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Why we're asking for experiences, not toys

I know you love our kids and miss them and want nothing more than to see their eyes light up with love for you.

I know you want to do something that enriches their lives and shows them the simple pleasures of childhood.

So please, dear family + friends, know that this message comes from a place of love: No. More. Toys.

Our kids don't actually need much of any "thing"—they just need our presence, consistent love and guidance.

But maybe your family has gotten here, too. Here's how it happened it ours—

Growing up, my father regaled our family with tales of his humble childhood—he only had a ball and a stick to his name and walked uphill to school both ways and wore the same outfits several times a week. He ate ham sandwiches (every day!) for school lunch and spent his afternoons playing games in his friends' backyards. It was a simple childhood.

But now, this loving grandfather started showing up to visits with armfuls of toys for our kids. He was a one-man Christmas morning, every time he visited.

It sounds like a four-year-old's dream come true—but when it comes to kids and toys, there truly can be too much of a good thing.

When grandpa would come bearing gifts, my kids would quickly open up one box— not even taking the time to enjoy or appreciate it!—before they'd spy the next out of the corner of their eye and aim to rip it open, too. It was like they had an endless appetite for MORE.

Meanwhile, grandpa was perhaps just living *his* childhood dreams—through our kids. He meant well, but he wasn't the only one dropping endless toys in our laps.

Add in excessively indulgent Christmases (they were the only grandkids on both sides.)

Drop in some birthdays.

Add a dash of family friends who can't help but send goodies along to the kids every time we see them.

Add in Happy Meal trinkets, birthday goodie bags, the occasional impulse buy at the checkout line.

Add in 'artwork' that seems to come from everywhere.

Add in stick collections and penny collections and rock collections. "But mom, it's my favorite orange rock!" (You can have a favorite orange rock?)

Our house was TEEMING with toys and stuff. There were half-finished puzzles (the pieces were always missing), books with pages torn out, block sets with essential pieces gone MIA and tent structures with nowhere to stand.

It was all of the work of having toys, but not enough space for the fun.

Most ironic of all? Our playroom was often unusable because—you guessed it!—the toys were E-V-E-R-Y-W-H-E-R-E and all over the floor, all the time. (No room to play.)

So when we packed up our home earlier this year to settle our family a few states away, we spent weeks doing what we knew we needed to do: We got rid of 75% of the toys we owned.

We brought—honestly—probably 50+ bags/ boxes of "stuff" (toys included) to Goodwill.

(We also got rid of 50% of our own personal possessions—clothes, books, cosmetics—and that felt awesome, too).

It felt amazing to ditch years of junk that had been holding us back.

It felt great to donate hardly-used toys to families that could use them.

And it has been absolutely incredible to see the impact of living with radically less—on me, our home, and especially our kids.

My four-year-old's reading skills have absolutely taken off.

My incredibly rambunctious three-year-old will sit on a couch and stare off into space, quietly contemplating the ending of Paw Patrol, or perhaps Particle Physics, or where do strawberries come from and why do they taste so good? (I consider this emerging introspection in him a major win.)

My one-year-old can be left in our new baby-proofed playroom with little fear that she'll discover some danger amid what used-to-be hundreds of toys. (There is one shelf of toys now, and they're all safe for her.)

I feel good about raising my children in a home that is orderly and purposeful.

I have more energy for work and myself because I don't have to spend all my free time dealing with a house jammed full of stuff.

And thankfully, my family is totally onboard. (It might be because I sent them photos of the dozens of bags and piles of giveaway toys—and they saw their hard-earned money in the 'donate' bin.)

So please, no more random toys for the kids, please. If you really really really want to get something for my kids, I have made a short list.

Here's what my kids really need—

  • New sneakers
  • Swimming lessons
  • An adult to look them in the eyes and talk about anything their little hearts desire (probably 'poop'-related jokes, if I'm honest—they're obsessed)
  • A weekend at grandpa's
  • Art supplies
  • Someone to bring them to the library to return their borrowed books—and get new ones
  • A trip to the playground
  • A movie night
  • Grocery store gift cards. (Real talk: these little kids eat more than I ever imagined possible.)
  • Someone to build blanket forts
  • Ice cream. (Seriously.) It might be messy and sugary but at our house—it doesn't last. Plus, ice cream leaves nothing but sticky fingers, brain freeze and innocent childhood memories—the best gift of all.


Happy half-birthday! Can you believe it was only six months ago that your baby's schedule consisted of just sleeping and eating? Now, your happy buddy is probably working on a whole new repertoire of skills.

Although the cake will have to wait, this milestone can be celebrated with your baby's first bites of solid food. Just be sure to keep the camera ready as your little one gets more mashed avocado on their face than in their mouth.

Now that they're ready to sit in a high chair, it's time to envision all of the family meals to come. This makes right now a great time to start thinking about the dinner rituals you hope to create… and upgrade your dining space to match those dreams.

As you round the corner on your little one's first year, here's what we suggest adding to the shopping list:

Never fear the messy bites: Cloud Island bibs

Cloud Island Bibs

It's a pretty successful meal if approximately half of the food ends up in your 6-month-old's mouth. Make sure the other half doesn't end up on their clothes by stocking up on bibs that are easy to wash.

$9.99

Make room at the table: Graco Floor2Table high chair

Graco High Chair

Feeding your baby requires your full attention, so it's generally best to do it before or after your own mealtime. But it's still nice to include your baby at family dinner with their own seat at the table. It won't be long before they ask you to pass the mashed potatoes!

$149.99

For those first bites of “real food”  Beaba training spoons

Beaba

After a lifetime of only drinking from a bottle and/or breast, eating from a utensil has to feel like a major adjustment. Help your baby warm up to this new way of eating with a supply of baby-sized spoons.

$19.00

For mastering the art of baby food prep: Baby Brezza food processor

Baby Brezza

Good news: There are no advanced culinary skills required to make baby food. By steaming and pureeing their first meals, you can take charge of what foods and flavors you introduce.

$99.99

For last-minute mealtime: Happy Baby pouches

Happy Baby

Let's be honest: It can feel miraculous to get one meal on the table, let alone two separate ones. When you want or need a simpler option, it's nice to have a stockpile of convenient, healthy baby food pouches.

$6.49

For the splatter zone: Bumpkins splat mat

Bumpkins splat mat

As your baby begins eating, prepare to be amazed by all of the places you'll find traces of pureed sweet potatoes. This makes it a perfect time to swap out your dining room rug for an easy-to-clean option.

$19.39

For easy family meals: Instant Pot Duo Nova

Instant pot

When there are only so many hours in the day, the less time you can spend cooking and cleaning up afterward the better. There's a reason this is called an 'instant' pot—it'll free up so much precious time for you to spend with your family.

$119.99

For greenery without the commitment: Project 62 artificial plant

Project 62

We love including greenery in our home decor, but when you're busy enough keeping the people in your house alive, the last thing you need is a houseplant to water. Thankfully, today's faux plant options look so convincing that no one will know the difference.

$7.99

For counting all those steps: Fitbit Inspire activity tracker

Fit bit

Between walking and lifting that growing babe, you've been exercising this whole time without even realizing it, mama! Give yourself a boost of confidence by realizing how much movement you clock on a daily basis.

$99.95

For nighttime reading: Threshold table lamp 

threshold lamp

After months of tip-toeing around your own bedroom so you don't wake a sleeping baby, it's slightly thrilling to reclaim the space as your baby transitions to their own bedroom. This is a perfect time to start a new bedtime reading routine—complete with a stylish bedside lamp.

$44.99

This article was sponsored by Target. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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