Leave the Toys at Home

The bags were packed for our weekend of camping but there was one thing purposefully left out……toys.

I intentionally left all of the toys at home for our weekend camping trip with the thought that I would let nature inspire the boys to play instead of having their play revolve around a bunch of plastic crap.

And nature did its job!  The sticks turned into guns, crutches, walking sticks, and swords.

The rocks were stacked, sorted, thrown, skipped, and collected.

They used their hands to make sand castles and tunnels on the river bank and used pebbles, feathers, and leaves to decorate their creations.

Their eyes came alive as the sky became darker and the stars began to twinkle.  And we decided to keep the outer shell of our tent off so we would have a full view of the stars through the roof screen.

Isn’t this what being in the great outdoors is all about?  Connecting with nature, fresh air, hugging trees (yup, we did that too!)

And then on our last day there, after having a fantastic weekend,  I overheard some mothers talking about how their children were playing their hand held video games in their tents.    Three kids in separate tents but playing a video game against each other.  The mothers were marveling at technology and commenting on how much fun the kids were having.  And I don’t mean to judge, but I do, because SERIOUSLY PEOPLE? YOU ARE CAMPING!!!!

I think that too often in our society we value things over experiences.  We try to give our children everything we didn’t have or everything we think they need.  But really, what do they need?  Of course the basic necessities must be met, but after that?  Are we doing them a disservice by turning our homes into mini toy stores and buying the “in” toy because our children’s friends all have them?

And the waste that we are creating as a society in this one area of consumption alone is staggering.  The plastic dollar store toys sent home in goody bags are quickly broken and discarded.  The talking robot that is sitting in the bottom of the closet was sure entertaining for the first half hour or so but now it just represents our obsession with having more things.

Of course some toys are fabulous.  In our house we have a huge box of Lego that gets played with daily.  It teaches building skills, math, patterns, and best of all, creativity.  But now that we are striving to live with less, many of the not so fabulous toys are making their way to the garage sale pile and our house and minds are more clutter free because of it.

And when the time comes and we load our necessities onto our backs I wonder what toys we will be bringing with us?  A small sack of Lego, maybe a few small cars, and I think that is about it.

And its going to feel fabulous!

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  1. Julianne Reiser says:

    Yup less is more.

    We buy very few toys at our house. That’s not to say our kids don’t play video games (hello, iphone) or watch a lot of TV (mostly movies). But the toys we buy tend to be experience based toys. For example, for my son’s 5th birthday, we bought him an Explorer set. A multi pocket vest, with kid binoculars, compass, a shoulder bag to put his discoveries in and a hat (kinda Crocodile Dundie looking). The point is that the toys are accessories to his imagination, they don’t dictate the play like a video game does.


    1. worldschooladventures says:

      For sure, I wasn’t saying we don’t have toys cause we do. And we also watch TV and the kids play some games on the Ipod. It just seems to me that kids have too much these days and most of it just takes up space. I love the Explorer set idea. My boys love playing with our binoculars and a compass would be great for learning!

  2. Danielle Peloquin says:

    When we were living in Africa. . .I was always laughing at what the kids were playing with. . .a big favorite was a plastic bag and a string which when you run sort of turns into a kite. Another one is the good old stick . . .which my kids still fight over who has the best stick no matter where we are. I finally boxed up the majority of our toys. . .my kids enjoy playing with garbage more 🙂 recycled boxes, plastic containers and whatever else is the plaything of the day.

    1. worldschooladventures says:

      My kids love the garbage too! Much of our crafting comes out of the recycle bin 🙂

      I remember we were in Vietnam and there was a group of boys playing with a toy car. Upon closer inspection I realized the car was carved out of a few sweet potatoes and the wheels were held on with small sticks. Now that is creativity!

      1. @TheBigBreak says:

        When we were in poor area in Central America, my boys asked me why the local kids were playing soccer with just a empty plastic coke bottle…. Wow, Amy, talk about a Worldschool lesson I couldn’t have gotten out of any texbook, huh?

        1. worldschooladventures says:

          What a lesson! Love it! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Vesna says:

    Yes!! We did this last year on a three week trip to Europe…no toys and three young boys. When we came home to our MacMansion it took me two months to sell/give away every last toy. I could not believe how much had accumulated! Since becoming nomadic in Jan., we have taken with us only lego, some cars and lota of books. That is all they’ve had for the last 9 months of travel. And is all they need! They too fight over sticks and rocks and get lost in nature for hours. Love love love it! Keep up the awesomeness!

  4. Vesna says:

    Ha! I meant ‘lots’ of books not ‘lota’! Touch screen keyboards and clumsy fingers… :))

  5. TheBigBreak says:

    My friend swears that boys have a “stick wielding” gene, and after having two boys of my own, I have to agree. It is amazing how well boredom, imagination and nature can create a whole story for my two boys. It is so fun to watch!

    1. worldschooladventures says:

      There is a stick wielding gene because they all just know and are so drawn to sticks! Boys are strange, strange creatures 🙂

  6. Lisa Wood says:

    Good to read about another family who do not need technology to have fun! We have five boys, and we like to see them play outside. We dont have a DS, computer games, Wii, Playstation or even a TV!! We believe that getting back to nature is what is important for our family. What ever happened to having fun with camping? What ever happened to kids enjoying life?
    I get that we want to spoil our kids and give them what we never had, but surely spending time and loving them is better then providing their own tents and their own game to play against each other!! I agree with your style of camping, and I also dont like to judge parents, but sometimes parents need to let our kids be kids!


    1. worldschooled says:

      So true. I am not anti technology for the kids but do believe there is a time and a place for it. And the time and place is not in the woods!!!!!

  7. with2kidsintow says:

    Great article! At the start of our 1yr backpacking trip, i packed our 3 & 5yr old a few ‘small’ toys: a polly pocket doll, a pocket ‘barbie’ doll, a couple of diecast cars, and i can’t remember what else, but it was small. they hardly played with any of it, so we ended up sending it home 4 months later. but our kids have never been attached to toys, even at home. instead, now they pick up discarded stuff like plastic bottles, small containers and plastic spoons to play with at the beach (we make them find proper waste bins to deposit them in when they’re done)–it’s amazing how sufficient these are for them. instead of dress ups, they now use sarongs and tie them in imaginative ways, like as Indian sarees, or as skirts, or dresses. in india recently, they started picking up discarded fabric remnants and used them to fashion clothes for their teddies (oh yeah, they each brought their favourite from home along). there is so much ‘wasted raw material’ around us that can be put to good use (acutually, my hubby is an expert at using recycled materials). of course, the ipod and DVD player also come in handy for a bit of ‘downtime’ too!

    1. worldschooled says:

      That is awesome! Kids are more inventive then we give them credit for. We give them all these toys that are single purpose and don’t let them explore with their imagination, but when left to their own devices they make their own fun with what is on hand. Thanks for taking the time to comment! I am pretty sure we will be bringing the favourite stuffs, some lego, art supplies and that is about it! (and of course the iPod :))

  8. Annie@GreenTravelReviews says:

    Way too many times we do indeed value things over experiences, feelings and people… The older I get, the more I feel this. Thanks for sharing this!

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