I was doing a phone interview for a magazine yesterday and the interviewer asked me how to save money kid’s toys. I get that question a lot and it’s hard to know how to answer.
Because the truth is: we don’t really have many toys at our house.
When our first daughter, Kathrynne, was a baby and a toddler, we lived in a little basement apartment, so there wasn’t room for many toys. We had a little basket of toys she’d been given from grandparents and friends and that was it.
After our second daughter, Kaitlynn, was born, we continued to just stick with the small basket of toys. It was somewhat due to my minimalist nature, somewhat due to the fact that we didn’t have money to buy toys, and somewhat due to the fact that our girls seemed to find plenty to do without many toys.
I thought that might change as they got older, but even with adding our third child to the mix, it never changed. And so, our kids are now 10, almost 8, and almost 6, and we have very few toys at our house.
I never really realize we don’t have many toys at our house except for when we have guests over who have little children. They’ll ask where the toy room is or where the toys are and I’m not sure how to answer. Because it’s not that we are anti-toys; it’s just not been something my kids have been all that interested in.
Yes, we do have a few toys: we have outdoor toys (like balls, bats, rollerblades, rip sticks, and bikes), we have board games and card games, we have LEGOs, we have a few stuffed animals that are special to our kids, and we have lots of arts and craft supplies. But other than maybe a few odds and ends here and there in the kids’ room, we don’t really have many other toys.
No one in our house seems to miss the lack of toys. Our kids are constantly on the go: creating art, engineering new LEGO puzzle boxes, helping cook in the kitchen, reading, playing games, listening to audiobooks, teasing each other, playing with the neighbors, making up contests and competitions, challenging each other to learn new tricks on the rip stick or trampoline, practicing their sports techniques, exercising… they rarely lack for ideas and inspiration.
After I got off the phone with the interviewer yesterday, I started thinking about how glad I am that we chose to keep things simple from the get-go, because it’s really benefited our whole family to not have many toys.
Here are 5 reasons why not having many toys has benefited our family:
1. It Has Encouraged Our Kids to Be Creative
Not having a lot of toys has encouraged our children to become more creative.
Kaitlynn is constantly working on new arts and crafts projects — whether that’s painting or a DIY recipe for lip gloss or practicing her sewing skills or writing notes to other people. Almost every day, it’s a new idea and she’ll often spend a few hours creating and tweaking and experimenting. I love to see what she comes up with — and how she never lacks for ideas using what we already have on hand.
Kathrynne is continually working on building and dreaming up new LEGO Puzzle Box designs. She loves to watch videos on YouTube of Puzzle Boxes that others create and then she takes their ideas and tweaks them to be her own. She’s also currently working on some long-term business ideas and is studying, experimenting, learning from other people, and developing skills to help her with these business ideas.
Silas loves to help me in the kitchen and work on math skills (he will do lessons and lessons of math in a day — just for fun!) He also loves to make simple LEGO creations.
2. It Has Simplified Our Life
Not having many toys not only means we don’t have to mess with figuring out toy storage solutions, but we also don’t have to spend as much time cleaning up — since there really aren’t any toys to clean up.In addition, we have more room since we don’t have to have a closet or area devoted to housing toys. Plus, we don’t have to worry about missing pieces, broken parts, and battery replacement.
3. It Has Inspired Our Kids to Use What They Already Have
One thing we’ve noticed is that when there aren’t many toy options, our kids will play with the same item over and over again — using it in many different ways.
For instance, a simple box could serve as a counter for their “store”. The next day, it’s a car. The next day, they’ll cut windows in it and decorate it and make it into a house for their stuffed animals.
I’ve also noticed that, because there aren’t a lot of toys to choose from, it seems to help them focus on a project or idea for a long time without being distracted.
4. It Has Cut Down on Discontentment
Now, let me be clear, we still have discontentment issues going on at our house. But I feel like fewer toys seems to lend itself to fewer requests from kids to upgrade to something new or have something that their friends or the neighbor kids have.
It also helps that we encourage our kids to earn money by doing Paid Chores and then they are able to spend that money on fun things — usually more LEGOs, arts and craft supplies, or something similar.
5. It Has Encouraged Our Kids to Develop New Skills & Be Entrepreneurial
Because there are few toys and a lot of room for creativity, our kids are constantly learning new things — new craft skills, reading new books, learning how to play new games, studying subjects that interest them… every week, they are trying new things and learning new things.
All three kids also love to discuss and scheme entrepreneurial ideas — and then to have us poke holes in their business plans (kind of Shark Tank style). Yes, we may be weird, but we all LOVE this kind of stuff. Writing business plans, calculating profits and losses, and analyzing how to make an idea more profitable are all part of our regular conversations.
One of my greatest hopes as a parent is that I’ll raise lifelong learners. Kids who are curious about life, constantly want to challenge their minds, and see all of life as their classroom. I think having fewer toys has really helped encourage this in them so far. And I’m so grateful!
Note: Please know that I’m not advocating that every family needs to do what we’ve done. Maybe having lots of toys has been a great thing for your family. I can’t say what will work for you, I’m only sharing what we’ve done, why we’ve chosen to do it, and why I’m glad we have. As always, do what works for you!