Practical Advice For Purging Kids’ Toys

So come this past January, our family of five started a mission to live with less (minimalism for rookies). I know it’s not for everyone, but it is for us, even if we are kind of sucking at it. Our first long draaaaaawn-out step is to “remove the excess” of belongings. Since January we have done three toy purges and reduced the kids’ toys by over half. As I mentioned yesterday, we had a trial run with getting rid of their toys after ‘the incident’ in which I confiscated half of their toys.

Now don’t get concerned our kids will grow wounded by the Purges of 2015, end up listening to Fiona Apple and burning incense in their room cause “nobody gets them”. We involved them. Granted they are 4,3 and infant – and get instantly distracted by the empty toy bins up for free play.

purging kids toys, simple on purpose

Since cutting back their toys by half they haven’t asked for anything back, or feigned boredom over lack of toys. Though….there has been some crayon graffiti, likely toddler gang symbols expressing how awesome their mother is. In fact, just the other day they had a couple friends over and the kids all played with the following: costumes, the baby monitor, a fire truck and a stack of furniture leg pads (which they have been calling “their treasures” for a few days, and I’m totally NOT calling them Gollum like the nerdy mom I am).

Maybe at this point you’re thinking “What’s with this war on toys? They keep my kid busy and happy and I just bought these new slippers impervious to Legos?” I agree! Toys are great and valuable. They spark creativity and imagination, they keep kids busy, they help with development and social skills, and so on. But if you are like me, there were just too many. If adults get overwhelmed, why wouldn’t we expect our kids to? I’ve found the kids are content with a few “great toys” and a lot less “okay toys.”

So if you are thinking of doing the Great Toy Purge here are some steps that we’ve found helped us…..

1. Prep for them for the purge.

This means looking at your own stuff first. Well, obviously not your mascara collection, maybe start with tube socks. Once you start purging your own things your kids will recognize this habit and be more likely to follow suit.

before purging kids toys, simple on purpose

2. Compile all the toys.

I’m talking all the toys that made their way into the car, under the couch with the raisins that were once grapes, in your ensuite with your collection of old curling irons (yup, we all got em!). Get them all in one spot, Clean Sweep style!

3. Sort by type.

You might not want to do this step (as well as number 2), but by grouping all the like items you can really highlight what can be reduced. I’m looking at you 32 plastic dinosaurs! Also, realizing the ‘sets/puzzles/games’ that are no longer complete will help you get rid of them.

4. Purge.

The easy first: let go of all toys that are broken, excessive duplicates, missing parts to a set.

Then move to the harder step and get rid of the toys that don’t fit your “keep criteria.” Your criteria can be anything, but here are criteria we have around toys we keep:

  • Toys that encourage team play
  • Toys for open-ended play, can be used multiple ways (e.g. wooden blocks)
  • Basic art/music toys
  • Toys that encourage role playing (play kitchens, dolls)
  • Toys that encourage physical activity
  • Toys that require engagement, so the kids plays with the toy, not the other way around
  • Toys that encourage learning and development (for smaller children this means lots of books)

5. Donate/Discard.

Toys can be recycled, re-gifted, and donated to great places where they can go to kids who will get more enjoyment out of them than your teal shag gets in holding them hostage. If our kids are sad to see a toy go we tell them it is being recycled into a new toy. They seem to be happy about this….so far.

6. Rotate Toys.

This doesn’t have to be a toy closet. If you want to use less space storing toys, think about rotating toys between friends, maybe your town has a toy library, and there is even a trend to view the thrift store as “storage” — you could donate and box and spend a couple dollars for a new one every few months.

7. Maintain.

Purge toys every few months. Set limits on bringing more toys in. Explore new ways to give gifts to your kids that aren’t toys. And sometimes you just need to grab a recycling bag when the kids aren’t around and get rid of anything that has become busted or hasn’t been used in months. I’ve done this many times and the kids have never realized anything was missing. In fact they have thanked me for cleaning their room or playroom



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