Recently, a mom in a school group I lurk in asked, “If a toy my child loves starts to break, should I replace it or just let it break and encourage him to find a new favorite?” I think it’s a valuable question, especially in a society where we have so much and replacing an item is often an easy option. When is it appropriate to let a toy go and when should you consider replacing it? There are a few variables that are worth considering.
Is this a comfort item? If so, it’s probably got a lot of emotional value for the child and simply buying a new one won’t be the same. In fact, it could cause a worse meltdown than allowing the toy to fade away.
How much does it cost and how easy is it to procure? If it’s an expensive item and your child already has plenty of toys, it’s worth considering directing them to some of their other playthings. You’re not made of money and kids shouldn’t expect that they can always get another one. On the flip side, if it’s not expensive and easy to obtain, then there may not be any harm.
Does it provide value to you? Is this an item that keeps them engaged for a long period of time and offers you some peace and quiet? What price do you put on that? If it helps you retain your sanity and it makes them happy, click the buy now button!
Level up: Toys are always learning tools. Without fail, they teach or encourage a skill. Is your little one on the cusp of outgrowing or mastering the skill it teaches? If so, what is the next skill level? Maybe you should present a new challenge?
If It’s time to let the item go, it could be difficult for your child. While it doesn’t require a full-on funeral, this is still a loss, especially if they are emotionally invested in the item. This parting moment could feel intense for them. Here are a few suggestions that might make the transition easier for your little one.
Let them talk about their feelings: But don’t dwell on it. Sharing why they love something and how it makes them sad to say goodbye is normal and healthy. Encourage them to share their feelings and then help them redirect that energy into something new. This sets a good blueprint for future losses of a more significant nature.
Set a timeline: If they aren’t quite ready to let go of their stuffie even though it’s missing an eye, an arm, and half its fluff, give them a chance to adjust to the idea. Let them know that in one week it will be time to say goodbye. Remind them each night and if a visual aid is helpful, set a countdown calendar. Children, like most humans, just need to know what is going to happen. Having a plan will make the separation easier.
Set the goodbye and the hello: Goodbye to one thing means hello to something else, so schedule the goodbye for right before a fun event. “Tomorrow you will say goodbye to stuffie and then we will go to your friend’s birthday party!” This teaches them that things and feelings are transient and letting go of something old makes room for something new to enter your life.