Saturday, October 12, 2013

Operation: One Toy. So Much Joy

Over the past few months I have been posting pictures on Facebook of my kiddos playing with "Operation: One Toy. So Much Joy" in the comment.  Many...MANY...people have asked me about this.  

What is "Operation: One Toy. So Much Joy?"

It all started in Florida.  I was visiting my parents and came across this article on Pinterest: "Why I Took My Kids' Toys Away".  I thought to myself, "Why on earth would any mother take all her kids' toys away?!  Is she NUTS?! What do her kids DO all day?! I've got to read this!"

Go ahead.  Read it.  Soak it in.

Kinda brilliant, right?  

"Ok, not everything in her article would work for my family," I thought.  But, then I started thinking of some do's and don't's:

I do want my boys to be content with what they have in front of them.  
I don't want them to think they are entitled to have things.
I do want to be an intentional parent.
I don't want them to be overstimulated or frustrated in our home.
I don't want to be overstimulated or frustrated in our home.
I don't want to spend so much time picking up toys.
I don't want to fight the "pick up your toys!" battle.
do want to play with my kids.

When we got home, I told my husband that I wanted to try something, and that I was going to organize the boys toys and get rid of some.  Over the course of a few days, I went through every toy in our home.  Some got the boot...anything useless, annoying, incomplete, broken or overstimulating.  Everything else got put in a bucket.  A bucket for Legos.  A bucket for blocks.  A bucket for "guys".  A bucket for animals and dinos.  A bucket for "dress-up" items (capes, masks, superhero garb, etc.).  A bucket for Hot Wheels tracks and the cars that go with it.  A bucket for all other things that "go".  You get the picture.  All these buckets went in the closet...ok, several closets.  Every toy I kept had a purpose.  For some, the purpose was to encourage fine motor skills (legos).  For some, it was hand-eye coordination (Mr. Potato Heads).  For some, it was imaginative play (guys, animals & dinos).  For some, it was simply fun (tracks and cars)!

One day, during nap time, I put one bucket on the shelf.  I decided that books are too important to put away, so I sorted them and I picked a few faves and a few new ones to put on the shelf too.  The boys woke up from nap one day, and there was only one activity.  That's it.  I think it was their tracks and cars.  They played for hours.  They actually got really creative with it!  They used books to make a tunnel and when my youngest shot the cars out of the launcher, my oldest would pretend to get hit with a car and fall over dramatically.  They were cracking each other up.  They were playing together.  Let me repeat that....They were playing together!

I could tell when they were getting bored, and asked them if they wanted a new toy.  They said yes, and we agreed on Legos or blocks or something.  I told them they could have the new toy as soon as the tracks and cars were all cleaned up and put in their bucket.  Get this...ya ready?...THEY CLEANED UP WITHOUT FUSSING!  I put the tracks in the closet, got out the new toy, and they played.

This has been our cycle since late June.  We are about 4 months in, and I can honestly say this was one of the best parenting choices we have made for our family.  Here are a few reasons why:

-Our home is more peaceful because there is less mess & clutter
-Our kids play together.  
-There is room on the floor for me and my husband to get down and play.
-Our kids are more imaginative and creative...and we get to see it!
-I am more creative.
-Our kids are more content with what's in front of them.
-There's more reading happening!
-The "clean up your toys!" battle is rare.
-Our kids show pride in their work and their creativity.
-They are more thankful for what they have, and they express their gratitude more frequently.

Gosh, I could go on and on!  

This system isn't for everyone.  I'm not sure how it will look once they can open closet doors (even with child-locks!), reach higher shelves, etc. but for now, the peace -and joy- make it worth keeping it up!  Because, let's be honest.  When your house is less cluttered, your kids are more content, and you get a chance to really play with your're heart will be more joyful!