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8 Tips for Taking Control of the Toy Chest

Amber Brandt  |  December 07, 2020
Ever feel like toys are taking over your house? You’re not alone. Most parents feel some level of frustration over their toy situation at home which comes from a variety of circumstances, including having:
  • A lack of adequate closet space or organizational systems
  • Kids that fall within a variety of ages and interests
  • Over-zealous gift-giving loved ones
  • Another family who gives yours lots of hand-me-downs
  • Parents who saved all your childhood toys and keep bringing them over
  • Guilt, nostalgia or sadness about paring down your child’s toys
  • A genuine love of buying toys for your kids
Whatever your circumstance, we guarantee there’s a solution that can work for you. It may require a little bit of time, creativity, and thick skin, but here are some ideas to help you get control of your toy chest (before new Christmas gifts arrive).
  • Purge often. Most people wait until the garage or attic are really cluttered before they do a massive purge – but the more you keep up on cleaning, the less you have to do. The same applies to toys. If you regularly do a clean sweep to remove anything broken, missing pieces, or no longer interesting, it will keep the whole ship closer on course. Put it on the calendar and repeat monthly if possible.
  • Choose quality over quantity. Have you created any rules around what type of toys you’ll buy? Some parents buy 1 fun toy for every 3 educational ones. Some people choose to purchase only toys made from sustainable materials that will last for generations. Consider what you value most and begin buying within those limitations going forward.
  • Create a physical boundary. You don’t have to invest in an expensive system for sorting and displaying toys (and you may not have the extra space for it anyway), but if you can purchase one large bin or basket, you can create a boundary. You’ll want to begin communicating once this space is full, there’s no more room for toys. If something new is purchased, something old will have to make room.
  • Remove duplicates. Did your child receive two of the same Elsa figurine that year she was really into Frozen? Gift one to a friend or charity. (And if she’s totally over it, give both!)
  • Communicate intentions to loved ones. Creating a healthy boundary can be difficult no matter the topic – but learning to navigate new toy rules with loved ones could lead to a better toy situation overall. Decide on what rules you’ll have going forward and then share what you’ve chosen and why. When your family understands what you’re trying to accomplish (and avoid) with gifts, they’ll have a better idea of how to give in a way that supports your objectives.
  • Consider “The 20 Toy Rule” as shared by one mom.
  • Rotate toys to keep options fresh plus 4 other great tips from Respectful Caregiving.
  • Adopt a new gift-buying mantra. Over the past few years, a simple phrase and approach to gift-giving has been growing in popularity around the internet: “Something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read.” Yes, this means, just 4 gifts – but it infuses your buying with intentionality and creates a realistic expectation of what’s to come. Here’s an article the BBC reported on the trend.
Encourage Exploration Over Play

As a final thought, if the whole idea of toy purging seems unnecessary, overwhelming or sad, consider this: Research shows the fewer toys children have, the more they play.

In a study conducted by German researchers more than 20 years ago, toys were removed from a kindergarten classroom for three months to see how the children would react. As reported by raisedgood.com:

“Their days were deliberately unstructured to avoid children being rushed from one activity to the next… On the first day, the children appeared confused and bored as they peered apprehensively around their big empty classroom.

But, by the second day, the kids were playing with chairs and blankets, making dens by draping blankets over tables and weighing them down with shoes. Soon they started running around the room, chatting and laughing excitedly. By the end of the third month, they were engaged in wildly imaginative play, able to concentrate better and communicate more effectively.”