Since the weather turned warmer, it’s been a common morning scene at our house.
“Hey, guys, you should go outside. It’s really nice out.”
They ignore me, caught up in playing with a Hot Wheels track, finishing a LEGO creation, or staging an elaborate scene with their stuffed animals that somehow involves an earthquake, a flood, and a volcano eruption simultaneously.
“Hey, guys. Outside.”
“I’m going out. Is anyone coming with me?”
They aren’t doing anything …bad. They aren’t bickering, or dawdling, or sneaking in extra screen time. But, they aren’t outside either. And I would really like them outside.
So what to do?
I’ve got a new strategy. I’m instituting it while they are away on a little trip with their dad. I am–this is a little crazy–hiding their toys.
I first thought of this a little while ago when I saw this blog post about a woman who removed her kids toys as an experiment, just to see if they’d miss them. They didn’t. At the time, it was the depth of winter here and I couldn’t stomach limiting their inside activities. But once it started to warm up, I started inching the toys out of sight. I sorted through the toy shelf in the living room one night after they’d gone to bed. No one noticed. The next night we attacked the toy pit that had formed over the years in our living room. Once contained to a few bins, it now sprawled out over a roughly 4-foot by 5-foot area and was threatening to take over the dog’s bed. I cleaned out and boxed up a bunch, then piled the rest back into the bins. When the kids came downstairs the next morning, they looked around puzzled for minute and my daughter said, “Something looks different.”
“I cleaned,” I said.
“Oh,” she said. And that was it.
No one noticed what was gone. In the weeks since, no one has asked about the missing toys.
So while they are gone, I’m going in. Blocks, Hot Wheels tracks, toy cars, superfluous puzzles…it’s all getting moved to the basement. I’ll leave a few things behind for rainy days, don’t worry. I’m thinking art supplies, a few puzzles, LEGOs, and the science kit. (Their stuffed animals live in their bedrooms and I’m not mean enough to take those away.)
It’s just for a few months. If they ask, I’ll just tell them the toys are packed away for the summer. Here’s my theory: the fewer distractions inside, the faster they will get bored and move outside. Will it work? Stay tuned.
But the question I’m really curious about is this: out of all that stuff, what is it that they will truly miss?
We’ll just have to wait and see.