Toys on a Budget

Christmas is coming and we are days away from the biggest shopping day of the year. I sat down with the children to make a list of what they would want for Christmas and am trying now to remember where I put it. 

As I plan what I will get as gifts for my children, several trains of thought chug through my mind. One prominent conflict about what toys I will purchase for my children is the endless time which seems to get spent picking up and organizing those same toys. 

They seemed like a great idea in the store and they brought a lot of excitement when they were opened but within a short time, they are shoved under a bed or left out in the yard. 

Toys, no matter how much they cost, rarely retain their value to your children. While there may be some exceptions, a special doll or stuffed animal would be a perfect example, many of the toys we buy, lose their sparkle rapidly.

Another problem that I have with too many toys is the way they stifle creativity. My children seem to have more fun making toys or playing imaginative games than they do sitting down and playing with store-bought toys. Again, there are some exceptions, the toy kitchen that we made from an Ikea cabinet 15 years ago is still played with, as are the Legos which the boys have collected throughout the years. 

As I process these thoughts, they bring to mind some of the fun we have recently had which did not involve store bought toys.

Playing "Where Oh Where Is The Big Black Bear"-This scary game involves turning off all the lights while the bear goes and hides. The rest of us then tread carefully through the house until the bear jumps out and scares the living daylights out of us. Play at your own risk, I almost broke my nose in a dark hallway collision.

Making Homemade Superhero Gear-If your children are given the freedom to create, they will not care if it looks exactly real, their imaginations are bright enough to make up the difference between fact and fiction.

Reading Books and Acting Out Stories-This goes the same for movies, where else would they have gotten the idea for the Captain America gear? Stories are great for sparking imaginative play.

Collecting in Nature- My children will often make flower fairies out of nails and flowers, they don't last long, but then they didn't cost much either so the loss is pretty small. They also make boats out of walnut shells, play food and money out of leaves and weeds, and houses out of trees.

Making Paper Dolls and Other Homemade Toys-Paper dolls are quick and easy to create, but what about sewing a simple cloth doll or cape from scraps of cloth that you have on hand?

We have found some special toys through the years and we are so glad to have them, but when we inundate our children with toys, we often kill creativity instead of inspiring it, as well as potentially causing us as parents more frustration as we struggle to pay for, and clean up after, this over abundance of toys.

This Christmas, see if buying one less toy for your children could be freeing. It may be that it frees up money to help someone in need, time to read with your children, and space in your home to enjoy each other more.
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  1. What a great list! I couldn't agree more. I had never heard of "where oh where is the big black bear", but it sounds so fun. We are definitely going to try that one!

  2. I can't even remember where we read about that game but it is rather thrilling. Youth groups or old Childcraft books often have good and free game ideas.

  3. Jennifer, you are right on target! ("...when we inundate our children with toys, we often kill creativity instead of inspiring it.) These are well-timed, great ideas for the gift giving season! Thanks for participating in Inspire Me Monday!

    1. Thanks Cindy, I love being generous with my kids but sometimes our generosity takes on a non-material form as we teach them about life and enjoying simple pleasures.

  4. So right on the money. So important for children to have the freedom to create. I love the examples you gave.

  5. Oh this sounds like so much fun... I love the whole idea of less toys = more creativity! It's so true! Great post!

  6. Our girls made gigapets and laptop computers out of paper, markers and tape--they spent many happy hours playing with their 'toys'. They also loved reading and reenacting stories like Stellaluna and Sheila Ray the Brave :).