One question that I have heard more than almost any other is, “How do we cut down on the toy clutter?” Toys enter our home in many ways – birthdays, holidays, souvenirs of trips and experiences, and more. Once the toy clutter takes up residence it can be difficult to get them out, even when the sheer volume becomes unmanageable. How do you decide which toys to keep and which toys to send packing? Rather than immediately setting a limit on the number of toys or the exact space allotted for toys, I encourage clients to think about the toys that serve them and their children well. Here are my top three reasons to KEEP toys:
- Toys that encourage imaginative play: These would be things like dress up clothes, dolls and figures, materials for making forts and structures, and arts and crafts materials.
- Toys that encourage community play: These are things that encourage your children to play well with each other and their friends. The toys already mentioned will likely fall into this category for most families. I would also add blocks, Legos, and many board games.
- Toys that encourage your children to create: Again, most of the toys from the previous two categories also fit here. Consider adding a box of recyclables for building and constructing. As your children get older, invest in creative toys like Snap Circuits (for exploring electrical circuits), KEVA Planks or City Blocks (which even the adults will enjoy) and kits like Scientific Explorer’s Young Architect Building Set.
All of these types of toys are wonderful to have available. That does not mean that you need vast quantities of them. Now is the time to consider limits, based on numbers or space. You can involve your children in this phase of the organizing process by asking questions like, “Which two sets of blocks would you like to keep?” Extras can be boxed up and rotated out later, donated, or sold online or at a yard sale.
You have now thought through which toys work well and encourage your children to imagine, create, and work cooperatively. That has probably left a large pile (or several rooms) filled with toys that did not fit the bill. Some toys that should go immediately are toys that fall apart or break easily, that lead to frequent fighting or arguing, that offend the senses in some way (very loud, very bright, very frenetic), or that require little of your children. Toys should engage your child, not just entertain or distract them.
There is always room for your child to keep a few special and loved toys, regardless of the categories above. Empower them to make a few selections with parameters (perhaps filling one box, or keeping 8-10 items). Then let the other toys move on and enjoy the newly rediscovered space for creative and engaging play!