Linking up with Jenna.
I love reading blogs and articles that give ideas for making your home beautiful. Having an uncluttered, beautiful home is very important to me. At the end of the day, when I glance at our tidied living room...it gives me peace. I feel so peaceful seeing the little lovely things that make up our home.
We try to expose our daughters to beauty, as much as we can. Our family goes for drives in the country. We go for hikes, and trips to nature preserves and botanical gardens. And we are also mindful of our home environment, especially toys.
Because beautiful things - even beautiful toys! - can help your child get to heaven.
Wait, what? What do toys have to do with getting to heaven (other than avoiding really inappropriate or violent toys)? Everything.
Beauty matters. It just does. And beauty points us to heaven. How does this apply to toys? Here's five points to keep in mind...
1. Beautiful toys can make your home a peaceful place.
Don't get me wrong - we definitely have noisy toys, complete with flashing lights. But even those toys are kind of simple looking. We try not to have things in our homes that are too visually overwhelming. We try to have things that are simple colors and patterns. I am definitely a highly sensitive person when it comes to visual stimuli (I find Anne's description of this very helpful). If I walk into the room and don't find the colors and patterns too overwhelming, I know that it probably isn't too overwhelming for my girls, either.
Why does this matter? Because simple, peaceful beauty points the way to God. Have you ever driven through the mountains? Or sat on a beach at sunset? Or gone for a walk in the woods? When we find ourselves in a beautiful place, surrounded by beautiful things, it raises our hearts heavenward. As members of the Church, we are called to make holy all that we touch - to see in everything an opportunity to grow closer to God, especially the material world. Material things are good, if we allow them to point us to the Maker of all things beautiful. Seem a bit lofty a purpose for your dollhouse? Maybe it is. But part of raising our children in the faith is helping them to see that beauty matters and that God works through the material world to nudge our hearts to Him.
2. Less cluttered play areas open up other space, too.
I think part of what makes the toys in our home so beautiful is that there aren't very many of them out at a time. And the ones that are out and in rotation all have a specific place. When Therese was a toddler, I discover Montessori and fell in love with simple, uncluttered spaces for little ones. I try to keep the clutter in their spaces to a minimum (an on-going battle). I favor a few simple toys on open shelves, rather than lots of toy bins. There are exceptions to this (like their dress-up bin) but that's what I aim for.
Why does it matter? Because the less clutter there is in your life, the more silence there is. The less we have to clutter our line of sight, our minds, our hearts, the more room there is for God. Also, I hope that not having a ton of toys out at a time (although the girls are by no means deprived of toys) helps them to be more content with less. I doubt that I've achieved that with them yet (mainly because I get restless and am always looking for new things to add to their space) but that is a long term goal of mine.
3. Beautiful toys don't have to be fancy.
You all know that I am not anti-plastic toys. And if you didn't know already, you probably learned from this week's vlog that we buy most of our toys secondhand or rely on gifts. If you could see my Amazon wishlist, you would know that there are tons of gorgeous, wooden toys that I have drooled over. Sometimes I'll find a toy that is gorgeous and I ask for it for a birthday or Christmas. Sometimes, someone gets the girls a gorgeous toy that I I never would have thought to ask for. But sometimes, I'm in a thrift store and I spot something for a couple dollars that is beautiful and still has a lot of play left in it. And sometimes I snatch something wooden and unpainted from Hobby Lobby, and turn it into a plaything. And sometimes, I find something beautiful and inexpensive on Craigslist. The point is - your toys don't all have to come from a certain brand or be made of a certain material in order to be beautiful. God has provided for us in some lovely and unexpected ways, and I snag the best secondhand finds when I leave it in His hands. At some point, I started making it a habit to go to daily Mass before hitting up Saturday morning garage sales, and it revolutionized how I shopped and browsed. That's another post entirely. :-)
Why does it matter? Because materials goods aren't everything. I know, I just told you how material goods can point us to God - but it's important to remember that material goods aren't gods. Obvious, right? Maybe I'm the only one guilty of drooling over all the latest trends in toys and thinking I need to have it all right now but that kind of attitude lacks trust. It says that life is a game and she who dies with the most toys wins. But we know that's not true, don't we? Having beautiful things isn't everything, and sometimes haven't beautiful toys that have a few chips in them or that came to your family through the generosity of others is a good thing. It reminds us that life isn't perfect, and we can't buy our happiness.
4. Beauty in NOT just in the eye of the beholder.
I could write a book on this point. Beauty is a real, objective thing. It's not just in the eye of the beholder. There is such a thing as objective beauty, and it's not just a matter of opinion. Whether or not our idea of "beautiful" is properly formed affects whether or not we can recognize what true beauty is. Have you read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe? Edmund starts craving the White Witch's turkish delight, and even though it's junk, it ruins his taste for what is truly good to eat. We have to train our tastes to recognize what is good and beautiful! This isn't an original concept, but one that is woven throughout our Church's tradition.
Why does this matter? Because we have the unique opportunity to form our children in their perception of what is beautiful. By exposing them to things that are beautiful, we help them to recognize what is beautiful. If they grow up accustomed to seeing dolls dressed trashy (I'm not going to link to anything here, but I am thinking of several brands of dolls out there that are highly inappropriate for young girls and weren't around when I was growing up) then they will grow up with the mistaken notion that that is beauty. If they grow up playing violent video games, then they will think that that is what is good and admirable. But if they grow up with simple, classic toys - things like Legos/Duplos, blocks, balls, dolls, trains, puzzles, musical toys (even ones with flashing lights and loud sounds!), cars, trucks, play food and kitchens - then it trains them to see those things as what is good and enjoyable. It trains them, in a very fundamental part of their lives to expect beauty.
5. Beautiful toys don't have to be religious.
We do have some beautiful religious toys. But, you'll notice, only one is pictured here. (I'm looking at you, Our Lady of Guadalupe!) Simply put, something does not have to be religious to lead you to God. This is true of anything (which is why good, Catholic literature is not just religious stories) even toys. Our goal is not to take out or minimize everything that is not explicitly religious in the world. Material things that are not religious are not bad. They don't have to distract us from God. God is the source of all that is good and beautiful.
Why does it matter? Because, our faith is not in opposition to the material world. One of my favorite teachings of the Church is that of the resurrection/glorification of the body. We believe that, one day, our bodies will be glorified. Our bodies are not just distractions from holiness, trying to hold us back and chain us down. (Pretty sure that's a heresy.) Our bodies are made to be holy. The world is fallen, but it is in need of redemption. As Paul reminds us in Romans, "...for creation was made subject to futility...in hope that creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption." (source - scroll down to verse 20) God created everything to be good and it is sin that has corrupted things. Part of the work of redemption is taking all that is material and giving it back to God. God, by becoming man, showed us that material things are good (hence why He had a physical body and wasn't just a spirit floating around, which is another heresy). It is the Incarnation (i.e. God becoming flesh) that shows us that even simple things like toys can be good and lead us to heaven.