Choosing For Your Kids (Part 3: Toys + Clothes)

This week I've been talking about our particular parenting style wherein we choose a great deal of the schedule, framework, and general rules, but then give our kids a lot of choice within those boundaries. And before I get into today's topic of toys and clothes, I have a confession to make. Well, confession sounds like it's sinful and wrong, and it's not, so that word may not be perfect, but rather I want to tell you something:

I don't follow these guidelines, philosophies, and rules ALL THE TIME.

Like yesterday, when I was out of the house all day, hopping from friends houses to parks to play dates and visits. It was an amazing day, but it didn't resemble our regular days at.all. The kids were in disposables, they ate carbs exclusively until dinner, they watched a good amount of TV, and Oli was rocked to sleep on more than one occasion in the carrier. It happens. No regrets. Not normal, but worth it for the great day we had yesterday.

And also, I was afraid if I posted on a parenting philosophy I'd be labeled by it. Defined by it. And then have no freedom to wiggle around on certain days in certain seasons, to other styles, without seeming insincere at best and hypocritical at worst.  And then whenever I didn't parent that way, I'd feel like I had to keep it a secret from the general public (read: you guys). I was also afraid if I posted on a parenting philosophy, those who parent differently would feel ostracized or judged by me. I hope I've made it clear that I don't feel that way, and that I know this isn't the best or only way, it's just our way. But just in case:

If you're a mama out there loving her kids who does things completely differently, bravo! Keep loving your kids, you are the best at that job :)

Moving along to what I actually came here to write today. For us, one of the main ways we live out our parenting style is by limiting and choosing (generally) their toys and clothes. That's our gig, not theirs.  I'd like to say this will extend to their after school activities and extra curriculars, but we're not there yet so I don't actually know. I know eventually our kids will have strong preferences and affinities that I don't understand or love, and at that point (whenever that is), I will likely loosen the shoe strings, but right now, I decide.

I research what toys would be good for them at their current age and developmental stage. I see what toys they like to play with at friend's houses. I shop around thrift stores and Craigslist to get the best deal. And I buy what we can afford and fit into our apartment. The main reason I'm so controlling over the kid's toys is two fold. I'm passionate about keeping our life and apartment simple and uncluttered and I'm also convinced that we shouldn't be spending a lot on their toys. With amazing second hand stores nearby and a host of friends who have kids around the same age, there's no reason for us to break the bank buying all the latest (and often so annoying!) toys at Toys R Us. In fact, I've been in there once and was convinced that I'd a) never go back except to buy things on baby registries and b) never bring my children there.

Here are a couple questions I ask when buying toys for the kids:
  1. Can I get it for free? 
  2. Can I buy it secondhand? Craigslist? Thrift stores? Buy it off a friend?
  3. Would it be helpful to their development?
  4. Do I know they love it? (they've tried it at a friends already so I'm bot wasting money on something they won't play with)
  5. Is it a toy that can serve multiple age groups and stick around? (like books, balls, blocks)
  6. Will it look OK in our apartment if it's a large toy? (like our wooden play kitchen over a coloured plastic one)

Not all toy purchases we've made pass this test, but we've found it a helpful mental list to keep. I know I've often felt pressure to have more. More toys. More books. More dolls. More make believe games. More stuff for my kids. And this list helps me weed out those pressures.  Sure, Lily would probably love more toys, and we do have a few toys that we personally can't stand (think anything battery operated, ha!), but generally we've decided what she plays with (or lack thereof) and she has fun-filled, satisfying, adventurous days.

And clothes. Well, that's all about simplicity and personal preference. I don't want to spend 30 minutes in the morning dressing my kids. Oli is too young to have preferences, but Lily is developing them and I want to encourage that, while keeping it simple. Usually I'll pick out two outfits for her and let her choose. I'm controlling the situation, she's choosing. Win-win. And one huge (and I think obvious) way we control this is buying clothes we actually like. I'm not a fan of certain kiddie clothing styles, so I don't buy them. Simple. I buy what I can afford and can stand looking at over and over again (we don't have a LOT of clothes but rather about 10 outfits per size, per kid, of quality clothes we love), and Lily chooses her outfits within that framework. There are days when it's a free for all in the closet, but that's more so because we're playing dress up. Like this day:

In all, I'm really opinionated about toys and clothes for kids. Fueled by a desire to keep things simple, limited, affordable, good quality, classic, useful, and attractive, and a general conviction that my kid's shouldn't be running the show but able to make decisions for themselves too, our parenting philosophy/style is working for us.  It's not THE WAY, but it's our way and we're loving it!

How do you decide what toys + clothes you buy?
How do you differ from us?
How are you similar?
I'd love to hear!

1 comment:

  1. Okay here's my question, how do you limit what others give to your kids? Do you limit it at all? I love my mom dearly, but she buys Hannah WAY too many toys. The problem is that she worked at Salvation Army, so not only did she get is cheap and second hand, but she also got it half price off that and first dibs on the best toys. So most of the time is really great stuff, but I dont need 3 things really similar for Hannah, or an excessive amount of stuffed animals no matter how cute! I do often try to tell her, but she just loves buying them. Thankfully we often have limited space so dont take nearly as much as she would want with us back home but still I feel like we have too much, more than we need, but I cant get rid of them because Nana gave them to her!

    That vent aside, I love your list and function pretty similar. I love buying things that help Hannah learn and can help her use her imagination (which are usually the simplist, cheaper ones anyway!). I will admit though I bought a toy from Toys R Us the other weekend on a super deal for Hannahs birthday. I saw it in the flyer and knew the cash register where Hannah could pretend to buy things, use money and swipe a card would keep her entertained for hours all for super cheap!