Like all moms of toddlers, I go on outings. We’re always heading on an excursion—to the library, the playground, and a jumble of other children’s activities. I’m also a stay at home mom, so all my appointments and errands involve a toddler in tow. But unlike most moms of toddlers, I don’t bring toys along.
I don’t bring toys anywhere, and it’s one of the best things I’ve done.
First of all, traveling light is high on my list of priorities. Carrying less along reduces my stress and frees up my arms to cradle babies or hold little hands. And when I only pack the essentials, it’s simpler to quickly access what I need when I need it.
Not bringing toys completely negates any behavioral issues related to possession. I don’t get caught in the complicated parenting debate on sharing when the toys my child plays with are all communal, or she’s simply engaged in other interests like climbing jungle gyms or collecting fallen leaves.
Plus, think about this: You can’t lose toys when you didn’t bring any. I’m seriously heartbroken when I see little loveys dropped out of strollers or a stuffed pig sitting forlornly on a park bench. So I’m not the kind of mom who can handle transferring the responsibility of keeping track of their own little friends to her kids, letting them learn from natural consequences when they go missing. This leaves me with one more item on my already top-heavy mental load and relegating toys to the home frees me from it.
On that note, when kids become dependent upon their toys, it becomes the bane of their parents’ existence. There are parents who have to run frantically through the house searching for little Wizzy or they literally can’t start the car. Some even buy multiple copies of favorite stuffed animals as backups in the case of loss. Besides the fact that the Velveteen Rabbit would definitely disapprove, just thinking about all that makes my head spin.
I know that so far it seems like I don’t bring toys along for my own sake. But I do it just as much for my child’s. Every time we leave our home, the outside world provides countless learning opportunities. Going anywhere presents a wealth of sensory experiences and new knowledge, and toys take a child’s focus away from that. Furthermore, adding too many toys into the already busy world (and it’s busy for your little one even if it’s mundane to you) can be downright overstimulating. That’s when behavior issues show up like the throwing of little cars or the ripping of book pages.
I know what you’re thinking. But what about when you just have to entertain them? Coming from a woman who’s brought a colicky infant turned hyperactive toddler along to the hairdresser, the dentist, and even the gynecologist, I still choose to leave the toys at home. If there are toys in the waiting room, I’ll make use of those, or I’ll grab a piece of scrap paper and a pencil to help keep busy. There’s always something when you’re looking for it. But since bringing items along for the sole purpose of entertainment just isn’t the norm in our family, it isn’t expected or necessary from the child’s point of view.
I fly internationally twice per year, about 12 hours in the air, just me and my daughter. Get this: I don’t even bring toys out in the cabin. Granted, I do bring along a stack of board books and a blank sketchbook with colored pencils. I get a few extra plastic cups from the stewardess, which I’ve seen used as everything from stacking cups to little houses in a pretend city.
But the most effective thing I do is to allow her to move throughout the plane whenever the seatbelt light is off. I just follow her up and down the aisles, happy to see her burning up energy and smiling as she peers inquisitively at passengers sleeping in odd positions. There’s more to engage her than a miniature fire truck that I’ll have to fish out from underneath other people’s seats countless times.
I don’t bring toys anywhere. It simplifies my life as a mom, and I’ll take as much of that as I can get. I believe this mentality encourages children to engage fully with the world around them and teaches them both creativity and patience. Don’t forget that humans have been around long before Legos or Play-Doh existed. Many commercial toys are based on common household objects or items from the natural world that children way back when spontaneously picked up and entertained themselves with. There’s nothing wrong with toys, but I choose not to be dependent upon them. And every person in our family benefits from the arrangement.