Getting rid of toys is a continual process in our house. I can think of less than 5 toys we have actually bought for our children; the rest seem to flow in through a steady stream of birthday gifts and donations.
I’m a big proponent of creative play, so while toys are certainly not banned from our house, I’ve discovered that even in this realm, less is more. I’ve found that the less toys our children have to play with, the more creative they become with the ones they have. We’ve purged hundreds of toys from our home, and always pare down to the “basics” – classic toys that withstand the test of time and use by multiple children of multiple ages.
I’ve also learned that “toys” aren’t usually the things our kids get the most enjoyment out of. They prefer to play with household items that serve more than one purpose; bed sheets become tents and teepees, boxes become cages, the piano bench becomes a kitchen table, stainless steel mixing bowls and wooden spoons become drum sets, chairs arranged in a certain become a defense wall, and crayons inserted in Mega Blocks become miniature canons.
You’re not damaging your child by trimming down an absence amount of toys: you’re broadening their imagination, putting a reign feelings of entitlement, and encouraging cooperation and sharing with other siblings.
Some people have expressed surprise at the seeming lack of toys in our house. The pictures below are of our toy room. I suppose it looks like we don’t have many when they’re all put away, but I can assure you that when they’re all over the floor, it’s hard to find a place to walk that doesn’t leave you writhing in pain.
Our five kids are currently under age ten. The things they like to play with will undoubtedly change as they grow and mature, so our list might look very different than what would work for your family. The point is still the same: less toys = more creativity, more social interaction and cooperation, more enjoyment of the things they have, less feelings of entitlement.
If getting rid of toys in your house sounds as appealing as it does daunting, perhaps the following list will give you a good starting point as you decide what to keep and what to toss. Try disposing of toys that are:
- broken, flimsy, dried out, torn, or otherwise better off in the trash
- require batteries to operate
- easily bored of (Like this Little People Car Garage, for instance. We had one child enjoy it for a while before tiring of its single function.)
- not appropriate for indoor use (holes in the walls from miniature croquet balls are no joke!)
- contain hundreds of small parts that are easily lost (Lego bricks are the exception to this in our house.)
- a very bad invention (Bunchems fit into this category. It’s like giving your child a bag of burs to stick in their hair! If you want a laugh – or maybe a cry? – read the reviews.)
- not played with enough to warrant the space they take up
- duplicates (We really don’t need 10 stuffies for each child in our house, or 9 dolls for 3 girls.)
- conflict with family standards (This will look different for everyone, but certain kids of dress up clothes, plastic weaponry, Bratz dolls, or Barbies, etc. may not be conducive to the ideals you want to teach your children.)
That should leave you with toys that fall into one or more of the following categories:
- enjoyed by multiple ages
- in good condition
- have multiple uses or configurations
- easy to clean up or store
- stimulate the imagination
The toys our children gravitate towards the most are:
- Lego Bricks
- plastic animals
- Toob figurines
- our dollhouse and its accessories
- Mega Blocks
- doll strollers
- stuffed animals
- dress up clothes
- plastic play kitchen food
- dinky cars
- rubber balls
They would love a quality toy like Playmobil, too, but since its expensive and would take a while to grow, they’d rather expand their Lego and Toob collections. Most of the toys we have can be stored inside the 12 plastic bins of our toy storage organizer. The idea is that one bucket gets removed at a time, played with, and put back before taking something else out, but let’s be honest: that almost never happens. 😉 The kids enjoy having each kind of toy separated into its own bin though. It makes it easy for them to kind what they’re looking for, and helps enforce some semblance of organization when it’s time to put everything away.
Bulkier items like dolls and dress up clothes are stored in a Rubbermaid tote (no Pinterest points here, but it does the job!), and the dollhouse and doll strollers are parked along the wall.
We’ve tried multiple ways of organizing and storing Lego. I’ve tried separating the bricks by color, kind, and kit, but they invariably get mixed together. Having all of our Lego bricks stored together in a single, under the bed tote seems to be working the best for us.
It’s long and shallow enough that the kids don’t have dig for an eternity to find the piece they’re looking for, multiple children can use the bucket at the same time, it’s easy to transport to another room, and it can be stored out of the way under our son’s bed.
Our kids also love to play board games, craft, and read for entertainment, but I don’t include boxed games, art supplies and books under the same category as toys. They deserve a dedicated post of their own in the future, DV.
To help keep our toys from breeding, we’ve tried to implement two simple strategies:
- If something new comes in, something old must go out.
- When it comes to gifts, give an experience instead of a thing.
I’ve found that our children will jump at the chance to have ice cream with Mom, a trip to the zoo, a hike in the woods, or build something with Dad in the garage over receiving an item any day.
Could your home stand to lose a few toys? Which ones and why? What are the classics you hang on to? I’d love to hear how you plan to apply the minimalist mantra to this area!