a day without toys: teaching thankfulness

November 10, 2009

I've been trying to come up with a good way to teach Juliet about thankfulness and gratitude. She's only 2, so I wasn't sure how much my explaining or some sort of craft would really hit home with her.

I wanted her to FEEL it, to know it deep in her heart what it means to be thankful for something. The best way I could think of was to take something away for a day--something that she would miss. And then when it was brought back the following day, she would be thankful to have it back.

My original idea was to remove our kitchen table. We eat 3 meals a day on it, it's a large piece of furniture--she would definitely notice it was gone. But the more I thought about it, the more I suspected that it would backfire. Eating our meals on the floor would be way more fun than sitting at a table. Instead of being thankful for our table, I think she would more likely be thankful that it had disappeared!

The next idea made more sense: a day without toys. Unlike eating on the floor, a day without toys would NOT be fun. We use our toys a lot--I thought she would miss them for sure.

But then I thought, "Ugg. We have WAY TOO MANY toys. I don't want to haul them all into the garage." I went back and forth and finally decided to go for it. Here's a shot of our play area before the toy removal:

Here is is after 30 minutes of hauling all the stuff out. The kitchen is gone and the baskets in the shelving unit are gone also.

The one remaining basket holds diapers and wipes. I was NOT going to go a day without those!!

There are toys in almost EVERY room of our home--here is the basket from the living room before:
Here it is after:

I removed all the toys from the downstairs area (all the ones in her room remained, but we didn't spend time upstairs that day) the night before--after she had gone to sleep for the night.

The next morning, when we came downstairs, she walked into the living room and exclaimed, "Mama! Mama! My kitchen is lost! Where is my lost kitchen?" I told her it wasn't lost, but that I had put it someplace else for the day. Then I pointed out that ALL the toys were gone.

She kind of shrugged her shoulders and asked if she could watch TV. (Why didn't I think of removing the biggest toy of all?!)

I tried to get her to discuss the whole "no toys" thing for a while. I told her that some boys and girls don't have any toys. She looked at me, blinked, and then began chasing the cat around the house with a napkin.

I could see that not having any toys really didn't bother her. Two-year-olds can have fun no matter what. We spent most of our day outside--in the backyard on a blanket and at the park down the street. When we came inside, she helped me make lunch and dinner and we read books. (You didn't think I would make her go a day without books, did you?!)

Here are some of the ones we read:

Serious Farm by Tim Egan made us giggle.

May I Bring a Friend? by Beatrice Schenk De Regniers made us smile.

Sleepy Bears by Mem Fox helped get us ready for bedtime.

We had a wonderful toy-less day. That night, I hauled all the toys back in from the garage and resolved to get rid of most of them. We survived just fine without them--maybe we didn't need them after all. I kind of liked having the extra space--it gave us room to breathe.

The next day, when Juliet came downstairs and found all her toys back in their usual spots, she smiled a big smile. She ran over to her play kitchen and played with it like it was brand new. For like 5 minutes. Tops.

And then she asked if she could watch TV.


Becky said...

Vanessa, this is such a great idea ... and I loved your post! :) I'm so glad you're blogging.

You're funny. :)

Jackie said...

You are sure brave to take away all of the toys. I think my husband would absolutely love it if I did that. However, with babysitting 2 days and teaching 7 preschoolers in my home the other 3 mornings I don't know that this would work. Anyway, it sounds like a great lesson. :-)

Brimful Curiosities said...

I think it would take me all day just to put away the toys here! Not sure my kids would miss them either. My daughter would hate it if I put her crayons and markers away though.

Infant Bibliophile said...

It is amazing how few toys they really NEED. I swear half of my son's toys are to entertain me, so that I don't have to play with the same ones over and over again with him. My son is almost two, and I was surprised how much he seemed to understand what "thankful" means when I explained it to him. I just said that thanksgiving is a day when we are thankful for things, and asked him if he knew what it meant to be thankful. He asked for help, so I explained that to be thankful meant to be "happy" about something, and then asked him to tell me the things in his life that make him "happy." He seemed to get it and named a few things (mama, the color yellow, games with Daddy), and when he couldn't think of anything else, I'd prompt him with things like, "what makes you so happy you say 'yay'?," (for that one, he answered "pooping!", "what kinds of things do you like to do with Daddy," etc. Now he loves when we play this "game" of listing things that make him happy.

Adriana said...

I love this post! We have WAY too many toys. It would take me forever to get rid of all of them. I am in the middle of a toy purge. I have encouraged everyone NOT to buy D toys for Christmas or his b-day. We just have too many. I think that it was a great lesson to teach your daughter.

An Almost Unschooling Mom said...

This is an excellent post - it's funny how the lessons we set out to teach them, turn into lessons for us. :)

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