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Your Child: 2 to 3 years

Surrounded by Stuff

Is the toy box overflowing? Your toddler's closet jammed? Your home slowly turning into a sea of plastic?

Many times, having too many toys isn't the sign of a spoiled child, but rather the result of well-intentioned giving gone too far. As parents, we want the very best for our children. We easily justify the equation "more + more = the best for my child." But more is not always better.

Consider a chocolate chip cookie: too many chips will make the cookie crumble even before your toddler grabs it. A good baker measures ingredients.

Parenting also requires a balance. We need to ask, "How much is too much?" As you answer that question, think about these points:

Toddlers need things.

The most recent brain research documents what parents already knew: toddlers learn from all kinds of stimulation. They need to touch things, turn them over, feel them, tug on them, and yes, even chew on them.

Look for toys and activities that truly stimulate your child. In spite of what toy manufacturers advertise, toddlers don't need expensive playthings. Empty margarine containers with lids, a plastic bucket and shovel and cardboard boxes from the grocery store can be favorites.

Toddlers need people.

While young children thrive on creative play, they also need thoughtful, consistent care givers who will share a lap, a smile and a prayer. Toddlers need people who will describe what's going on, set and maintain consistent limits, and say, "I love you." No shiny red truck or expensive doll will ever substitute for the love you give your child.

Toddlers get distracted.

Look around your child's play area. If shelves are crowded, sort the playthings into several boxes. Restock the shelves with items from only one of the boxes. Store the other boxes in a closet or some other place your child can't access. Then rotate the boxes every few weeks or give some toys to a local charity. Review toys, books and clothing on a regular basis. This will guarantee that items available reflect your child's needs and interests.

Toddlers grow quickly.

Go through your child's closet and drawers. Pack away clothing that no longer fits or give the items away. Keep an empty box near the washer and dryer. As you do the laundry, place outgrown clothing in the box rather than hanging it back in the closet. Donate clothing you won't need again to a local thrift store.

Toddlers get presents.

Celebrating special days and shopping for a young child can be a lot of fun! But these events can result in an overabundance. Prioritize what your child can really use, then share your list with relatives. Let them know you appreciate their desire to give something to your child. Your list is simply a way to help guide their gift choices toward something your child will really enjoy.

How much is too much? That's one of those pesky parenting issues that will emerge again and again. But if you're aware of the potential problem as you parent a toddler, you'll set appropriate limits on "things" throughout your years of parenting.

?Dr. Mary Manz Simon
Author, speaker, mother of three


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