less-toys-more-play

Every year, my husband and I spend weeks thinking about what to give our children for Christmas in an attempt to keep toys to a minimum. Why not indulge them you might ask?

Because…

  1. We don’t live in a mansion and simply don’t have the space.
  2. There are many other non-toy items that we prefer to spend our money on that benefit the whole family (travel, hobbies, etc.).
  3. More is not better in this case…and that is our main reason.

When it comes to toys…less is better and leads to more imaginative play. Picture yourself in front of a rack of 100’s of shoes and you are only allowed to choose one pair. Or imagine you are putting together a menu for a dinner party and are searching through a never-ending list of appetizers. Making decisions isn’t easy and the more options you have the more challenging it is.

When a child walks into a playroom or looks at their toy shelf and tries to decide what to play with, overwhelm kicks in and before you know it, everything is out on the floor. And worst of all….the children are NOT actually playing with anything.

If that sounds familiar, it’s time for a toy purge. And that is exactly what Svenja, a mother of two young boys, did. She says…

“The boys shared a room and there were toys stored in the living room as well. Especially the rack in the living room seemed to explode any minute at one point. It couldn’t go on like that. They only took them out, scattered them around the flat and left them there after 3 minutes of playing.”

Freeing your children from an onslaught of toys might just be the best gift you can give them. Once you witness the effect it has on children, you will never want to go back. Let’s look at the 4 essential steps of a successful toy purge.

1. Your Vision of The Ideal Play Area

Whether you have an entire room dedicated for play or a corner of your living room, picture what you would like that area to look like. Don’t worry about how you are going to get there yet. Sit back and imagine a shelf with beautiful baskets, trucks neatly lined up, a doll in a cradle by the window and your child happily playing on the floor.

2. Moving Everything Out

Now it’s time to step back into reality and move everything out. Many parents prefer to do this without their children, while some think it’s important to make the children a part of this process. You know your child best and will know which option to choose. I recommend taking everything off the shelves and out of cabinets. Yes, it may seem like a massive undertaking but this way you are more likely to make the right decision about each item.

3. Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

This is the hardest part but having a few guidelines makes this process a lot easier.

  • “I threw everything out that was broken or incomplete,” says Svenja. That’s a great place to start and doesn’t require much thought.
  • Keep toys that are open-ended (blocks, legos, trains, dolls, play kitchens, etc.) but do limit the number of each. If your child has seven tractors, keep one or two and put the others away (see point #3).
  • Pack up toys that your child has outgrown or simply doesn’t play with. Donate them to a charity, church or other local organization.
  • Store away toys that your child may ask for again. Keep those to one box or you end up a with a new storage problem. It rarely happens that children ask for toys that are out of sight but this intermediate steps can make the process a bit easier. When Svenja did her toy purge, her older son only said once “oh some of those boxes are empty.” She added that “he never once complained about the “lack” of toys”.

4. Every Toy Needs a Home

Now that you have eliminated toys, it’s time to find a home for every toy that has the privilege of staying. Toys are to be cherished and enjoyed and should never be crammed in the back of a shelf. Give each toy a proper home. Small items such as animals, cars or blocks happily live in baskets or boxes. Larger items can take up their new home on a shelf. And when it’s time to clean, instead of telling my kids to “Clean up!”, I remind them to put every toy back in it’s home for the night. And let me tell you, less toys make clean up SUPER easy.

Congratulations! You’ve done all the hard work. Now, you can sit back and watch your children play happily. When I asked Svenja how her children reacted to this big change, she said

“The kids seemed to be freed in their play…can’t describe that in another way. They play endless hours with their cars and trains and Lego. They are relaxed in their play, very content and what has increased is the time they spent on one toy.”

Yes, you read that right! Her children went from scattering all their toys on the floor without actually playing to being content and playing for hours.

Your Turn

Download your Toy Purge Checklist here and get started.

And for ideas on how to infuse your child’s play with a dose of imagination, check out my popular Sophie & Max series. Each monthly issue includes short stories and a wide range of activities for children ages 3 to 6. Just tell me where to send the FREE issue and it’s yours instantly.

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