Buying plastic crap for kids (and adults!) has almost become socially enforced. My kids love it and other people seem to love to buy it for them.

But by going along with this, we’re simply teaching them that plastic (and STUFF) is a good thing and the more of it the better.

I read a great book called Simplicity Parenting. HERE are my notes to save you some time reading it. This helped me realize that less is most definitely more when it comes to kids.

Here are 10 ways I keep the plastic (somewhat) at bay:

  1. Give them a WHY: Show them openly the devastation that plastic is doing to the earth – photos of animals surrounded by plastic in the ocean, the famous turtle with a straw in its nose and explain to them how our plastic use is leading to this. 
  2. MODELING: I model refusing plastic at restaurants, take outs etc and I’m proud to say that my girls will now tell the server they don’t want plastic whether they are with me or not. They also really consider things in the grocery store and often chime in that that has ‘too much plastic’
  3. COMMUNICATE: I BEG family and friends not to buy plastic presents or ideally any presents at all. If you review the Simplicity Parenting notes you’ll see that they propose too much ‘stuff’ is bad for children. I know I personally feel totally overwhelmed by stuff all the time so this rings pretty true for me. This is a constant battle. A family member who shall remain nameless literally bought them a big bunch of plastic straws with styrofoam cut outs to make a plastic bunch of flowers! Do they know me AT ALL??? I find giving a list of alternatives and letting them know you are happiest with either previously used stuff or experiences. 
  4. GIVING over RECEIVING: I went to a birthday party recently where the 6 year old had elected for people to donate to a cause instead of bringing her gifts. I’m working on this one for my girls and think I’ll get there if I can promise a pretty cool experience in lieu. I’m thinking horse riding lessons : ) I also think this is an amazing lesson to teach them early on. Stuff won’t make you happy, helping others just might.
  5. REDUCE the number of toys: My husband laughs because I’m literally cleaning out the playroom every 3 months of all the crap they seem to acquire. And that is with me being a total crap drill sergeant – it still seems to infiltrate somehow. My aim is for them to have about 8 stuffies, 4 board games, a few coloring books and 10 reading books out to play with. Everything else is locked in the locked ‘Toy Library’ and they have to request it then clean it up and exchange it if they want something else. To be honest, they just play with what’s out mostly and make up games with cushions and kitchen utensils. GREAT for their imagination and self-directed play. 
  6. EXPERIENCE over STUFF: I’m always trying to emphasize giving them fun experiences rather than presents and constantly modeling how I prefer amazing memories to more stuff. 
  7. SWAP TOYS: Younger kids are just happy with things that are new to THEM. They have no idea if it’s actually new or not. So get together with a bunch of friends and instead of buying new toys etc for birthdays and Christmas, swap among yourselves. Also check out TOY LIBRARY. You can sign up and they deliver you toys from their ‘library’ each month which you then return. They clean and sanitize and send out to another kid. I haven’t tried it yet so not sure on the packaging but it seems COOL! AND keep your eye on Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist etc as you can find some awesome stuff on there.
  8. TEACH THEM HOW TO RECYCLE / COMPOST: Make this a habit and they’ll have it for life and they can pass it onto other kids. Mine are constantly sharing their knowledge at school and encouraging kids to shop zero waste.
  9. GRATITUDE: When kids do receive gifts, make sure they slow down and appreciate them. I’ve watched as kids rip through opening a ton of presents and barely glance at them. It ends up being less fun for the kids and definitely less fun for the giver.
  10. GIFT THEM WHAT THEY NEED: Keep a list of everything your kid NEEDS (new shoes, clothes, toothbrush etc) and save it all up for birthdays. That way you don’t have to double buy. For example, mine received wooden toothbrushes with their names engraved on them for Christmas one year and also receive lots of second-hand clothes from CHILDISH THINGS.

CHALLENGE 5:

Simplify your kids toys. Get a big box or bag and go and remove at least 50% of their toys and books and hide them away somewhere. Did they notice? Did it impede their playing? Did they actually end up using their imagination more?

If you are a kid-free zone, try the same thing with an area of your house. Try attacking the cupboards in the kitchen and giving away those spices and random food items you haven’t used in forever. Go through your closet and grab any item of clothing that you haven’t worn in a year and pack it away. If by the beginning of 2023 you haven’t gone into the box to get it, you know you no longer need it.

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