If your family is anything like mine, you have more toys than you, or your kids, know what to do with. Every birthday and Christmas the toys, games and books pile up and I usually spend the week after culling the toy collection secretly so as not to upset the children. How many of you have snuck into the playroom after the kids are in bed and boxed up old toys to give away? When was the last time you surreptitiously squirreled away a toy or book that was once a favorite but is now cast aside most days? My girls are so blessed to have such generous people in their lives and they are also spoiled. There are very few things that they want that they don’t eventually get. It may not be instant gratification, but delayed gratification still results in them holding the toy or book or game at some point. And it is this blessing that leads to the formation of Mount Toy.
After this past Christmas, I snuck into the playroom under cover of night and started my usual sorting of toys into “keepers” and “second-chance toys.” Second Chance Toys, aka SCTs, are the toys that need another opportunity to be played with in the way they were meant to be played with. Sometimes, these are toys that never really got a “first-chance” with my girls – the toys that Josie and Lily opened up and tossed aside never to pick them up again. C’mon parents – you know that you have toys that fit in this category around the house. Other times, these are the toys that saw a lot of action but have since fallen out of favor for one reason or another, most likely having been replaced by the newest fad. In the midst of my sorting, a gigantic light bulb went off over my head. And, by a gigantic light bulb, I actually mean it was like a neon sign that spelled out “Teachable Moment” blinking wildly with an arrow pointing at Mount Toy.
At that moment, I came to the realization that my first-born child, while only three years old, is capable of fairly complex thought and even deeper emotion. Why couldn’t I explain to her that she and Lily do not need all of their toys and that they could go to better use elsewhere?? The next day I brought Josie downstairs and got her started. I explained that we were very fortunate to have so many toys and that it made me kind of sad that all of them did not get played with anymore. I am pretty sure I referenced Toy Story 3 (an all-time favorite in our house!) in my explanation of the task at hand. [ASIDE: If you are reading this, you surely must know the Toy Story franchise and, if you don’t, then go to the store right now and buy it. What a great trio of movies!] Assuming that you know the story, I used the example of how Andy’s toys were sad when they were neglected as he grew older and how excited they were when they were given a second chance when Andy gifted them to Bonnie. Just then, the light bulb went off over Josie’s head! She and I looked at each toy together and she did a truly phenomenal job of sorting out the toys. When we were finished with the playroom and the girls’ bedroom, we had two full boxes of toys to donate. Then, Josie asked how we would get them to Bonnie – OOPS! I forgot that kids take everything you say literally. So, I explained that we would give them to a group who would distribute them to children who would enjoy playing with these special toys.
I must say, this was a proud Mommy moment. But, my pride in Little Miss Josie reached new limits when, a few weeks later, I walked into the girls’ bedroom and Josie told me she was cleaning out the toy box to give more toys to children who need them. I couldn’t believe it!! This was way too easy – my plan had worked like a charm. Under my guidance, Josie had willingly sorted her unused toys to give to other children, had retained the lesson and now was applying it on her own. I did my little proud mommy dance. Need help picturing it? It looks a bit like this. Once my celebratory dance was done, I went over to give Josie a giant hug and then I looked in the bag she had packed. It was full of Lily’s new toys. So victory was not mine yet, but at least I knew I was on the right path.