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The Daily Cycle of Stuff: Lessons for My 4 Year Old

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I spend a lot of my day moving things from Point A to Point B. I move the dishes from the cabinet, to the table, to the dishwasher and back to the cabinet every evening, only to start all over again tomorrow. I move the clothes from the drawers, to the kitchen table, to my children’s bodies, to the washing machine, to hangers in the basement and back to their drawers within a day or so.

This is life; perpetually moving things from one place to another. The same can be said of so many things. The towels that we use to dry our bodies, the books we read, the toys my children play with.

We take them out, do something with them, move them, move them again and finally start back wherever it was we began.

As a stay-at-home parent I spend a good portion of my day putting things back where they belong. Much of this is to blame on my fifteen month old who likes to dump the contents of each and every toy box onto the floor, spend two seconds looking at the items on the floor and then moving on to the next unsuspecting box.

After spending a few hours alone with our kids my husband asked me to downsize their toy collection. With the little guy dumping everything onto the floor my husband could barely see the carpet below his feet.

This time I recruited the help of my four year old and it went surprisingly well! I explained that his dad and I wanted him to look carefully through his belongings. I said, “some toys you play with a lot, some a little and some you almost never touch. Our goal is to figure out which toys you really love.”

I also told him that he often receives toys from friends and family. I explained that people think long and hard about what to buy him, but sometimes he doesn’t find the toy very fun to play with and when that happens its okay to pass it on to another child who might enjoy it more than he does.

We also talked about how its important to get rid of toys we don’t play with so we have plenty of room to enjoy the toys we love. After all we can’t build a Lego city if we don’t have room on the floor. We need to get rid of unwanted toys to make space for fun.

Then I explained the process we would follow. I would pull each toy off of the shelf and he would analyze just how much he loved, liked or honestly didn’t care much for it.

I thought he might say he loved everything, but he contemplated each item for just a second or two and then placed it in the appropriate pile.

He genuinely wanted to pass his toys on to someone else who might like them more. He also realized that it was more important to pick through the toys himself. This made sure Mommy and Daddy didn’t accidentally donate a favorite item.

Sometimes he got distracted by a newfound toy. He’d take it to the floor and start to play, but I was adamant that we finish our analysis before any playing could begin. Once he realized I was serious he moved more quickly through the toys so he could get back to playing. An hour later we had a box and a half of unwanted toys ready to leave the house.

Best of all he was proud that he helped weed out the toys. When my parents arrived a few days later he proudly told them “We got rid of a bunch of toys. From now on we’re only keeping the ones I really love to play with!”