Playing does not have to involve toys. Giving a gift of play is different from giving our kids toys. People are amazed by the number of toys my children get growing up.

We buy toys six times a year for my children: a toy each on everybody’s birthday, and during Christmas. Over the years, I have not thrown out any toy, but my house is never cluttered.
With less toys, it definitely does not mean my kids get to play less. I think my children are the most playful ones you can find. They just far more creative with whatever they get.

Why less toys?

The first advantage is that your house will be much less cluttered. I am shocked by how messy some houses can get with so many toys! When we have less toys, it is far easier to get the kids to keep the house clean and neat, an essential life skill to impart.

Secondly, the kids will treasure what they get, play with each toy longer and that same habit will teach them to treasure their stationery, books and other possessions as they grow up. I remember my daughter’s primary school friends created a fund for my daughter (thinking she is poor) because she didn’t have mechanical pencils. She would ensure that her manual pencils were fully depleted before she replaced them. I think to imbue such frugal virtues is far more valuable than crowding them with too much useless stuff.

Thirdly, replace toys with books. How long can a child play with a toy hammer or a toy computer before they get bored? (Two knocks) Nothing is more fun than imparting the skill of reading and opening them up to a world of fantasies and imaginations. While I buy toys only six times a year, I buy books and go to the library weekly.

I really believe kids should play a lot, a lot. Much of their learning should be through play and not about sitting down and being instructed. It is far more effective learning through fun and play than in a classroom.

In the preschool and kindy classes we run, our kids do not get to sit down and ‘do work’ a lot. Instead, they get to play a lot, yet, people are astonished by our students’ knowledge and vocabulary. I believe children learn far better through play.

We must remember the purpose of toys is to induce play. But these days, people tend to focus on the toys to buy and forget that it is how we use the toys that creates the most impact.

So here are some reasons why Christmas is not necessarily a time for toys. How about asking for a gift of time instead? Like for a grandma to bring the kids to a museum or a zoo? Or even a cruise to nowhere or a ticket to a concert with an aunt or uncle. Those experiences are far more precious than a toy or two that become junk quickly. Play with wonderful experiences not only last a lifetime and creates great memories but makes learning such a wonderful event.

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