When you have children, you get a whole new perspective on “stuff” and how it comes into your home. Maybe you were already into simple living, decluttering, organizing and living green before you had children, or maybe having children awakened this “interest” or need to do so. One thing is for sure – the amount and flow of stuff changes when you have children, whether you want it to or not.
The toys. Oh, the toys. And the baby stuff. The baby “toys”, the automatic rocking chairs with the animal sounds and annoying, repetitive music, the flashing and beeping and moving toys with batteries, the walking chairs, the baby carriages with all kinds of “entertainment” installed, the potty that plays a tune when you go pee pee, the small computers made for pre-toddlers, every kind of pedagogically correct toy and gadget that you just got to have if your baby is to develop properly and fast enough. Or the kind of stuff you just got to have because “everyone” else got it or tells you that you simply cannot live without. Your family will give you all kinds of “good” advice, your friends will tell you, and the producers and manufacturers will undoubtedly tell you. It's good for the baby they say. You need this to be a good parent. Or you need this to be hot and trendy. And lets not forget – it makes your life so much easier. What a treat.
Kids and especially babies don’t need all this stuff. It’s all bogus. As first time mothers most of us bought and got loads of things and toys that we didn’t need. And the baby certainly didn’t need it! But we end up with lots of it no matter what. And many of us have rooms and even houses full of it years after the baby is born. There it lies forgotten or just put away so we don’t have to look at it and deal with it. Gathering dust in the basement or in the garage, or piling up with the vast (and always growing) amount of toys in the kids’ playroom.
No wonder some people say it’s expensive, loud and exhausting to have kids.
It really isn’t. Children don’t need to learn how to play. They don’t even need toys to do so. Toys (and especially baby gadgets) are usually something made up by adults to keep children busy when we’re off to do other things. These days it’s mostly made of plastic, many of them contain harmful chemicals, most of them are made in China by underpaid workers in dangerous environments, many of them are made to do one thing and don’t really stimulate fantasy, creativity or playfulness at all, but might keep your child busy for a couple of hours before they lose interest. And – most of them ends up as toxic, non-recyclable items in the landfill, or if they’re lucky – at Goodwill.
I’m painting a black picture here. Many (more and more) parents are fully aware of this, and buy safe products for their children; focusing on quality, safety and the environment - not quantity. Many parents quickly realise that having lots of fancy stuff has nothing to do with being a good parent, or having a happy childhood or developing properly. I’m not saying we should stop buying toys altogether. I’m not saying you should not buy anything for your new baby. I’m saying you don’t need to buy all this stuff.
Our four year old has quite an “impressive” amount of toys. And yes, she has some of the above mentioned plastic from China. But this is an ongoing (never ending?) process of refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle for us. The refuse part is definitely one of the hardest ones. The reduce part is not always easy, but she’s in on it from time to time. Even she can see the need to reduce the amount because it doesn’t get played with and ends up as clutter and even more stuff to clean up. And the things she loves and plays with the most - is the simple, creative, open ended toys and everyday items and art supplies. Who would know? ;)
So – what do babies need then? And how to recognize what is a good and high quality toy? More on that later.