A House Tour, and the Plastic Toy Debate

Earlier this week, our home was featured on Design Mom as part of her Living With Kids series.  I enjoyed answering the questions that Gabrielle came up with- they were very thought provoking, and helped me think about how we choose to live.  One interesting thing that came up in the comment section was a reaction to my way of dealing with the cheap plastic toys that seem to flood your way once you have kids.  I keep a box in the garage, and I fill it with any toys that we don’t need, or that I just don’t like- it turns out that these are mainly the noisy, blinking, plastic ones.  When the box is full, I take it to the Salvation Army.

I see this as a win-win situation.  The toys will find a new home where they will be appreciated, and we have to deal with less unwanted clutter.  Our playroom is pretty simple, with a careful selection of toys that encourage imagination and activity (blocks, wooden train tracks, balls and paddles).  It’s not that we lack gratitude for toys we are gifted- we always say thank you and write a handwritten note-  but we choose to live a certain way- and if that includes de-cluttering and donating unwanted toys- well, that is our choice. 

I know I won’t be able to keep a lid on this forever- once the boys have their own wants and opinions it might be a bit more of a battle to keep a streamlined house.  But for now, we all seem happier when we have more space, and less stuff.  What’s your take on the plastic toy/ stuff debate?

9 thoughts on “A House Tour, and the Plastic Toy Debate

  1. Julia

    Dear Christine,

    First off, I wanted to say that you have a stunning home and I adore your aesthetic and color palette. Just beautiful…it certainly fits you and your lovely family of boys.

    After reading your interview, while enjoying it very much.. I will admit that I was a bit put-off by that part of the interview discussing toys. I am happy to hear that you donate the toys that you don't find appealing and I understand your sentiment behind it all, but I think there might have been a way of speaking of your aesthetic and preference for non plastic toys without offending those who either gifted you with those toys or make the choice to give their children plastic toys themselves.

    I feel that plastic has become a four letter word. There is a stigma attached to it, and many people feel the need to explain themselves in regards to the toys that they choose for their kids.

    I am a middle class mother who works full time. I have bought both natural and plastic toys, depending on our budget as well as what interests my family. While I consider myself a semi crunchy mama for the most part, I am agreeable with the movement behind natural and minimalistic toys but I find the expense of it all to be nauseating.

    It is one of the reasons that I started selling Waldorf Doll Patterns and handmade clothing patterns on Etsy so that mothers can make things for their kids rather than spend lots of money on them. I have also made many wooden and handmade toys and tutorials for my own family members. This allows me to spent a literal fraction of what some of these companies are charging and gift those that I love with something handmade.

    In this economy many families find it hard to just get by, let alone to be able to afford some beeswax rubbed wooden cars.

    It becomes not only a judgement issue but also a class issue. Just as the argument over organic and natural food has exploded into an area of criticism, so has this.

    I feel that we are imposing our own issues with things onto our kids who are oblivious to the trends, economic impacts, or environmental issues.
    They just want to play… plastic, wood, wool, sticks, pots or pans. They don't really care.

    Just my two cents.
    Julia

    Reply
  2. Nicole

    What a thought provoking post, Christine!

    Personally, I don't have children and yet gifts and things still pile up in the house. I can only imagine how many extra toys and kid things accumulate, plastic or not, when there are children in the house. It's my personal policy, with no apologies, that if something – whether it was a gift or not, does not fit into our lifestyle for whatever reason, then it is lovingly donated so that someone will be able to use it and cherish it. At some point, you have to live your life for you and this, for me, is one of those areas.

    Reply
  3. Heather in WA State

    We have Playmobil, which is plastic, but provides hours of creative, imaginative play. The people in all shades, with their accessories like rakes and skis and binoculars, go on all kinds of adventures out in the garden and around the house. They are plastic toys I can wholeheartedly support, though of course we avoid the aliens and pirates and bad guys in favor of the farmer and teacher and firefighter.

    My daughters are now 11 and almost 13, and they STILL love playmobil, though these days it's mostly whenever other kids come to visit, that the playmobil comes out and elaborate towns are set up across the floor. Some days I'll have 6 kids from the neighborhood, of varying ages, working together to create a big farm or pretend school out of playmobil. It is fun to witness the collaboration and creativity involved.

    I went into parenthood believing that books and wood and cloth toys were best, but playmobil enlarged my mind.

    So, you never know how things will change as your children grow.

    Reply
  4. Kristianna

    I let my kids choose what they like. Generally it's the plastic stuff. No big deal to me. They play with the toys, and it's fleeting. You just wait: they're so small now but in a blink you'll be sending them off to school all day, then *bam* to college even, and there will be nary a toy in site. And, since we're moms, we'll miss that.

    Reply
  5. Julia

    Hi! I discovered your blog through design mom! My kids at 3 and 5. When possible I share to family that we have a small home and would prefer to add on to things we already have (like brio tracks, our wooden kitchen) but we do have plastic toys. I too have a collection of “donate” toys that I hide from the kids. Mostly cheap-small things we've been gifted that add to the clutter…we donate often!

    Reply
  6. Gk Threek

    Man I am sooo with you on the plastic toys! Yes we have some items that I'm ok with, legos for instance. But 90% of the plastic stuff we get is junk. My mil gets my kids tons of toys from the thrift store and so often I have to purge out the stuff I don't like. I do realized this is all about what I like but we're an american family, we have about 6000 more things than we need. If I draw the line on items that infringe on my calm, I'm ok with that. You know the other thing we do, when the kids are yelling or fighting they have to donate a toy. They are allowed to pick out the toy for donation which means they donate the stuff they don't really like that much to begin with. It really motivates them to be kind to each other and I get to clean out the junk!

    Reply
  7. Nina

    I agree with you about toys. Your decorating style is an inspiration to me. When I was a kid, we were pretty poor and I didn't have a lot of toys. We also didn't have a TV. So I played with the few toys I had, spent a lot of time reading and playing outside. I'm an aunt – not married or a mom yet – and I like to buy mostly books and educational/useful things for my nieces and nephews. I like that my nephew only likes legos since they are educational and good for the imagination. If I were a mom, I'd love to have no plastic toys, but I wouldn't mind having some things like legos. A few special toys are nicer than too many to actually enjoy.

    Reply

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