Thursday, April 21, 2011

toy library

Despite all of our best efforts to keep the stuff in our house to a minimum, we have acquired, over the years, a grand collection of toys, books, hand made creations, stuffed animals and dolls and oodles and oodles of stones, pine cones, acorn caps and various other natural wonders as play things for our little girl.

A few months back I attended a talk by Kim John Payne on the ideas from his book Simplicity Parenting.  The basic premise of which is that in today's modern world our children are exposed to and overwhelmed by too much, too soon, too quickly and are given far too many choices.  We agree, just by nature of the lives we have chosen to live, with nearly everything he says about protecting the environment of our child so that she may slowly and naturally become herself.  Kim's four key principles for simplifying are basically 1) Reduce the volume of toys, books and clutter (as well as general environmental sensory overload in the form of light and sound) in the child's environment  2) Establish rhythm to give children a consistent and predictable framework within which they can relax and feel at ease  3) Create intervals of calm and connection in the midst of chaos and doing and 4) Scale back on media and adult influence on children's play and consciousness.

At some point when Kim was describing his approach to the first and most elementary step of reducing, he made mention of a Toy Library.  He didn't go into specifics but based on basic library principles I took all the toys and playthings I've been rotating in and out of boxes in our attic for years and placed them up there neatly on shelves instead.

Now, we're not excessive toy people.  I honestly feel that we've made concerted effort to not have much to begin with.  We have nearly gift-less birthdays and almost every holiday is based more on gathering and celebrating the love and presence of family and friends than on the exchange of material things, but I do love to make things and I think it's sweet that the grandparents just can't help themselves.  The playthings that are just too much to fill the few baskets we have and to put away every day are, for the most part, things we like (or at least one of us is emotionally attached to).  That's why we've kept them.  What a gift then, this Toy Library has been.

Using some bookshelves we recently acquired, we removed the toys, blocks, dolls and whatnot from boxes and instead displayed them much as they would be in a toy store.  (Luckily, we have plenty of space in our attic for this but I suppose one could use a closet or other location instead.)  We told Naiya about this new magical exhibition and when she saw it she was thrilled.  The rule from day one was that she could have any toy she wanted from the library at any time as long as she replaced it with something from the bounty of items already in use in our home.

On about the third day of Toy Library she did ask if it would be alright to exchange something of mine instead of something of hers but, although I was impressed with her crafty ingenuity, I quickly put the kibosh on that.  Since then she has embraced the exchange absolutely.  Our house maintains its number of play objects and Naiya's excitement over "new" things with which she can create and imagine her dozens of worlds and adventures is astonishing.

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