Finding a balance: how much is too much?

I was so concerned before Gabriel was born that Briar wouldn’t like him. I feared she would be jealous and we’d have some sibling rivalry to manage. Instead, Briar is utterly obsessed with her Baby Gabe and wants to be involved with his every moment.

Sometimes Briar’s obsession with her beloved baby brother can actually put one of them at risk. Briar tries to help in so many unhelpful ways. From poking him in the face; “Look mummy. I made him wake up!” to swinging him around in his hammock so his peaceful rest place is more like that awful orange Sponge Bob ride at Seaworld. Haven’t been on it? Here, follow this link to experience the vomit-inducing motions that kids call fun!

Her love for him is to be embraced and encouraged, I can’t think of anything better than siblings who are close. So whilst we encourage her interest in her Baby Gabe, there are times when we have to step in to ward of disaster. Briar currently has a terrible habit of climbing up on the change table to talk to Gabriel whilst we change his nappy, and yesterday this resulted in a fall that has left an awful yellow bruise on her face. So this evening we went to Ikea to get Briar a step stool so she can safely stand up beside the change table and talk to Baby Gabe.

Briar just loves shopping and her joy is immensely increased when she gets her own mini shopping trolley. She had the best time wheeling her trolley around Ikea, never mind the melt down that occured when I had to pry her away from the children’s section.

As we passed this bed, Briar declared she’d found “Mema’s Bed”. I find it intriguing that this was the bed allocated to Mema, as her Mema actually does love bright colours just like this bedding. Briar seems to pick up details such as this about people, it’s quite uncanny. When Mema saw the video, she agreed that she loved the bedding!

A few weeks ago Briar ran into our room spinning a big pink umbrella. “Look at me mummy,” she called out. “I’m Gran!” Anyone who knows Briar’s Gran Liz Doble may notice that Liz wears mostly pink! Briar doesn’t miss a beat.

As usual, when we reached the children’s section, Briar made a beeline for the kitchen playsets.

Briar played happily with the kitchen play sets for over 45 minutes. She adores the Ikea kitchen playsets and has asked for one repeatedly. The problem being, Briar has just so many toys already.

Our house is already very cluttered and the open plan kitchen, lounge and dining room mean that unless all surfaces are completely clear, our house can look messy very fast. With a whirlwind toddler, a currently clingy baby that doesn’t want to be put down, four dogs, two cats and a husband working 7 days a week many weeks, keeping the house spotless is utterly impossible.

So at this stage we’ve resisted the purchase of a kitchen set for Briar, despite her pleading. There’s a tacky plastic kitchen set in the Cry Room at church that Briar plays with, but its the wooden Ikea kitchens that light up the spark in her eyes.

I do suspect Briar could have played for hours however I had started to worry about Warwick and Gabriel as we’d lost them back in the stool section and my phone had no battery. I was envisioning Gabe screaming for me and Warwick frantically searching.

I was sure Warwick would come to the kids section, as that’s where we’d met up on another occasion where we became seperated in Ikea. But as the minutes ticked by and there was no sign of my boys, I started second guessing myself and wondered if Warwick had gone back to the car.

And so I had the awful task of coaxing a two year old to leave the play area. Even my suggestions of “Finding daddy and Baby Gabe” couldn’t soften the blow and I found myself carrying a wailing toddler through Ikea whilst trying to push that darn children’s trolley. Briar was reaching her arms behind us, sobbing and screaming “My kitchen, my kitchen…”

As a parent, it leads to the question of “how many toys are too many?” I have several mum friends who want their kids to never go without and buy every toy imaginable, but they tend to be those mums with bigger houses than ours and a dedicated play room. Whilst I’d love to set up a play room for Briar and Gabe, we physically don’t have the space right now so instead our main living area seems to spew toys.

When I set up our playspace for baby Briar, I had the idea of a Montessori theme. What we have no is anything but. Montesossi’s approach to play things strives towards simplicity and allowing children to learn through exploration and imaginative play.

The Montessori philosophy to toys involves a few key principals:

– Minimal plastic. Wood, books and natural materials are desired.

– Toys are simple. No flashing lights or electronic music.

– No cartoon characters, allowing children to create their own stories.

– No cluttered toy boxes. Too many options can overwhelm a child so fewer toys is best.

When I look at my original toy choices for newborn Briar, I tried so hard to stick to these principals. But balance must be found, particularly when gifts are given. Briar’s grandparents gifted her a colourful playmat with flashing lights and singing toys and little baby Briar was enchanted. The only way we could calm her from screaming throughout car rides was the “Car Chameleon”; a plastic lizard that wrapped around the car seat and played soothing music and softly changed colours. Briar’s favourite toys are her plastic dollies, with their big bright eyes and their realistic form. She adores a fluro pink toy cat which makes loud Meows when you squeeze its paw.

So we stumble along, following her lead. How can you remove items that bring such delight or comforting calm. Her imagination is vivid and wild and adventurous and fun. We might have failed in the eyes of Steiner education and Montessori devotees, but we play, we laugh and our imaginations grow.

I’m sure one day we’ll get Briar that Ikea kitchen she pines for.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s