by: Kimberly Bowman

When babies are born they need warmth, sustenance and love. These three things along with their tangential cousins like guidance, patience and a little induced angst, are the main ingredients for cultivating a human being. Garishly colored talking toys which enter your home in their Trojan Horse packaging and multiply while you sleep will not come to your aid when Her Royal Highness needs her pants changed or demands lunch. They will trip you and induce a simmering headache as they serenade you throughout the day with their special, cloying version of the ABC song. Of course, you can sing that all by yourself for free.

Give a child a fantastic toy and they’ll have the most fun with the box, wrapping paper and ribbons. It is all in the packaging, literally. Toys and getting presents is fun. Birthdays and holidays would not feel as loaded with anticipation if it weren’t for all those gorgeous packages and their secret contents promising never-ending joy. Like the six pound bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips from Sam’s Club, moderation is the key.

Children learn very early that excitement is to be had from parties and presents and spending money. It is a heady feeling to get something you want. There is not a thing wrong with it except when it gets out of hand. Unfortunately, toys and the stuff kids accumulate almost always does. We quickly get hooked to the adrenalin rush of “getting” but learning to deny a desire is a harder lesson to learn. Helping children understand the wisdom of denial in some situations and letting go in others is part of our job.

Allowing children to spend their own money provides the experience of decision making. If they may spend only $5, you will see them ponder how to get the most of it, even before you explain the concept. Ask leading questions and talk about negotiation or launch the savings and allowances discussion.

At home, cull toys on a regular basis. Get the kids involved. They won’t notice when the Kid’s Meal detritus disappears but you can bet they’ll ask for that blasted pink plastic dinosaur you tossed two months ago. Teach your budding shopper about blessing others through donation of their once loved but now lonely toys. Consumerism is inevitable but helping your child temper it with the lessons of letting go, denial and the value of their hard earned cash will carry them through life and right past the mall.