I did a huge toy purge this weekend—perhaps you heard me screeching "I can't believe how much crap the kids have!!!" as I unearthed yet another game that was missing approximately 97 pieces.
It's been years since I sorted through the kids' games and toys, and there is a mind-boggling amount of them. This is mostly because of the buying sprees I went on during Max's early years, when I figured the more toys to simulate him, the better. I looked to toys for salvation, hoping they could spark his intellect, encourage him to better use his fingers and hands and even get him to walk.
Toys have most definitely been therapeutic for Max. The Mozart Magic Cube, with its different instruments and bright lights, encouraged Max to reach at a time when it was a real strain for him (cerebral palsy messes with your muscles that way). The Fisher Price Laugh & Learn Fun With Friends Musical Table encouraged him to pull to stand. When he started taking steps but needed support, we'd load up a toy shopping cart with cans to give it weight and he'd walk around the house with it, Dave and I joking that someday Max would make a great personal shopper.
Problem was, I couldn't stop buying toys. Whenever the therapists recommended a toy, I got it, hunting it down on eBay if it was discontinued. If Max's teachers said he took a particular interest in one at school, I got it. If we were at a store and Max took a liking to one, I got it. No occasion necessary; every day was a day worthy of more toys.
Playing with them and Max wasn't always fun; at times I'd be so anxious for Max to better engage. (Also: Floor time can get really boring. What an awful parent am I!) I'd put stuff in bins so it wouldn't distract Max, but then I'd forget about those toys, and the clutter built up, threatening to take over our kitchen—I'd already converted the dining room to a playroom.
In recent years, I've gotten better about not over-buying. Experience has taught me that more toys does not equal better kid. And buying educational toys that Max has no interest in does him no good, and wastes money. I still ask therapists for recommendations at birthdays and holidays, and we just have a leetle Cars 2 merchandise problem, but in general we no longer OD on toys. I just never dealt with the pile-up. Now that our basement's done we've socked away a bunch of toys there but still, our house felt like toys gone wild. And so, this weekend, Dave took the kids out and I mercilessly tossed stuff into big trash bags to donate.
I hesitated the most over Max's fleet of dump trucks and fire engines, because he still loves pushing them back and forth and back and forth, but I chose some favorites and out went the rest. I had no problem getting rid of the bazillion party-bag favors we'd accumulated; those plastic things oughta be illegal because the kids forget all about them the second they are home from the birthday party, they consume space and they are a waste of resources. If you happen to be interested in owning 42 hand-clapper things, though, contact me.
I felt good knowing the toys would go to deserving kids, yet sad because I had such a vested emotional connection to so many of them. The echoes of play and therapy sessions past filled the room as I sorted through everything. I could picture Max trying so hard to hold them and use the toys, and me, Dave, our babysitter and his therapists sitting on the rug, encouraging him.
"Push it, Max!"
"Touch it there, Max!"
"Use two hands to hold it, Max!"
I'm about three-quarters done and I've filled five huge bags to give away. Sabrina started looking through them last night, complaining that she still needed a bunch of stuff, exactly what she did the last time we had a garage sale. I suspect she may be destined for a starring role in Hoarders (like mother, like daughter) but meanwhile, I reassured her she still had a whole lot of playthings.
Happily, Max didn't seem to care. I carved out a cubby for him in the wood organizer completely filled with Cars 2 stuff, and he was ecstatic. Play is still plenty therapeutic for him these days; Lighting McQueen is excellent motivation to get him to talk and stretch his arms when he drives him around. Mostly, he just has fun with it—like any kid with any toy.