Real Life Mama: Think outside the toy box


By Sarah Shrader - Guest columnist



The girls once surprised Mama with a spa night at home.

The girls once surprised Mama with a spa night at home.


Courtesy of Sarah Shrader

Are you shopping for children this Christmas that are not your own? Do you have that special niece or nephew, grandbaby or even a close friend with young ones? Have you been looking for the item that will make them smile the biggest?

Well, as a Mama of two, I feel like I need to offer up a bit of advice. Warranted or not, hear me out.

My oldest is 7. That means for seven Christmases in a row we have been inundated with toys from every single angle. Not only that, but we have the youngest kids in our extended family. So, we get the brand-new toys at Christmas and all the gently used, hand-me-down pieces all year through.

While I am so very thankful that my baby girls are so loved and I appear ungrateful even mentioning this (I assure you that is not at all the case), I need to make you aware that we don’t want any more toys.

Speak for myself, right? I mean just because Mom and Dad don’t want any more toys doesn’t mean that the girls don’t. After all, didn’t I see how many toys they circled in the toy catalog?

Oh, but I did. And then, after suffocating for far too long, this past week we went through their entire toy room and filled (I am almost ashamed to admit this) seven or eight construction-size trash bags with toys and donated them. Guess how many of those toys the girls have mentioned or missed.

Zero.

Look, I am not a mean mom who doesn’t want her kids to have anything to play with. We kept all the things that they do actually play with. It’s just all those random little things that add up over the years that my girls barely played with or at once did and now they are collecting dust. Those went out the door.

And for the first time since I can remember, our toy room is actually manageable. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I have been in that room sorting, organizing, separating, trying to find all the pieces and always missing a few. It was completely overwhelming, to all of us.

But now — at least for right now — it’s a place of playful peace. Finding what they want to play with is a breeze, and clean up when they are finished goes smoothly.

And guys, less is more. Finally, they can take the time to appreciate the items they have and truly take care of them. While a big weight was lifted from my chest in getting their toy room in a much more livable environment, I also think they are enjoying every second of it as well.

And honestly, Christmas up ahead or not, I plan on keeping it that way. I am going to keep it that way.

So I am challenging all you gift givers to take on a new perspective. If you must, take a tour of the toy room of the little one you are buying for. Truly look around. Do they actually need any more toys?

Sure, I know. You want to be the one to bring the most joy to their little faces on Christmas. But, think about it. Reminisce from years past. When several different people all buy them toys, their face may light up for a second when they open yours, but then they are on to the next one. No, it’s not because my kids are ungrateful. It’s because they are kids!

But do you know what my kids thrive on, what keeps giving well after the holidays when the toys are laying at the bottom of one of the two toy boxes? Time and experiences. Seriously, if you feel so inclined to buy for my babies, think outside the box. It doesn’t even have to be expensive.

Give them a handmade coupon for a dinner date or overnighter. Schedule an in-house spa treatment, just you and them. If you really want to spend money, provide a voucher for a zoo trip or any fun idea like that.

I promise you, the surprise at Christmas on top of the memories they will make when they redeem the experience will beat out any toy that you could purchase.

And on behalf of parents everywhere, we so appreciate it. Heck, you can even count it as our gifts as well. Not cluttering up our home and a free babysitter for a night? Sounds perfect.

But seriously, think about it, dear friends and family who are set to spoil sweet kiddos this Christmas. Thank you so much for loving on our babies — and at the same time respecting our wishes.

https://www.limaohio.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2020/12/web1_Shrader-Sarah-CMYK.jpgCourtesy of Sarah Shrader
The girls once surprised Mama with a spa night at home.
https://www.limaohio.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2020/12/web1_mama.jpgThe girls once surprised Mama with a spa night at home. Courtesy of Sarah Shrader

By Sarah Shrader

Guest columnist

Sarah (Pitson) Shrader was born and raised in Lima. She is a Lima Central Catholic and Tiffin University graduate. Sarah is a full-time working mama who enjoys writing about her somewhat crazy, always adventurous life as a mother. She lives in Bath Township with her husband, Paul, and their daughters, her writing inspirations, Maylie and Reagan.

Sarah (Pitson) Shrader was born and raised in Lima. She is a Lima Central Catholic and Tiffin University graduate. Sarah is a full-time working mama who enjoys writing about her somewhat crazy, always adventurous life as a mother. She lives in Bath Township with her husband, Paul, and their daughters, her writing inspirations, Maylie and Reagan.

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