5 Tips to Cut Toy Clutter
The Toy Monster has taken over my house. I know that’s not surprising, I do own a toy store. But when I look around, there are toys everywhere. I love to play, but I know that my daughter is actually missing out on quality play opportunities because there’s just too much everywhere.
I KNOW I have to tame this monster. I know that toys are essential to a child’s development (and an adult’s lifelong health) and the right toys and right types of play are crucial to physical, mental, and emotional intelligence.
If you have kids around, I’m betting the toy clutter creeps up in your house, too. Here are some facts I’m reminding myself of, and may help you, too:
The kids in your life probably do have too many toys
Where do these toys even come from? One minute the play room is Pinterest-worthy, and the next minute an avalanche of toys has fallen, and - oh no!! Where is the dog?!? Maybe that’s a little extreme, but if children cannot get to their toys easily, or are unable to find all the parts they need to enjoy a toy, they really are just taking up space and making it harder to have fun. It is easy to get sentimental about toys and quickly they will overrun our lives if not kept under control.
You’re going to buy them toys anyway
Many of the best childhood memories center around toys. Plus, don’t we have children around as an excuse to play with their toys? Less new toys for them means less new toys for you, too! Children are learning new skills and growing every day, and really do need a steady supply of new stuff. And when there’s too much clutter, you won’t want to bring home awesome new things.
Here are 5 easy things you can do to cut down on toy clutter, without denying your kids (or yourself):
1.Get rid of some toys- Let’s start with the obvious. There are toys they begged for and never played with, kids’ meal trinkets, school prizes- go through them (we should really be doing this regularly). Different children require different approaches to this task. A quick Google search will give you lots of ideas to help get children on board with making room- everything from learning to “share” by donating them, to slowly sneaking them out of the house. At our house, we sneak toys to a bin in the garage, then if nothing is missed over the next few months, we know they are safe to give away. You know your child best, so only you know the most painless way to do this - but it has to be done. When toys are organized and easy to find, children don’t feel overstimulated or overwhelmed, and have an easier time playing independently.
2. Pay Attention - With media (and commercials) now being everywhere, what your child asks for and what your child will actually love are likely two very different things. Remember that toy they begged for and never played with? Marketers are very savvy, and spend a lot of time and money to influence children. Instead, notice the toys that your child goes to over and over (you know, the ones you step on every day) and take note of what those toys have in common. Different developmental stages also call for different types of toys. Meet your child where they are- your three-year-old might be begging for magnetic Thinking Putty, but developmentally they are not ready to play with it responsibly and the ensuing mess would frustrate both the caregiver and the child. Always look for toys that a child can easily play with with little adult interference- this will foster independence and confidence.
3. Go for open-ended toys- We have a saying at Villa Villekulla, “The less it does, the more a child can do with it.” The more ways in which a child can play with a toy, the longer it will keep their attention. Toys that do everything for the child are only fun until the novelty wears off. There’s a reason that kids love cardboard boxes so much - they can be anything! Timeless toys like blocks, puppets and art supplies will always surpass trendy gadgets when it comes to their ability to last - both in durability and in holding a child’s interest. Additionally, beware of toys that give your children little to do other than collect more… these tend to be the most heavily marketed toys because they can be the most lucrative for corporations.
4. Look for add-ons - Take stock of the child’s favorite toys - are there things you can buy that will enhance that toy’s play value? Adding on to toys you already own is economical and also saves you space. Think clothes for a favorite doll, more figures for a favorite set, or additional parts for a favorite construction toy.
5. Embrace the wishlist - Gifts are often the biggest culprit of toy clutter. Most major retailers, and even a lot of family-owned businesses, offer a wishlist option on their websites. Don’t be afraid to make and share a list- wishlists can help friends and family accomplish their ultimate gift-giving mission: to get them something they absolutely love!