Most of the children’s books that I write relate to social issues. One of the worries that I have when writing these types of books is that my message will come across as too preachy to the parents and kids that read them.
So, I try to poke fun without poking fingers. This can be a very difficult task, especially when some of the issues that I address are not a laughing matter. It takes sensitivity and creativeness to write about serious topics for children. I like to provide valid and important information all while using just a smidge of comic relief so the child reader and their parent will still be entertained.
My latest project is called Too Many Things! This picture book is a glimpse at one contemporary family’s consumerism. It’s no surprise that this topic pokes fun at the consumer(s) in the family-the parents.
I do however also want the child reader to understand my message about why mindful shopping is important and be able to grasp the concepts of needs versus wants. Even further, I would hope that parents will discuss with their kids, positive solutions towards balancing excessive consumerism, such that are outlined in the book.
On that note, the issue of excessive consumerism in our society is becoming a growing concern. It’s obvious to me, when I look around my own house and notice all the too many things that I have collected over the years.
Not to mention the over filled homes I’ve been in of my neighbors, the stuff around the outside of other people’s houses in the towns and cities around me, and the houses I see on television and in the media. Not to be too dramatic, but everywhere I look lately there seems to be massive accumulations and collections of things.
Housing people in America is a whole other topic, but I think by gaining insight into the cost and size of people’s homes and their income level, this helps us understand why people are driven to fill their homes. Also, how they have the ability to spend money on their house things.
So, what does the average American spend their money on?
Too Many Things!
Because I write for and about kids, I focused my research on what kid things American parents fill their homes with.
A consumer survey report based on the amount spent by U.S. homeowners on furniture and decor for their kid's bedroom in 2016 revealed that “25 percent of respondents spent up to $500 on furniture and decor for their kid's bedroom.”
Psychology Today found that “Americans spend more on shoes, jewelry, and watches ($100 billion) than on higher education.”
According to USA Today, “Half of American homes have three or more TVs and only 19% have just one.”
“The average American family spends $1,700 on clothes annually,” states Forbes magazine. Yet, The Huffington Post found that “the average American throws away 65 pounds of clothing per year.”
What I really found interesting was our nation’s tendency for toy clutter.
According to a new study by the Toy Industry Association, “parents will spend $6500 dollars on toys over the child’s lifetime.” Also, “the average home has 71 toys with a fifth of them having over 100 and a tenth having over 200.”
Wow. That’s a lot of toys!
An excerpt from an article I found by Anne Bromley (University of Virginia Communications Analyst) could explain why parents buy the toys.
She found that “both affluent and low-income parents disliked the pressure they felt to buy the most popular gifts for their kids; affluent parents were worried about giving in to materialism, while low-income parents knew that popular items cost money they would prefer to spend on household essentials. In both cases, however, they usually ended up buying the most-desired toys anyway, because of a social process that defines children’s desires as essentials for their everyday lives. Both sets of parents bought popular items and experiences to ensure their children “belong” to their social group.”
That’s sad. So in some cases, are parents buying toys for their kids so the kids will feel like they belong? What are we teaching these kids? That they need material things to be loved and accepted?
Today Moms and Parenting.com online survey of 6,000 parents found that, “three-quarters of us think our children are a little or a lot spoiled. Almost 60 percent of us think our children are more spoiled than we were as kids.”
By the looks of it, most American homes don’t have much more room to fill with more things. Besides, aren't these extra things just being thrown away at some point anyways?
Honestly, our children can do without more stuff. We all can. Not to mention the fact that some of us can’t really afford to spend as much as we do on our things.
Don’t you think it’s about time we stop getting so much of, become more aware of, condense most of, and start giving away some of our too many things?
Tracy Bryan is an award-winning Indie author. She writes whimsical books for kids ages 4-12. She likes to tackle important and diverse topics that affect kids and their families.
Tracy’s debut fiction picture book with illustrator David Barrow is called Put Away Your Phone! . They are currently working on their next book together called Too Many Things! due to be out in January 2017!