Too Many Toys: Is There Such a Thing?

On Sunday evenings, when I was a kid, my Italian grandmother would make a mountain of pasta, meatballs, salad and Italian bread. There was enough food to feed three families. In Italian,  you might use the word “abbondanza” to describe such a feast.

One look at the playroom in our house and you also see abbondanza. Our kids have so much that the room is literally overflowing with toys, games, puzzles, musical instruments, you name it. That doesn’t count the toys in their rooms and in boxes in the garage.

It’s a common theme I hear from many parents — “My kids have so many toys they can’t even play with them all,” one will say. “It’s so much more than we had when we were kids,” another will chime in. My question is how much is too much?

When I think of all we have, my mind races to another family member — my great-grandmother. She came to this country from Italy in 1920 with a baby, a steamer trunk and a heart full of hope. After years of sacrificing meals and so much more so her five children could succeed, her strength and fortitude is one of the reasons I’ve been given so much.

In our quest to give our kids everything are we hurting them in the long run by satisfying their every need, desire and wish? I’ll admit my guilt. When I was a kid I always wanted a race car bed. When our oldest turned two, I ran out and found one on Craigslist to put in his room. He loves it. And it is super cool. But am I damaging him down the road by giving him such unnecessary creature comforts? Am I teaching him that he’ll get things just because, rather than learning to work for what you want?

Part of me believes that those lessons will come down the road. My father demanded that I contribute around the house and I will do the same with my kids. That’s where work ethic is born.

Yet even as I write this, I have an internet tab open to Craigslist looking for a Little Tikes Bounce House. I just know how much the boys will love it. I know how much I’ll love watching them enjoy it. But clearly, I’m contributing to the madness.

There’s one friend whose house is even more overrun with toys and gadgets than ours. While we are there even I get jealous of all the cool stuff they have. Fortunately, my kids aren’t old enough to understand the difference, but they sure love playing at that kid’s house.

Clearly, this has to stop. I’m not so far gone that I need a 12-step program for parents addicted to buying stuff for their kids but a bit of re-prioritizing is in order. First, we’ve seen some parents ask for charitable donations in their children’s names in lieu of birthday gifts. Great idea. Second, I’m planning to ask the grandparents — and with divorces on each side of our families there are 7 grandparents! — for contributions to the boys’ college savings funds instead of a pile of gifts this year at Christmas.

To honor my great-grandmother though we have to cut back, bottom line is we can do more with less. We don’t need such extravagant abbondanza.

What do you do with all the toys that your child accumulates?


The Beginning
About Happiest Daddy

Two boys, one wife and a ton of material. I live for family and I'm one of the most blessed people you will ever meet.


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  1. Nick Downey says:

    When our oldest was born, she was the first grandchild on both sides of our family, as well as the first great-grandchild for 2 sets. She was so spoiled at first we thought it was great. Nearly 9 years later, we have so much stuff we don’t need, nor do we have room for it all. We realized we had fallen in a habit of maintaining a level of gifting our kids that we are not proud of. Now the challenge is weaning them off the material and emphasizing how blessed they are whether they have all 27 different Littlest Pet Shop cats or not. After all, every parent knows its the box they want to play with anyway. Wouldn’t we all be better off this way anyway?

    • Happiestdaddy says:

      We definitely would but I think that because we grew up with so much and we have the desire to meet their every wish, we give and give and give. If you find a solution, please let me know!

  2. Kevin Vandiver says:

    Im guilty as charged as far as buying the kids toys. The wife has made me scale it back some. But darnit, my son is at the age when he appreciates the cool toys! (By cool I mean star wars). When they out grew the baby toys, we donated them to goodwill

    • Happiestdaddy says:

      so tough not to buy them stuff, right? Especially when we know how much
      they’ll enjoy it, even if it’s only fleeting. Donating to Goodwill or
      to a family with less is something on our to-do list as well.

  3. We “suffer” from the same problem. My first born was my in-law’s first grandson and he wanted for nothing. Pretty soon we were swimming in toys and gifts and clothes. So much stuff that the kids quickly get overwhelmed and don’t know what to play with. Now, about twice a year, we go through things they’ve outgrown or don’t play with any longer and donate to charity. We’ve asked our parents, if they really want to help out, that they split between gifts and money for the kids’ future.

  4. We periodically go through the toys and associated debris and get rid of stuff to make our space a little less crowded. We also serve as a testing family for the Canadian Toy Testing Council which means we have a fairly regular flow through of toys and games that we have for the 6-8 week testing period and then we have to give them back. It gives us new toys to play with for a while and an opportunity to get rid of them so they don’t add to the pile. If the kids really like them, we have the opportunity to buy the toys after they have been evaluated.

    I’ve also heard of parents who sit down with their kids after birthdays and christmas and get their kids to weed out a roughly equivalent number of toys to what they just received from the existing collection. The ones in good shape get donated, the others get tossed/recycled.

This is what I think...