For years I’ve had a strict “1 toy leaves the house” policy which has served me very well. It’s a variation on my former “no toy leaves the house” policy which served me even better. Basically with three small children, I found that simply leaving all toys at home saved me a whole lot of:
A. Removing toys from car
B. Mediating fights over toys in aisle 3 of the grocery store
C. Going BACK to aisles 1-14 to look for forgotten toys
This worked well for me.
Soon, however, I started to feel like How to Train Your Dragon’s Stoick the Vast of toy rules, stubborn and unbending in my ways, so I began to allow one toy for each child. This was a perfect compromise for the girls. They were always able to pick a book or a doll and amuse themselves. They also found the loop hole in the system where together they would pick two toys. Hello, TEAMWORK! So that was all going great for us but then we had a boy and boys are different. Here’s a few things I’ve noticed about boys, well at least my boy…
1. He would rather stay home. While the girls will throw on their flip flops and hop in the car, game for any adventure, Gordon is reluctant to leave his domain. He likes to be at home with all the toys and all the snacks. Unfortunately for him, as the youngest, he is often dragged everywhere from carpool to ballet, soccer to the bank, leaving his comfort zone behind.
2. He wants all the toys and all your time. While his sisters are happy to play together and even content with a pencil and scrap paper from my purse, Gordon wants toys, and he wants someone to play with his toys with him. He is adorably merciless in his playtime demands. Sit down here, here’s your dragon, now play… It’s tyrannically adorable.
3. Toys are the great ice breaker. With Gordon (and other boys? Tell me, is this a thing?) a bag of toys can make anyone a playmate. While he won’t walk up to another younger brother at his sister’s swim lesson and introduce himself, he will silently hand over Stormfly (not Toothless obvs) as if to say, “and now we are friends, let’s go play.” He needs more stuff. More characters to create a world and enough to go around if more playmates come along. Toys are social currency.
So all this is getting to my point, I think. My hard and fast toy rule was crumbling. My heart is in the iron grip of this small boy and my longing for his comfort and happiness outweighed my need for grocery store efficiency. I had an idea. Maybe he could have his toys and learn a lesson in responsibility at the same time? Here’s what we did…
We took a small cardboard suitcase that we had at home and painted the entire interior and 2 shapes (using Handmade Charlotte stencils) on the outside with 2 coats of chalkboard paint.
Then I let Gordon count out the toys he wanted to carry in his suitcase… 8. (Unexpected counting lesson, MOM BONUS!) He filled his case a fun mix of toys including his favorite characters from How to Train Your Dragon 2 Hiccup and Drago, Stormfly, and Toothless. We had recently shared a super fun mother/son date to Target where he schooled me on all things HTTYD right there in the toy aisle. He got dragons, I got Sam&Libby, Target makes everyone happy.
With chalk or a chalkboard marker, we wrote the number of toys on the surface.
Tip: We never put the kids name on any of their clothes or toys when they leave the house, it opens them up to stranger danger. At home it’s fun to practice writing your name on the chalkboard surface!
Then we loaded up his case…
and hit the road.
Of course we have had to backtrack and find a runaway wooden snake and Hiccups flame sword is probably lost forever but I’m finding that the joy and comfort he is finding in traveling with an entourage outweighs the occasional inconvenience. The fact that he is learning a valuable lesson in responsibility (and counting!) is an added bonus.