AFTER CHRISTMAS CRUNCH
Dr. Valerie Allen
Not far behind us are the holidays with all the trimmings, which for the most part, are packed away, safe until the next season of joy arrives. What to do with all the extra “stuff” that has accumulated? The children’s toys and knickknacks need to find a place in their already overcrowded rooms. It’s often difficult for children to decide what to keep and what to part with.
This is an opportunity for parents to help children learn and practice organization skills and decision-making. One topic of discussion can be the difference between what we need vs what we want. Children can also learn to appreciate material things, which make our lives safe and enjoyable, as well as gratitude toward those who provide for us. It is timely to focus on sharing with others. Parents can also encourage reuse, repurpose, and recycle to contribute to maintaining our environment and safeguarding natural resources.
Helping children cooperate with the task of organizing their belongings can be made easier with these few strategic steps.
- Set aside a specific day and time to work with each child. When trying to decide what to keep, consider the child first and always allow him or her to select a few favorite toys for safe keeping. As a parent, you may also want to choose items that have sentimental value. These things should be set aside with assurances to the youngster that his or her “special” things will not be taken away.
- Next, consider which toys are still usable. If broken or missing pieces render them useless, it’s time to get rid of them. Consider the “play value” in light of the child’s age. If the toy is still in working order, but too immature for your child, it’s time to pass it on. Take a look at your child’s “interest level”; has your child played with this toy recently? Is it too simple or too complex for their maturity level? Leftover parts and pieces can be recycled into an arts and craft box for future rainy day activities.
- Get organized with large trash bags, tape, storage boxes, and zip lock bags of all sizes. Use permanent markers to identify items inside of bags and boxes. Repair and tape broken game boxes and book bindings. Put small game pieces, puzzles, books with audio tapes/CDs, and miniature toys into individual zip lock bags. Larger games can be kept together in storage boxes. Use the trash bags and separate the usable toys from those that have seen better days.
What To Do With It
- Toys should be kept in a safe place with easy access for your child. Low shelves with each item in view is a good option and safer than high shelves; a deep toy chest may work well for stuffed toys and dolls. Use clear plastic boxes to easily see the items inside and label each one.
- You may decide to have a yard sale and allow your child to participate. Be sure to discuss ahead of time the etiquette of customer service—no tears when an item is sold! No taking it back. Have your youngster price and tag items. He or she can also collect money at the “check out” counter. This is a good opportunity to use the proceeds to open a savings account for the child or allow him or her to use the money for a special purchase.
- Items in good condition can be donated to agencies working with children such as a homeless shelter, domestic violence program, day care center, library, community mental health center, health department, or the Head Start Program. Try to recycle as many items as possible.
The process of parting with the old to make room for the new can be a learning opportunity and a positive experience for your youngster. Taking these steps will provide maximum use and fun with their new items and put reusable items into good hands.
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Dr. Valerie Allen is a child psychologist in private practice. She has published two books for children ages 7 to 12, “Summer School for Smarties” and “Bad Hair, Good Hat, New Friends.” Oh yes, she has also raised six children!