The other morning, I used up a tray of eggs.
I cut a row off the carton and told Asher it was for the Hippo's food - which is, obviously, Cheerios.
He played with that thing for a solid half an hour.
Turns out the tray was really for *his* food - he ate all the cheerios and the babka I put in it afterwards.
So, after serving double duty as a toy and as a little plate, I just threw it out.
Because it was FREE.
Which was awesome.
We also regularly sweep the house and playroom, gather a box of toys in which the kids are disinterested, or have never taken interest, and donate them.
On the Jewish front, we've recently ended the Passover season, and moved into the period of time where we remember the journey from Egypt to Sinai. Many commentaries discuss the drastic change that the Israelites went through when they left Egypt. They had homes, they had a reliable food source, and they had stuff. (They also complained about the loss of that stuff quite frequently according to the Torah.)
A large part of the Passover experience is commemorating, and appreciating, that our ancestors who left Egypt could take nothing with them. All they had was matzah they could bake quickly, and what they and their animals could carry. In this season, where we count down the days of their journey from slavery (leaving Egypt) to freedom (receiving the Torah at Sinai) we are, in yet another way, forced to remember what's really important - family, community, our shared experience, and faith in something larger than ourselves that will ultimately supply everything we need.
This is a Jewish attitude that stretches from Passover throughout the rest of the year. It translates to a focus on recognizing how rich we are in what we already have. One small way we begin to cultivate that attitude in our children is by minimizing the importance of toys, and highlighting our own creativity and time together. For two-year-olds, I think converting an egg carton into a hippo trough is a decent place to start.
Crystal over at www.moneysavingmom.com recently started a series of posts on this topic called "Dealing With Toy Overload." Check it out here for more reading about why your kids don't really need (more) toys, and how to deal with the ridiculous amount they already have.