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!
From someone whose kids always had a ton of toys (mostly due to grandparents and yard sales and them spending their own allowances) I really wish they didn’t have so many! It’s a constant struggle for them to tidy their rooms and it takes away time they could be doing more creative things.
Such a great post – I completely agree! Having fewer toys often means the play materials that ARE available are utilized in many different ways. This, in turn, fosters creativity, problem-solving, experimentation, exploration… and all the the elements of early learning that we want to encourage in our little ones! Hooray for open-ended play!
– Ayelet from Strength In Words
Do you mind telling me what sites your daughter started learning how to do lego puzzle boxes? My son is wanting to do them and I’m searching for good tutorials.
We keep only toys that girls and boys can play with…Legos only bought at garage sales and gotten as gifts, Playmobil (our best investment) which all kids played for hours, train, cars/trucks, doll stuff, dress up..and of course books, puzzles and crafty things..purged everything else…so freeing! My mom has gone to gift cards or money at bdays and Christmas and only $20…my husband’s parents are not very planned but their hearts mean well even if the gift is not the greatest! I usually throw it away by the next year unfortunately because it does not last. My personality isn’t sentimental so I don’t have any issues even if they ask about it…iI try to be gentle but as I have big kids and littles toys change into other things but you still have to keep for younger so we are specific if they are interested! Thankfully there are no big spenders so it isn’t usually a big deal. We used to draw names but cut that out completely on both sides even for the kids..it’s much better!
Heather Speer says
I’ve read this post before but reading it today has a new light as we have just moved into a new house and seeing all of the STUFF that our children have is causing discontentment in me. Realizing that we will never have room for all of the stuff and even if we can find places for everything, it won’t stay there…it will be a constant battle to keep it cleaned up. My question is…how do I go about paring down the toys and STUFF and help them realize that it’s for the best?
That is awesome that you don’t have that many toys for your kids. I have a 3.5 year old toddler and I have tried to keep to that same mentality. 1) because I don’t want to spend a lot of money, which could be used better for real things we need and 2) my husband and I don’t want to have a mess of toys everywhere. My daughter gets presents from aunts, friends and grandparents, so every once in a while I go through her toybox (which is just a large rubbermaid bin) and I see what she’s outgrown or what she doesn’t really play with anymore and I donate them to a second hand store. It really helps to declutter our lives. I’m glad to hear that I’m not the only one who doesn’t have a toy room for their children. 🙂
We have an over load of toys just for our one child who is 3. I go through her toys about every 6 months and right before Christmas and birthday, I do another clean out. As of right now she plays with very few toys. My husband says we should just get rid of most of it and this article has helped me with that decision.
Amy @ DebtGal says
Toys are a big struggle in our house, and I love the benefits of having fewer of them that you pointed out.
One challenge for me is that my daughter is an only child, so she doesn’t have any playmates at home. As a result, the toys – especially the countless dolls – become like her playmates. (She’s five, btw.) Also, my daughter HATES to part with any of her toys. I’ve been doing semi-secret purges, and selling or donating what I can get rid of, for the past few years. This year I told her she can keep whatever money she earns from selling her toys, and it helped motivate her to thin things out a little bit.
I love your philosophy and I long to cut back on my children’s toys. Believe it or not my 3 boys combined do not have as many toys as my Daughter alone does. I think it has something to do with finally getting a girl and finding all these cute things that she “just had to have” in my eyes. My biggest struggle is Christmas. I know that my kids have no need for any other toys, but ever year I say that I am not going to buy toys and then I can’t find anything to get them so I always go out and spend an arm and a leg on toys that they don’t even need. My question to you is what do you supplement for toys when dealing with Christmas and Birthdays. I always fear that My kids will be disappointed if they just get clothes. I would love to hear a solution that maybe I had not yet considered.
We attempt to keep our kiddos toys to a minimum. Our collections have grown over the years of parenting but legos, calico critters, and play mobil are their favorites. We do very little character (here today, gone tomorrow) toys and have gone for more classic, imaginative types.
We’re big into games here, especially video games. I was born in 1981, so I got to experience Atari and Nintendo at an early age. I LOVE video games. Playing them exercised my hands and fingers and helped me develop brilliant hand-eye coordination and puzzle-solving skills. I was able to use the hand-eye coordination to absolutely excel at playing instruments in band class.
So, my kids get a lot more “screen time” than some other kids. They especially enjoy playing Wii games like Mario Kart while listening to audiobooks. Books of all kinds are THE biggest “toy” in our house. We spend too much money on them in addition to being frequent library users.
As for typical toys, my kids are usually into them for a week or so after getting them, but afterwards usually just ignore them. I tend to ask for art supplies, video games, books, and giftcards to stores that sell those items.
Jayleen @ How Do The Jones Do It says
The best thing we ever did was give the kids allowances and let them decide how they would spend their money. My daughter has never been into ‘things’ and is quite the saver. My son has a hard time keeping a nickel in his pocket. He has to make a lot of choices and exercise patience for that ‘next thing’. I’m so glad he is learning this now as a teenager than as an adult;0)
Miriam B says
I love the idea of limited toys. I don’t have children yet, but I am definitely not a fan of quite a few toys in the current market. I want to be more focused on making great memories with any kids I have instead of them having more toys than they know what to do with.
Jessica H says
We don’t have a lot of toys compared to most people even though I still feel like we could stand to get rid of a few. I just bought my son a play kitchen that I was so excited about. He loved it for a week and now is pretending that a cardboard box is his kitchen instead, which is a good reminder for me that kids don’t need a lot of toys to have fun!
Misty Nicole Roberts says
As a child growing up in the early 90’s, my mother divided my toys into four wicker hampers. Each season, she would bring down one hamper of toys, books, and art supplies, all of which were seasonally relevant, and at the of each season the toys would go up, and a new basket came down. Most of my toys were old fashioned, wooden, educational, or were books. As well, each holiday, when I would receive new toys for the holidays, I would have to take an older toy from my stash to donate to others. I also did not have a television in my bedroom, we never owned a video game system, and instead I had a playroom with few toys, an aisle, art supplies, and wall-to-wall bookshelves with books. I believe this system helped prep my childhood for college, and so when I double majored in pre-law and art history, this seemed like a natural transition for me. So, for my family the minimalist toy theory is a no-brainer for us!
I always feel like my boys (5, 2) have a ton of toys, but am reminded when we visit friends’ houses, that we actually do not have that many! = ) We have a few larger items in our small basement- kitchen, tool bench, train set. Riding toys end up in there too, during the winter. I keep Duplos, wooden blocks, and marble runs in tubs that I rotate out.
The only toys in my 5 YO’s room are his Legos which need to be kept safe from the little one. Otherwise, bedrooms have books only.
Of course, the boys always want to play on our main level, which is very small, and I HATE looking at toy clutter all day. A year ago, I made a “life-changing” furniture re-arrangement that has been a wonderful help! I took a low dresser from our bedroom and make it the TV stand. We have two large drawers of dress up stuff, two drawers of puzzles and games, one drawer has diapers and wipes = ), and one drawer is full of vehicles. We also have an ottoman that houses larger vehicles. It’s “the garage”. The boys can easily access the toys they want, know exactly where to put them when it’s clean up time, and the main level doesn’t look like a day care center (the basement does… ). I can’t recommend the dresser in the living room enough, especially for small spaces!
What kinds of creative things do your kids find to do outside? My daughter loves to be outside but my husband would never buy a swing set. She has the typical bike, skateboard, scooter + balls and sports equipment. But what other things have they made up on their own to do?
Crystal Paine says
They love to play spies, hide and seek, or having competitions with their sports equipment (see who can do the best jump on the rip stick or stay on the rip stick for longest, etc.)
Crystal, I’d be interested in what you do for business plans with your kids entrepreneurial ideas. I have a daughter who’s chomping at the bit to ‘start a business’ (almost 10 ) and we want to encourage that, but also want her to count the cost. Do you have a form you fill out? or is it a more casual approach to a business plan at their ages?
Not Crystal 🙂 but I had two small businesses by age 13 and paid cash for my BA and still had 1700 in the bank when I graduated from college. I’d completely encourage her to start something small and expand as the market allows. My parents only paid for my plane ticket home every Christmas during my 4 yrs of college and I learned so much about business on my own.
I’d also love to read more about helping children develop entrepreneurial skills!
The toy conversation is always so interesting. We have a carefully curated collection of toys but we definitely do have toys. It’s also interesting what people choose to keep. I noticed many people have a lot of art and crafts supplies. We have very little in the art and craft department because my boys are not interesting in coloring, crafting, etc. We do, however, have Matchbox cars and various building blocks (wooden, magnatile) and trains (my younger sons absolute favorite). So we definitely have things that are considered toys. However, we have almost no art and craft toys/supplies. It’s interesting because what is clutter to me (arts and crafts stuff that never gets used) is exactly what is most loved by some kids and families. And what is toy clutter to others is what is loved by my kids (vehicles and blocks). I think we do have to be careful not to categorize certain toys/activities as universally good or bad.
Here’s to what works for each individual family.
That’s exactly how it is in my house, Beth! I keep 3 coloring books in my closet, in hopes that one day my boys will want to color with me. Yea right. We’ll need new crayons, though, because my two-year-old has destroyed our stash! We also love blocks, trains, and Play-doh, but I have to keep those toys put away with the board games. My little one can turn a tidy room into a messy room in a flash; that’s just how he plays. I much prefer the mess to be his own super hero toys.
I never realized how few toys our kids had until we went over to friends’ homes. It was (I’m not being dramatic) like a daycare with so much stuff! Our kids absolutely loved it and their kids seem to as well. It’s hard when we have people over, though, because most kids make comments about being bored at our house because we don’t have that many toys. It’s kind of made me not want to host children so I think another benefit of having fewer toys is teaching your children to be content and polite in situations where there aren’t a ton of things to entertain them beyond LEGOs, Lincoln logs, etc.
Jessica H says
We are in the same situation. I think we have plenty of toys, but other kids get bored so quickly at our house because they aren’t used to using their imagination as much as our kids are.
Thank you for your comment, Jessica. It makes me feel better to know we aren’t the only ones. 🙂 Our kids are very happy with the toys we do have, art supplies and playing outside but we’ve definitely had guests that found that very boring and were verbal about it. 🙁
I loved reading through everyone’s posts! We don’t purchase any toys for my son, but he gets plenty of toys from grandparents and friends. (He’s also currently saving up for a coveted board game.) As a child, I loved exploring the outdoors/our neighborhood. Since he’s a boy, I prefer he’s active outside of the house. I remember having a closetful of toys that I rarely played with. Family vacations and inexpensive experiences are more memorable and enjoyable.
*sigh* this is a constant battle at my house too. My 8 year old is into dolls, Legos and crafts and reading. My 4 year old also likes art, play doh, stuffed animals and Legos. My 2 year old likes stuffed animals, dolls and blocks and little people and weebles and… !!!
My kids aren’t good about cleaning up even when we stop them in their tracks. They don’t take care of their toys very well either.
We also have the family problem of relatives not asking what the kids actually like, so they buy some other toy that’s part of a series, then the kids want all the other parts to go with it.
We have a few large toys we haven’t even set up, like a big toy workbench.
One set of grandparents does get them a science museum and zoo pass every year, but they are also the ones who bought that huge toy workbench, an inside “tent”, and several other large toys. The other set of grandparents has let me take over their shopping duties as they live far away and don’t shop online. That has helped, as I will buy things they need, like new winter boots or coat, or school supplies and then one item they want.
Loved this post. You are saving a pile of money but the main achievement is creative thinking children. My great niece just had her 3rd birthday party. She got a variety of gifts which she paid absolutely no attention to when her Papa gave her what she had been telling everyone for weeks that she wanted. All she wanted was sprinkles–those really sugary bits that you decorate cakes and cookies with. She toted the bottle around with her for the rest of her party. It wasn’t so much that she wanted to eat them as she likes to shake the bottle up. Weeks later she was asked what she got for her birthday and her response was “sprinkles”. Her Papa’s gift was the cheapest but the most memorable and enjoyable one.
I love your comment 🙂
We are in the process of selling our current home and have packed away about 90 percent of our kids toys. It’s been about a month so far and I’ve noticed a huge difference in both of their imaginations. My kids have also started playing together more frequently. We are probably going to purge most of the toys because of this great change! Honestly they haven’t even missed them at all.
We did not even stand a chance at managing toy overload. My Mom was the manager of a toy store when our oldest was born and he was the first grandchild. We were over run with toys.
Crystal Paine says
I can only imagine!!
Amy Lauren says
I had a ton of toys as a kid. Maybe I was a materialistic kid (oops)- I don’t know. But I was an only child and we lived in a rural area, I didn’t do sports or many activities (until middle school, when I did band), so I only got to really see other kids when I was at school. Otherwise it was me at home with my toys.
Plus, being an only child my parents only had me to spoil and they both worked a ton and were busy. They wanted me to have whatever it took to be happy. I would have been okay with much less.
I’m 29 now. I don’t have any kids but now I have aging parents. My mom isn’t one to get rid of things, so now ALL MY TOYS are in my parents attic. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my toys growing up, but now I own a home and have a much different lifestyle. I drive an old car, don’t even have a smartphone, and run *all the time*.
Eventually (soon!) my parents will not be living in our big-ole rural home and I will have to be the one to clean out and get rid of all the vintage toys… minus a few things, like my American Girl dolls and my great big dollhouse that I will want to keep.
You’re doing the right thing by not having many toys :).
I just saw article about vintage American Dolls on my Facebook feed: http://www.buzzfeed.com/rachelzarrell/your-american-girl-dolls-could-be-worth-tons-of-money
Do your girls play with dolls?
Crystal Paine says
No, they don’t. Both girls had a doll when they were little but quickly grew out of playing with dolls. I’m not sure why, but they’ve just not really been into dolls — which is odd to me because they LOVE babies and little kids! Kaitlynn actually told me recently, “I like live babies instead of fake babies.” So there you go. 🙂
That is awesome! 🙂
I was going to ask that, too! Dolls have overrun my girl’s bedroom! Her love of dolls, coupled with loving relatives who keep on giving them….sigh. I think it’s the doll accessories that take up so much space is what’s frustrating. I’m not talking clothes and bottles. I mean strollers, cribs, high chairs, etc. I think she has more baby stuff for her dolls than I had for her as a baby! lol
One thing we have done is to set up a toy rotation. I have divided our toys into thirds. They have one third of their toys for a third of the year and then we rotate. This also helps me purge toys quickly. Since we have so few out at a time, I can really see which toys do not get played with. They go!
Crystal Paine says
I LOVE this — thanks for sharing!
We are of the same mind regarding toys, and don’t buy anything but art & craft supplies (we buy LOTS of those), musical instruments, and books. That said, my boys still have more toys than they need. Gifts from friends and family tend to accumulate. We sort through those fairly regularly, so they stay with us for a brief season and then are lessons in giving to others.
I was feeling all self congratulatory reading this because we don’t really have toys either…there’s bikes and sports equipment but no real toys. Then I remembered the lego room with really is anything but frugal. Our large upstairs game room has only lego…and I shudder to think of how much $$$ is invested in that room. That’s what happens when you have two kids who (for the last 5-6 years) have only asked for lego gifts.
This is such an interesting topic! I’m a minimalist, and my husband loves toys, so compromise is a big thing at our house! When we were a one-child family, we had very few toys in the house. We did accumulate a lot of Hot Wheels cars, and our son would spend hours sorting them and building tracks. Now with two boys, we’ve collected a lot more stuff. At times, it feels like clutter to me, but often times I am appreciative of the toys. My boys are almost 9 and 3, and playing with toys is something that they can do together, at the same level. We keep a shelf with a bin of super heroes, a bin of cars, a bin of spy-gear, and then there is the Lego table. My boys are also trinket lovers, so there is usually something in their hot little hands. I manage the trinkets by keeping a treasure bowl to rotate them and keep it exciting. But here’s the kicker…we recently started a toy review channel on YouTube, and I’m having just as much fun as the boys are trying out a variety of toys and opening surprise eggs. I never would have thought this would be the case. We’re keeping that clutter at bay by doing toy giveaways.
Couldn’t agree more!! 🙂 If you know anyone who wants a great collection of Christian women’s books, I have a lot starting at a penny…http://www.ebay.com/itm/291443743170
The only toys most kids really want are matches, tape, and flashlights!
Abbie Caple says
And clothespins and rope…
Give a boy a box of nails, a hammer and a tree stump to pound them into and they will be happy for hours!
Lisa @LisaAppelo.com says
That’s about where we are now but we’ve done it both ways. We have 7 kids and when the older 5 were little, we had a playroom. LOVED it. You can stock a playroom with learning and creative toys. Our current house is smaller and we only have some bottom shelves with toys, but a BIG backyard. The key for us has been limiting tv and electronics so they create and play! 🙂
Crystal Paine says
We LOVE our big backyard!
Your children are great artists! We’re in the process of moving and so most of our stuff is in storage. And I am amazed at how much less stress I have. And at how much son has played with one lunch box size box of Legos over and over again. I think some things just may not make it out of storage…
Our boys are 12 and 9. The oldest loved toys. Our basement is finished and when he was younger it looked like Toys ‘R Us. He outgrew wanting toys around 8-9 years old.
The youngest has never liked toys. The younger would play with whatever the older one was interested in but never wanted toys of his own. He’s 9 now and is my “fashion man.” Over the past two years he’s developed a love of sportswear and the expensive labels associated with it. So we give him clothes or shoes for special occasions and in the interim he’ll save his money to buy the expensive labels.
The Tidy Mom says
Great post. I am continually frustrated because my kids and I will spend hours cleaning their school & play room, then within a week or two it’s a huge mess again. We’ve gotten rid of so much already but I’ve been considering taking a more extreme minimalistic approach in there to help them out because I know that trying to play in a giant mess really limits creativity. Thank you for this food for thought.
Crystal Paine says
I’m so glad it was good food for thought!
Ellen Russell says
Our boys don’t have many toys, though I keep feeling like getting rid of more, and we love it! Cleanup is easy, and I completely agree with the creativity. They use Legos and cardboard boxes all the time. The huge box that comes with our Amazon S&S subscription is their new favorite toy every month.
Could you tell how you handle computer and TV time with your children? We are struggling to find balance in our home. Any suggestions? Thanks.
Id love to know this, too!
In our house, there is no screen time (iPad, computer, phone, tv, etc) during the school week. There is a small exception for school related projects, and they are very well aware of the consequences if that gets violated. They can use screens Friday and Saturday, but can’t be more than an hour at a time. And they only get screens on Sunday if all of their homework is done. Plus, it is a great motivation for them b/c screentime is often the first consequence of misbehavior. HTH!
Elise @frugalfarmwife.com says
I LOVE this! We have a train set, matchbox cars, a toy shopping cart (which surprisingly has been one of the favorites ), and a few other odds and ends, but really, not a lot of toys.
I’m suuuuper picky about toys – I want the kids to use their imagination. A guy in an amish community told us one time, as he was watching his children play with their few toys “I just can’t believe how many toys my children have. When I was little, we played with sticks!” LOL. I don’t think the lack of toys hurt him. 🙂
We are in the boat of some of the previous commenters where family members order things/give things and then we have to figure out where to put them. We just got a set of those cardboard bricks that you have to put together (more than 100!) and while they are fun, they take up so. much. space. I have always tried to limit our toys to things like building sets, etc. but even those can get out of control (for example, Tinker toy sticks become swords which then get left all over the house, etc.).
Three things that help us are:
1) having a basement where we intentionally have places for the larger play sets – I just couldn’t stomach all the primary colored doo-dads on a daily basis.
2) working with our kids to let go of toys they no longer use – most of our kids are not that attached to half their toys.
3) not acquiring more, even when we have the means to do so. I have a gift card for one of my sons that we plan on using for him (it was given as a gift from a family member) but we are waiting until there is a toy/object that he really wants, vs. taking him to the store right now and saying,” Hey, pick something out, because you got a gift card.” Also, with our youngest, a baby, I have disciplined myself to not buy her toys because she prefers to play with everyday objects.
But it is still really a challenge. My kids are the kind that will get into stuff even if there are no toys around, and while I am all for creativity, it can get a little tiring when I go looking for kitchen tongs and find them outside in some sort of structure :).
A side note about the cardboard bricks..
We bought a set of those for our second son the Christmas he was 18 months old. Our boys are not almost 9 and 6 and they still play with them! We actually had one of the grandparents buy a second set last year for a birthday. Although we don’t have 100. That would stress me out! 😉
My boys are almost 13 and 16, and we just recently got rid of our cardboard bricks. Passed them on to another family. My boys loved to use them to make up their own Angry Bird game with their stuffed Angry Birds. Those were the first things their friends gravitated to when they came over for a visit.
I am in the middle of decluttering our toy room basement, but I plan on keeping all things that you can creatively build with because you never outgrow those. Plus, they will be fun to pass down to future grandchildren. Also, keeping the wooden Thomas the Trains for grandchildren because those things were super expensive. LOL.
Just wanted to mention that we have those cardboard bricks, too. When they were given to us, I was dreading the way they’d take up space! I found the perfect place, though- behind a door. When not being played with, we store them as a tower behind the door to the bedroom closet. A single width stack of them fit perfectly, and they’re out of the way. That closet door rarely gets closed, so they’re out of sight. Under a bed would also be an out of the way place.
Love this, totally agree, and am heartened to hear that it kept going naturally as they got older. My girls are 3.5 and 1.5 with another due in July and we’ve never had many toys. It was a little bit intentional (we’re pretty minimalist about a lot of things), but as we realized that my older daughter wasn’t very interested in the toys we had and would prefer to splash in the sink with some measuring cups and a turkey baster, we very deliberately cut back. We stopped asking for them as gifts at birthdays, put the majority of what we have in the closet and keep only Duplos and one other thing out at a time, and so on. It’s funny, I don’t think my daughters noticed at all, but some of their friends are very confused when they come over and can’t find a toy box or shelf. I hate to be smug about it, but I am pleased to see how creative they can be without a lot of toy clutter, and it’s a difference I see between both of them and their peers from more toy-filled houses.
Anyway, I’m glad to hear that it will likely keep flowing naturally as they get older. Thanks for this post!
Ok, so what do you do with all the output of the creativity when they are done with it? We are overflowing with creations, repurposed boxes, crochet projects and pot holders (and more toys than I’d like). Do you have conversations about enjoying these things for a bit and then throwing them away? We give some away but not enough. My kids are similar ages: 8.5, 7, 5.5 and 5.5.
We will often take a picture of the picture or project and then dispose of it, that way they still have a record of it. The special projects are displayed or filed.
Crystal Paine says
I loved the idea a mom shared recently about how she uses her kids’ artwork to write her grocery lists and to-do lists. She tells them how much she loves using it for that — and they love that she’s appreciating their artwork.
There are many other ideas, such as: send to grandparents or shut-ins, display a few of the best items and rotate them out regularly, take pictures of your children’s favorites and make them into a photo book or an online album.
One year I made calendars for grandparents with pictures my kids drew. I just used one of those freebie charity calendars that we get in the mail & glued/taped the pictures to each page. They loved it – especially the family members far away.
Crystal Paine says
What a fun idea! Thanks for sharing!
I’ve always just told my kids the truth:) We cannot keep everything, only super special things. We hang stuff on the fridge that required special “effort” and when it is time for something new we take that down and put up something else. My son is always drawing and doodling. If I had kept everything I would have a fire hazard! He has a folder to keep his important drawings in. If it was a personalized picture for me then I do have a special keepsake box for that type of stuff. Noodle, cereal, cardboard box, crafty types of stuff are displayed for a time, a photo taken (if it was a big project) then disposed of. I guess I am mean like that:)
My kids have bulletin boards in their rooms where they can hang their artwork. When it becomes to full we go through and clean it off and throw out the old to hang up the new. Because they are kind of in charge of it I have never really had a problem with them getting rid of their art because they want to hang up the new.
I used to have it all over the place before I hung up their bulletin boards and it has definitely reduced paper piles around the house.
I may keep one or two and if it is extra special we take pictures also.
Tracy S. says
I want to throw most of what we have in our house in the trash more often than not. The kids’ rooms are constantly a mess, they don’t play with half of it (and I made them give up a lot a couple months back), and I don’t think they even know what they have any more. I’m working on de cluttering the house so hopefully I’ll get to the toys within the year. (I have a lot of work to do. 😉 ) I’m terrible about remembering to bring things to donate with me on my errands and when I do I forget it’s in the van half the time. This year I’ve been getting postcards from the United Veterans Association for pick up dates. I’ve decided to commit myself to give them at least one box every time I get a card in the mail. It’s been working so far. 🙂
Kelli T. says
I’m right there with ya, Tracy. I could have written the first half of your post.
This post and your previous posts about toys has given my husband and I the inspiration we needed to decrease the toy clutter in our home. We had already started going through and purging toys that our 3 year old doesn’t play with, as well as saving some for our second boy that is due soon, but now I see we are going to make a serious commitment to this. I believe it will only benefit my son my limiting the toys. Just in the little bit of purging we’ve done, I’ve seen his imagination and creativity skyrocket!
Wonderful post, Crystal! Food for thought!!
My problem is other family members who purchase toys as gifts. I always ask for clothes or consumable type gifts for my kids but it never fails- at birthday parties and Christmas we have tons of toys! How can I fix this? I’ve went so far as returning and/or donating some but I can’t bring myself to do that with everything.
Susan in St. Louis says
I hear you! This is our challenge too, and while I do get rid of some things, more just keeps coming in each birthday/Christmas.
Kristen Bukowski says
I have this same issue 🙁 not only do my girls get A LOT of toys from relatives, but we’re really close to our families so either they’ll ask if the girls like the toy or notice if it’s missing! I’ve even threatened to donate stuff (to no avail; Probably cuz I can’t bring myself to follow thru :-P). I would much rather our relatives give experiences rather than stuff, but they prefer to buy stuff! I know they’ll be hurt if I do get rid of things and I just don’t know if it’s worth the cost 🙁 I’ve gotten very creative in my toy storage but our oldest is only 3 1/2 and I’m nervous about what’s to come!
When we were getting ready to move and trying to downsize considerably, we gave family a list of things we needed/wanted for our 1-year old’s birthday. We said we recognized they might want to get things that weren’t on the list, but if we weren’t able to store them, they would have to live at grandma’s house (or aunt, etc.). This allowed grandparents to purchase bigger things that are now special because he only sees them at grandma’s house, etc. But it also gave them a better perspective to evaluate what they were buying. If they didn’t want it cluttering their house, did we really need it cluttering ours?
I have asked for grandparents to donate to college funds instead of toys but they don’t listen. In fact they always seem to buy oversized toys or toys that require tons of batteries. It is hard to purge toys once they cross the threshold, but I keep fighting the uphill battle anyway.
Ok, im just now coming across this post, and I love it! What we do in your case, and if it’s someone’s home we visit regularly, is say “let’s let it stay at mimi ands pops (or whoever gave it) house, so they can watch you enjoy it and you’ll have something new to play with there”.
We have this issue as well. We have a small family but for birthday and Christmas each set of grandparents will gift at around 2-3 things. Which doesn’t sound like a lot but that adds up. We only do 2-3 gifts ourselves for birthdays and Christmas but with grandparents and one aunt that really adds up over the years. And we only have two!
Legos are great but 2-3 Lego sets a year for each child over the course of 4-5 years really adds up!
Crystal Paine says
I have a followup post coming where I’ll address this question — because I get it that this is something that a lot of people deal with it and you definitely don’t want to come across as ungrateful or unkind when people want to bless your kids! The post should be up next week mid-week and it will be called “5 Ways to Cut Down on Toy Clutter”.
This is so hard! I do not want to come across as unthankful either. However, sometimes when we feel we are being a blessing, it actually ends up being a burden:) In all honesty, sometimes people “give” because it makes them feel good and they are not fully thinking of the person the gift is intended for.
Jennifer, you hit the nail on the head – at least in my situation. I tell family members (over and over) how appreciative my husband and I are for the gifts to the children, and that they would really love new crayons and new Play-Doh and more books about Thomas The Tank Engine . . . but we always ignored and the kids are never given those “simple” gifts, because the family members WANT to give the excessive, “showy” and “noisy” presents to “get the credit” as is mentioned in another post below.
Then, my husband and I feel that our parenting and our wishes are not being respected. It’s nothing more than annoying, really – but it makes me sad!
Oh, good! I was wondering if you dealt with that or not. We rarely buy our kids toys because relatives give them way too many! How do you get rid of toys when it was a gift AND the child does play with it and would notice if it was gone?
I’ve told my child I would give her a quarter per toy and then donated them, or sometimes have made a pile and said you can keep 3. I don’t want to take all control from her but it’s ok if she knows we keep clutter down , too. I’m always getting rid of my stuff, too and she sees that.
Yeah = I have been looking fora post like this!!! We will be downsizing and I often feel like our boys toys are taking over our home!! I’m already helping them think of the toys they want to donate to the church nursery (so they can still play with them) and to goodwill. But I’m concerned about upcoming birthday and christmas gifts as well. I’ll be watching for this new post Crystal!!! 🙂 🙂
What about asking for money toward yearly passes to the zoo or museums? Our adult children often do that and they really enjoy their memberships over the year.
LOVE this idea! My daughter has a birthday coming up and another daughter is graduating from K-5. This means that presents and most likely toys and trinkets will be headed our way! But I’m definitely going to suggest this to the gift givers! My kids would love this!!
That is definitely frustrating, but I recently started to understand the grandparents’ perspective; grandparents (understandably) want “credit” for the gifts they give. (especially those who live out of town and send money) From the parents’ perspective a museum membership is a great idea: educational, less clutter, etc. But it’s just not going to have the same weight with the kids as the exciting stuff they open from the other grandparents (or whoever.)
My son doesn’t have a ton of toys, but I don’t think it’s a terrible thing to have a decent amount, as long it’s not excessive. Young boys especially need to be kept busy, and quality toys can help with that. If you have more than you want lying around all the time, keep some stored away and rotate them out so they seem new.
Kristen Bukowski says
What you said about comparing gifts between the grandparents is another big issue here! They each want to seem to out-do each other and our house ends up with all the spoils 😛
We also have asked that certain toys remain at grandparents houses and that has helped a bit, but they don’t have the space either! (Yet, think that we do somehow…Haha)
I do try to rotate the toys pretty frequently 🙂 I keep a bin of small stuff in the closet then we have a bunch in the attic! My husband has become a pro at attic organization.
My sister in law tells my nieces when birthdays and holidays are coming up; that they are going to help go through to help decide what toys to donate/give away. This way it teaches them to be grateful for what they have, and understand that if they aren’t using it others could be using it instead.
We don’t have grandparents living on the same continent and this makes it easy for us, when it comes to this issue, as I think grandparents are the main source of toy gifting. However my boys still get toys from friends and their godparents.
When my oldest turned 2 my hubby made him a kitchen and we asked for kitchen related toys. When he turned 3 we made him a reading nook and asked for books. What I plan to try is to make an Amazon wish list with toy alternative gifts my boys would love and send it to our guests.
But my questions is: What do parents who complain about the amount of toys their kids have buy as gifts for other kids?
Because toys is an important issue for me , I started expanding the idea of alternative to the gifts that I get for our friends’ kids as well. A bird watching kit I put together myself became a hit to a 6 year old boy, for instance.
To avoid unnecessary birthday gifts we do one of two things 1. Hold a small celebration for 2 or 3 friends only. 2. If you have many guests you could ask for charity donations or canned food. Our daughter selected a pet charity instead of gifts.
We only have a few, too, but a few hundred great books, paper, pens, and blocks. May I ask what book is under Mouse and the Motorcycle?
Crystal Paine says
I think that was The Saturdays?
Thanks! We just started Pippi Longstocking and really like it.
My husband and I are constantly working on this area and it’s the same thing. Our kids are very creative. Most of the time they don’t play with half the toys that they have. They would rather create and make things from cereal boxes, aluminum foil, beads, yarn, etc. They also enjoy cooking and baking and I have found that my kids are very hands-on and love Legos and planning. I am not as good business wise but I think through their learning new things, I am also learning new things! I think sometimes we use toys because we feel guilty but they really want us.