Friday, June 1, 2007

Keep or Toss...

Oldest daughter came to me and asked me for a doll she saw on a commercial on TV. I really don't mind when they watch TV, I just dislike the commercials and I try to find stations that are commercial-free or have them watch movies. The girlies are only allowed to watch no more than 2 hours of TV a day, but sometimes it's more and sometimes not at all. I admit, I use the TV as a babysitter sometimes, I'll pop in a movie and then get dinner started, check my messages on the computer or run downstairs to do a load of laundry.

When I see the girlies watch a commercial, they are fascinated by what is being hawked.. a pony that walks and they can ride, or dolls that converse with you, and the (ever irritating) dolls that come with make-up for her and you! So, Oldest asked me if I would get her this doll that comes with a pet bunny for her, since her birthday is coming up. I made no promises, but used the opportunity to tell her that if she wanted new toys, some old ones would have to go.

Off to the basement we went where there is a mess of toys scattered, no, covering the floor. They haven't been allowed to play down there in a while, precisely because of the mess they made. I have tried all sorts of "methods" to get them to clean up after themselves. The put-it-back-before-you-play-with-another-one trick; labeled bins; setting a timer and letting them race about, dumping toys in this bin or that; nothing works! Until I tried this little trick last week and (so far!) it is working! I took out every single toy on the top floor-- not a single toy in any of the bedrooms or living room, kitchen, dining and sun room. Nothing! Then I got 2 empty bins and told them to pick 5 toys or games each. So they go downstairs and pick out 5 apiece and plop them in the bins.

"Here is the rule, girlies-- you must keep these toys in the bins and when you are done playing with them, back in they go. If you behave badly, I will take a toy away. Good behavior gets a toy." I told them, their eyes telling me that they aren't taking me seriously.

Sure enough, 5 minutes later, Oldest bops Middle on the head and tears erupt. "Give me a toy," I say, in my lowest and sternest voice. Oldest starts to whine and cry and tries to talk me out of taking the toy, but I stand firm and hold out my hand. Middle laughs when she sees Oldest hand over a doll, but she stops laughing when I take a toy away from her a few minutes later for shoving the Youngest off the couch. And so it goes, take a toy, give a toy back for good behavior. It seems to work, there are less toys about and I remind them often to keep their toys in the bins or I'll take them away.

Downstairs, today, we sorted through all the toys into a "keep" bin and a "toss" bin. I was impressed with how many toys they got rid off and I was even a little resistant to some that they wanted to toss. Until I realized that I was the one that wanted to keep it but knowing they didn't play with it, I let it go in the bin. They filled 3 boxes for toss! I will sort through them later, some for the charity shops and some I'll take to the consignment shop to sell and recoup some money back from them.

They had a ball sorting through the toys and when we came back upstairs, I looked at the clock and saw we had been at it for 3 hours! I am in a happy frame of mind now, with a cleaner playroom in the basement and knowing the girlies had lots of fun playing without the TV and not seeing more commercials to tempt them into materialism. I won't be getting Oldest the doll she saw on TV, but I will be getting her other things for her birthday. My baby is going to be 5 on June 5th! We are having a party for her on the 10th and she is looking forward to it, telling me to make strawberry cake, no, chocolate cupcakes, no, the sprinkles cake....

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