[First published: 18th November 2019]
It is the time of the year where you may want to start spring cleaning before the festive seasons. As you approach the play corner to be cleared, do you find yourself surrounded by many toys which your child has outgrown and not touched in months, if not years? As you select those toys to be given away, in comes your child marching with a horrific scream and somewhere in between the wailing, you can somehow make out what he is saying, “Mine, mine, mine!”
Most of us can swear by the motto, “Out of sight, out of mind” when it comes to our child’s ownership with toys. We would resort to just quietly and sneakily removing those toys from our child’s toy box while he is asleep. That makes us ‘toy thieves’ and Santa would certainly not be happy about that. We practise guilty parenting for a good reason – to ensure a harmonious home environment during spring cleaning seasons.
However, at the end of the day, we would like to teach our children about the joy of giving and gifting to the less fortunate. How do we start educating this concept to our possessive little ones? Here are some tips to help you get started:
1. Is your child able to share?
Identify your child’s level of understanding about sharing and giving to others. Is your child able to share and look at things from another person’s perspective? Try speaking to your child about the joy of receiving from others. To receive, there is a giver. Explore with your child the feelings of being a giver and ask him if he would like to experience it.
2. Be a good role model for your child
While you are spring cleaning your own belongings, let your child watch how you arrive at the decision to donate or discard your unwanted belongings. Share your thoughts aloud and take this opportunity to show your child the value of giving away your belongings to others who may benefit from being the owners of your items.
3. Setting a system for the clean-up time
Set three boxes where one is for the items that your child would still want, one for the items that are to be donated, and the other is for items to be repaired, discarded or recycled because they no longer work.
4. Give your child enough space and time to decide
This may be the first time that your child is deciding to give his toys away to others. Allow your child time and space to think through and through about which toys he would like to give away. Remember that it is a major decision to make in his life. The exercise can be emotionally draining for him. Give him enough support. He may change his mind the following day about giving up his toy. At the end of the day, if he decides to only let go of one toy, do accept that as it is a great step forward for him. Acknowledge him for his generosity.
5. Bring your child to the donation centre
Bring your child into the environment where her toys will be put into good use. Let her see it for herself that her toys bring joy to others. Explain to her that she is so privileged and other children may not have as much due to certain circumstances in life.
6. Scarcity versus abundance mindset
In the simplest form of this context, a child with a scarcity mindset fears that he will lose his toys and this will result in pain and unhappiness. On the contrary, a child with an abundance mindset sees the opportunity of getting more of everything in life. As such, you may explain that when he clears the old toys, he makes space for the new toys which he can have more fun and more meaningful experiences with.
By Aileen Hoe
Hon. Secretary of the Association of Toy Libraries Malaysia
Sharing the joy of Play
If you’re considering a toy donation, here are some Do’s and Don’ts to help you in your selection of age-appropriate toys: