Saturday, August 11, 2012

Moving Across the World: Toys

Alright.  Now, where did we leave off in this Moving Across the World bit?  Those decisions of what to get rid of, and what to keep.  Are you worn out yet from all the decisions?  Ha! Oh and if you are just joing us you can jump over here and read the first in this Moving Across the World Series

One of the hardest areas for me was figuring out what to do with all the kids’ toys.  It was one thing for me to get rid of my stuff, but to get rid of their stuff…well, that was a completely different matter.  And how do you pack for a year or two or three at a time when kids grow and change? Sigh.  Yep, it’s a big challenge.
Eventually I came up with a criteria for toys.  If they could be played with at multiple ages and stages, we brought them.  I brought things that required imagination and not batteries, that could be played with in a variety of ways, and stuff that was their current favorite.  I didn’t bring all the little McDonald’s toys or  dollar store toys  but quality stuff.

We ended up with Duplos, wooden trains and their tracks, matchbox cars (that used the same track), wooden food and dishes, Little People, and some musical instruments.  For our family, these were all really good choices.  Our boys were just 4 and 2 ½ when we left for the year of language school.  These things all grew with them and they enjoyed them all that year, and they still play with them.

Even though our kids were little, we talked about this all with them.  There were some things that we had to leave, like their little table and chairs, some of the dress up clothes and their  little kitchen, but we talked about how other kids would get to play with them and how it’s good to share.  We also asked them what they wanted to bring and let them bring something that seemed silly to us, but to them it was important at the time.

 And because I find things like this helpful to help me gauge, we brought two suitcases of toys.  Now, I will say, those suitcases also had the plastic storage bins for the toys in them as well.  And yes, for Costa Rica that was a great choice. Plastic bins and whatnot are quite pricey there.    

And this is a good time to say again, what works for us, may not work for you.  Your family might need to bring five suitcases of toys, or you may only need one.  You aren’t more spiritual one way or the other, this is simply about what your family needs to be sane on the field.  I often pray because I am utterly overwhelmed as I look at the suitcases, “Lord, give me wisdom on how to pack us all up.  And He is faithful  to give that wisdom.  For which I am very grateful!


  1. This would be such challenging and emotional decision like you mentioned! We headed overseas when our youngest was less than a year, so the initial move was easy for us (she didn't have much attachment to many toys and we just hadn't bought many since we knew we were moving), but now the issue arises when we are on furlough. We try our best to borrow toys or to have toys that are specifically to be enjoyed on trips in the US, so that helps us. Other than that, I think my criteria is sentimental, then "things we can't buy in Russia," and then educational. Amie, who reads here and who contributed to the other Missionary Moms blog is getting ready for their departure to South Sudan, and it has been so interesting to hear how they've gone through the process of saying goodbye to toys. It gives me a lot of admiration for you women who go through the added challenge of leaving when kids have already formed attachments to things and people in the US. Your sacrifice is inspiring and so very encouraging! Thanks for this post! I know so many people face this issue!

  2. I'm thinking my life is just about to get more complicated in this area after two girls close in age who like all the same things (mostly till now!), we now have a boy...

    Our practice so far has been at each move to encourage and supervise the girls choosing toys to give away to friends (to help remember each other)and/or to local charities (to help children with less). We also aim to only buy/keep toys that will be used over a long period of time in many flexible ways.

  3. We took toys that my kids played with every single day. Anything that was played with every oce in a while, was left in the states.

    This meant we took:
    Matchbox cars
    Nintendo ds
    Board games (we took these out of the boxes and put them in ziplock bags to save room
    A couple of computer games

    We found that we used all of our choices (though we did pare down the matchbox cars after a couple of years my boys are 11 and 13 now).

    This time when we go back I will be looking to take back any kind of legos or other builders. We have found them to be the most versatile toys.

    I will also bring some puzzles because my daughter LOVES them and they are hard to come by where we live.

  4. We didn't have children when we first moved, so we didn't bring toys then. What we've asked for at birthdays is the same as some of what you moved with, though: wooden trains and Duplos! Other things I'd really like to look into are a quality doll and doll accessories for each of our girls and board games for everyone.

  5. We moved from Canada to Madagascar with 4 children 5 years and under! We brought similar things; LittlePeople, lots and lots of LEGO, Thomas wooden train tracks, cars, and stuffed animals and babies. Anything that could be broken down and fit into small spaces and travel easily.
    Blessings from Madagascar

  6. when we left for language school i was pregnant with #4 - the oldest was 4. we tried to take way too much with us, partly because of grandparents, aunts and uncles that were showering grandkids, nieces and nephews with stuff because they were going to miss birthdays, Christmases, etc. it was really, really hard. we have gotten better about saying - that's a great gift; can you store if for us while we are overseas... and eventually family got the idea. it is hard, though, when someone's love language is giving.

    we now have 8 kids, we have the matchbox cars, little green army men, plastic animals and figures, beannie babies, Thomas the tank train, legoes already overseas. Each child is allowed to pack one suitcase with stuff special to them, their clothes, etc. In some ways, gifts are easier with bigger kids - an ITunes card, a book or movie to download, etc. But we've also learned that they don't need as much as we'd always been accustomed to and that lizards, red velvet mites, ant lions, goats, kittens, toads, baby birds and lots of sand - all of which are easily available here - were often preferred over all those other toys.

  7. We are right in the middle of this process right now. I am so glad I came across your blog. It is so helpful to hear that other people are experiencing the same issues.
    We are planning on bringing lots of Leggos, and I am excited to see they just came out with some new duplo legos with "girly' themes. We also are taking some play food and play kitchen stuff. I think the hardest toy to sell was my girls' play kitchen. My girls are almost 4 and 19 months. I am taking one of the small fisher price bins that makes a little stove top for them to play with. Also, some babies and musical instruments and puzzles. I experimented the other day and was excited to find that almost all of their toys fit into ONE action packer. I just dumped the leggos in to fill up empty space :).
    Someone bought us an IPad for my husband to use to put medical books on. My four year old LOVES playing games on it and you can find a lot of educational apps to put on it too. Hoping this will help keep her entertained on the long plane rides.

    1. oh so glad this was a help! And how great that stuff fit into one Action Packer!!

    2. Please elaborate on the Action Packer--or is there a blog that tells what size you have used, and how well it holds up to air travel?

    3. The standard action packer is the one we used. They held up really really well to air travel. Hope that helps! Oh, and here's a post more about packing and what we pack in