as soon as the sun sets and earlier this week we found ourselves with a kid incensed that we wouldn’t let them eat raw pizza dough for dinner at 4:45 pm. It’s the time of year when playground time gets cut a bit short due to dropping temperatures and a setting sun and when we find ourselves more regularly inside, looking for things to do that don’t involve inflicting bodily harm on anyone or knocking on our dear neighbors’ door to demand snacks or games of hide-and-go-seek.
It’s a time of year, in other words, when a thoughtful selection of toys and crafts and games and art supplies become saviors while waiting for dinner or while on day two of being cooped up inside. For many folks, it’s also the beginning of the season of shopping and gift-giving and abundance. We can count on two hands the weeks between today and both Christmas and Hanukkah, and on less than one hand the weeks before Black Friday and the shopping bonanza commonly referred to as the holiday season.
As a parent to two young kids with a third baby on the way, I find it to be both helpful and cathartic to use these weeks to reflect a bit on the state of proverbial toy chest. What do we already have? What might we be ready to pass on? What would be the most helpful or loved addition to our home?
I’ve found that no matter how lean our family’s collection of toys might be, there are some items that are loved better than others and some items that get forgotten altogether. When kids are very small, I think it’s helpful and natural for the task of keeping an eye on toys and collections to fall on the parents and I’ve said plenty of times before that I fully embrace parental involvement when it comes to curating the collections of young children. (We can’t after all, make room for every moldy leaf and stick that a two-year-old might wish to keep at the foot of their bed, nor, indeed, every lovingly gifted stuffed animal.)
But as my kids get older, I’m striving to keep the lines of communication open. I’m not making claims of perfection here; there have definitely been items that have been disappeared from our home, sans referendum, but last weekend, we sat down with our two advisors to do a pre-holiday toy reflection as a family. You might call what we did a purge, but I think reflection suits the entirety of the process best. It was an assessment and a reckoning and a decision-making process with the aim of ending up with less clutter, more intention, and the ability for everyone to have a bit of breathing room and, with any luck, more fun.
Perhaps it’s time for a caveat: We did not always reach consensus. The selections made were not always precisely what I might have made were I embarking on the task solo. Inevitably, one child expressed a deep and abiding affection for items I’d never seen them play with, while the other dismissed something I’d heretofore considered prized above all else, with a distracted wave of the hand. We carried on and made compromises where we could.
We also tried to pay attention to gaps, asking ourselves what might be helpful to add to our collection? What are our kids especially loving these days? What can we suggest to doting grandparents and relatives who would love to shower our kids with holiday presents? What do we call in to Santa or the Buy Nothing Group?
We ended up with a selection of items that could be passed back or loaned to younger cousins and friends. Other items we posted to our local Buy Nothing group and they’ve gone off to live somewhere else in the neighborhood. What we chose to keep we made sure is organized and accessible, especially in the case of any pending raw pizza dough meltdowns.
For the curious, a few of our pictured favorites:
Our magnetic wooden tiles.
Our bunk beds.
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