By Joseph Sacks, LCSW
As I have said elsewhere, a generous amount of happiness for children is not a frivolous desire, a privilege or even a right, it is a deep and fundamental need. Growing up without enough happiness, joy and pleasure actually generates emotional illness! It is our job as parents to provide that happiness daily, in doses wisely administered at specific intervals when needed. Never fear that making a child happy will spoil him or her! The opposite is true, not enough happiness and unfulfilled emotional needs drives them to act spoiled in a desperate effort to fulfill them. See my important post: How not to spoil your child, here.
Therefore regarding the topic of buying kids toys, I have invented a concept called “Emergency Toys”.
It is a great tool for conveniently injecting happiness into your child’s day, saving him from emotional distress and damage, preventing tantrums and misbehavior, removing a load or stress off the parents’ shoulders, and creating and excellent bond between parent and child. Such a bond is the most important thing in any child’s life, and a toy is a small price to pay to earn it!
Buying kids toys is well worth the effort!
Emergency toys involves spending some money and especially time, browsing through toy stores and online finding just the right inexpensive, appropriate toys which will capture each child’s heart. You need to know your customer and just what he will appreciate at a particular stage in his development. Never take the child shopping for toys. It is too painful for him to see so many things when he can only have a few. Instead, ask him what he likes and go shopping by yourself, but the real trick is to put yourself into the mind of the child and imagine what he would like. Purchase 5 or 10 toys but don’t let the children know about it! Keep them hidden in a secret place at home. When you see that your child is stressed, bored, disappointed, unhappy, frustrated, or just getting on your nerves, present him with a well-placed, lovingly given, emergency toy. Give him the smaller, less impressive ones first. Don’t let him see them and let him pick out the one he wants, as that will reduce the value of the other ones in his eyes. You pick out the one you think he needs the most at the moment. Toys need to be given in order of increasing fanciness. Let’s say your 3 year old has never gotten many toy cars in the past, and you are ready to explore that category of gifts. Start by giving him the most simple toy cars, and gradually each time, present him with toys of increasing features and sophistication, so that every time the toy will thrill him and you will generate the greatest possible happiness and regularly fulfill his emotional needs, that is the goal! But if you suddenly get him a very fancy toy this will lead him to not be happy with lesser toys and your goal will be frustrated. That is why I recommend giving less toys all at once at holiday time, and rather giving kids toys gradually all year. This way you get much more emotional benefit for your money.
Never fear you’re being too kind!
I recommend at least one new toy every two weeks, provided the child appreciates them and gets good use out of them. If he doesn’t appreciate them it may be a sign he’s getting too much, but much more commonly it’s because the choice of toy was inappropriate. Toys for children are like clothes for a woman, they must have new ones regularly. Never say, “He has a roomful of toys, he doesn’t need new ones” because he needs to refresh his collection periodically. One trick with younger children is to remove toys he is bored with and hide them for six months and then present them to him again and then he will love them like new toys. In addition you can have toys only taken out for bath time to encourage him to bathe.
Never feel that if you give and emergency toy to one child, that you must give one to the other as well. As I’ve spoken about in my blogs on sibling rivalry, emergency toys only go to a child who needs it. Fair is when you fulfill everyone’s needs fully. If only one child is stressed then only he may need an emergency toy. The other will see when you explain to him that he will also get toys when his time of need arises. The other one may have his needs fulfilled by something else such as attention or a snack. It could be that at sometimes they’re both stressed and they both need a toy. Over the long run if they both are getting their needs for happiness fulfilled generously they will not complain.
Sometimes a child may ask for a toy, but if you see that he doesn’t need it too terribly you can say no for the time being and reassure him that he will get one some other time.
A well placed emergency toy is a great relief to a parent as it occupies the child and gives the parent a break. They should always be toys he can assemble and deal with by himself. You deserve a respite and emergency toys buys you just that.
Giving toys creates a tremendous bond between parent and child. The child learns to associate the pleasure of the toy with the parent herself, and it generates great love. Fulfilling a child’s emotional needs on a regular basis is the most important and often overlooked job of a parent. Emergency toys does just that.
Feel free to peruse my interesting blog, the specialties on my website, or download on of my informative free reports. If you are experiencing challenges buying kids toys, and would like guidance or treatment from a child therapist in lower Manhattan, you may call me at 646-681-1707 for a free 15-minute consultation. I look forward to speaking with you!