With the Holiday season approaching, moms everywhere are looking at playrooms and children’s bedrooms and wondering if the toys multiply at night when we turn off the lights. I’m pretty sure they do (and the clothes, too). We struggle to keep the toys organized and the rooms tidy, and the sudden influx of new things on December 25th is enough to make us lose our minds.
But where do you draw the line? This subject comes up often in my Mommy Circles and opinions vary deep and wide about how many and what types of toys kids should be allowed to have. I’ve seen a Facebook group of typically mature, adult women implode over just such an argument.
Personally, I fall somewhere in the middle. I’m not crazy about Suzy’s rule that every toy must be 100% educational, made from sustainable materials, and kept to only however many fit in her handmade toy chest. Nor could I stand living with the playroom at Molly’s that truly looks like Toys R Us exploded inside. But, hey, if that works for their families, awesome!
Right now I’m loving the principles laid out by Melissa Walker in her article Does Your Child Have Too Many Toys? over on Yahoo! Parenting. I found that many of them were things that we’d already applied as a natural consequence of getting fed up with the cluttered, overwhelming playroom that our kids just wouldn’t play in anymore. Some of her ideas though were definite food for thought. I’m all for my kids having toys, but it has to be a balance between the toys having a purpose, and them still requiring a good deal of imagination from my kids! (And let me have a minute to mama-brag: my kids have HUGE imaginations! I love listening to them play and act things out and hearing about their creations.)
1) Do my kids declare “I’m bored” while surrounded by tons of toys? If so, they are likely overwhelmed. Start with cleaning their play area and purging toys that are broken, missing pieces, not appropriate for their age, or that they otherwise just don’t play with. Many times it’s simply too overwhelming to find what they want to play with, especially if they have to sift through to find the spread out pieces. This is a great time to look at your organizational system and see if it fits your child. Some kids like one big toy box, others like sets to be with sets. IMPORTANT: the organizational system should meet your child’s requirements, NOT yours!
2) Is getting my kids to pick up their toys a recipe for an instant meltdown (by them OR ME)? Again, it can be very overwhelming and you need to assess the same two things…are there simply too many, or is the organizational system to blame? If your child is unclear on where things go, putting toys away can be enormously stressful for them. Make sure you haven’t overcomplicated the system and that your bins are labeled age-appropriately.
3) Which toys are my children’s favorites? If you have an immediate answer to this, then I’m going to guess you could also point to 3-5 that rarely get touched and are automatic candidates for the donate bin. If you don’t have an answer, then you probably have kids like mine who play with everything pretty equally. In the case of the first, it’s time to teach the kids about giving and donating. In the case of the second, try out a rotating toy system for a couple months. Every three or four months, we pack up about two-thirds of the toys. (And I’ll admit, this is normally the week I have the OMG TOO MANY TOYS moment.) The toys get stored away in my closet until the kids start asking for certain sets back. They trickle back out to the playroom over the course of a few months until there are once again too many and we start over. We use the day we pack them back up as a chance to sort toys that need to be purged or donated. It’s an ongoing cycle that works for our family.
4) How does my child play with particular toys? Let’s face it, kids don’t always play with toys in a manner that was intended. And they don’t always gravitate toward toys that you think they will. That bridge from the train track set met it’s demise after the 6th time my oldest son hit a sibling while pretending it was a light saber. I held onto it that long because it belonged to a set, but eventually realized it was never going to be used properly and wasn’t worth the constant fighting. On the other hand, a toy that normally would have met the trash bin on Day 1 (came from a Wendy’s kids’ meal) has become the most played with thing in the playroom (and the most fought over, of course). Evaluating this can really help you decide what to keep and make you more thoughtful about what to add to their collection in the future.
5) Am I keeping toys simply because they were received as gifts? Let’s face it, 95% of us suffer from some guilt when we donate things that were given to either us or our children. But if the gift is not a blessing to you, you have to be ready to let it go. Don’t keep toys your kids have outgrown or don’t play with simply because they were a gift. Donate them so that they can bless someone else. And if this is a recurring issue, time to have a chat with the gifted about what might benefit your family better in the future. It was a huge relief when my mother-in-law happily agreed to purchase our family a zoo pass rather than gift our twins more toys for their birthday last year. And it’s always easier to grow a collection of a certain type of building block or other set of toys than adding a new set of something that might make things overwhelming. For Christmas, my kids asked for accessories to existing toys or more of certain building blocks they like rather than entirely new things.
Do your kids have too many toys? What are your best tips for conquering toy-mageddon?
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.