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Published December 04, 2013, 01:54 PM

Too many toys: Parents offer tips on curbing clutter before Christmas giving starts

Harwood, N.D. - With two boys under the age of 3, Lyssandra Morseth’s Harwood home can go from neat to chaotic in a matter of minutes.

By: Tracy Frank, INFORUM

Harwood, N.D. - With two boys under the age of 3, Lyssandra Morseth’s Harwood home can go from neat to chaotic in a matter of minutes.

Her son, Lincoln, will often upend his toy bins, scattering toys all over his bedroom or the living room, she said.

“In the two years since I’ve had kids, my house has become smaller,” Morseth said. “I definitely have to pick up a lot.”

With recent birthdays – Lincoln turned 2 at the end of September, and Bennett turns 1 this week – and the upcoming holidays, Morseth plans to ask relatives to avoid adding to the toy box. Instead she’ll request gifts the boys need, like fun sheets for a new toddler bed, or gifts of experiences, such as trips to the zoo or going out to a movie.

“That time is so valuable,” she said.

Morseth said she’s also going to start teaching her kids the value of giving by donating extra toys, a lesson Kayla Dunbar of Fargo has started with her 4-year-old daughter, Addyson.

At first the preschooler didn’t understand and would become upset, but the other day when Dunbar talked to her about giving toys to kids who don’t have any, Addyson got excited and started going around the room and picking out toys to give away, Dunbar said.

She’s been trying to help her daughter understand that if she gives one toy away, she will still have other toys and she will make another child happy, Dunbar said.

She’s now having Addyson pick out one toy every day and plans to donate them before Christmas.

Dunbar says “it’s ridiculous” how many toys her daughter already has at just 4 years old.

“One wall from one end to the other is covered with toy boxes full of toys,” Dunbar said, adding that when she was a child, she and her sister shared a toy box.

An overabundance of toys is a fairly common problem.

Jasmine Parreault of Horace is already giving away some of her son’s toys and he is only 5 months old. She gives any toys he doesn’t play with often to her brothers, who both have newborns, she said.

“I didn’t expect him to have so many, but everybody gets him toys,” she said.

Americans spend $22 billion a year on toys, according to parenting website www.kidcomplishment.com. While the United States has less than 4 percent of the world’s children, Americans buy more than 40 percent of the world’s toys, and there are more Barbie dolls than people in this country.

On average, Americans spend $280 per child on toys each year, and toy sales increased by 2 percent during the recession while the amount spent in supermarkets decreased by 0.5 percent, according to www.MoneyTrail.net, an online allowance tracker for kids, which also offers tips on teaching kids about money.

Blog posts abound touting the benefits of limiting kids’ toys.

Ruth Soukup, an author and blogger at www.livingwellspendingless.com, had a blog post go viral when she wrote about taking her kids’ toys away.

Instead of cleaning as they had been told, her kids were making their room a bigger mess. So fed up, Soukup began packing up all of their toys.

“I had no idea what a dramatic difference this one semi-impulsive decision would make in all our lives,” she wrote.

She eventually gave them a few toys back, but kept it minimal.

She said her kids stopped asking for things, their attention span grew, and they became more creative, patient, and willing to share. And with little to fight over, they hardly fought at all, she wrote.

People both commended and condemned her for taking her kids’ toys. In a one-year follow-up post, Soukup wrote that she and her husband have to be diligent about cleaning the clutter on a regular basis.

For birthdays and holidays, they emphasize the experience over the presents, and have asked friends and family not to give gifts. When Soukup and her husband do give gifts, they give things their girls need, and pay for experiences, she wrote.

Joshua Becker, a father of two and author who writes about his minimalist lifestyle at www.becomingminimalist.com, says fewer toys help children learn to be more creative, develop longer attention spans, establish better social skills, and learn to take better care of possessions.

“Many parents believe that more toys will result in less fighting because there are more options available. However, the opposite is true far too often. Siblings argue about toys. And every time we introduce a new toy into the relationship, we give them another reason to establish their territory,” he said in the post. “Siblings with fewer toys are forced to share, collaborate, and work together.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tracy Frank at (701) 241-5526

Non-toy gift ideas

Here are some ideas for gifts, besides toys, to give this holiday season:

A chance to play

• TNT Kid’s Fitness and Gymnastics passes: TNT at 2800 Main Ave. in Fargo has open gym sessions for preschoolers, ages 1-5, and children ages 5 to 14 years old where kids can jump, tumble, and climb. Preschool open gym costs $6 a session or $50 for a punch card of 10. Open gym for older kids is $10 per child and $5 for each additional sibling. Visit tntkidsfitness.com for a schedule or call (701) 356-8868.

• Courts Plus fitness center at 3491 University Dr. S. in Fargo sells gift cards that can be used toward youth programs like fitness classes and sports lessons. Punch cards are also available for $20 for 10 sessions at the indoor playground. Visit courtsplus.org or call (701) 237-4805.

• Days Inn & Governors’ Conference Center in Casselton has an indoor water park that’s open to the public. Passes are $8 Monday through Thursday and $10 Friday through Sunday. Visit governorsinnnd.com or call (701) 347-4524 for hours.

• The YMCA Cass Clay sells family day passes to the facility for $20. There are also youth programs and an indoor playground available. Visit ymcacassclay.org or call (701) 293-9622.

• The Sports Bubble indoor golf and sports facility at 2761 12th Ave. S. Fargo offers youth sessions for $6 each and mini golf for $3 for kids 12 and under. Visit thesportsbubble.com or call (701) 280-0824.

Time to be creative

• Clay Your Way gift cards: Clay Your Way pottery studio at 4501 15th Ave. S. in Fargo gives kids the chance to create one-of-a-kind, personalized artwork. Visit clayyourway.com or call (701) 356-9229.

• Pay for a class that interests your child such as art, photography, or dance or better yet, take the class together. Moorhead Community Education offers several. Call (218) 284-3300 for information.

A need and a want

• Children’s activities can be expensive, so offer to pay for an activities fee or buy them supplies for their sport or hobby.

A treat of their choice

• Take your child on a “date night” to a restaurant and movie of their choice, or give them gift cards to a favorite restaurant, frozen yogurt or ice cream shop.

– Tracy Frank