According to UCLA study, only 3.1% of the world’s children live in America, but they own 40% of the toys consumed globally. And the British research found that the average 10-yr old owns 238 toys but plays with just 12 “favorites” on a daily basis. (The Telegraph).
Clearly, our kids have way more toys than they need, and we contribute to this madness by keeping the 20 billion dollar toy industry alive and growing.
Why do we do that? After all, aside from some nonsensical gifts we sometimes get from people we otherwise love, we are the ones who reliably add to the toy clutter.
Working parents of younger children are the most vulnerable, and I’ve certainly been there myself. Being away from your little one is tough and compensating for a feeling of guilt with a nice toy a little more often than needed provides at least some relief.
And then there is an “educational trap”. When a toy packaging touts some unique educational benefit for our child, has a Toy Award seal and a ton of positive reviews on Amazon, what a parent to do? We are so easily sold.
The result is a busy, overstimulating playroom that offers so many options that it actually hinders our kids’ creativity, resourcefulness, and perseverance that a few well-selected toys could provide.
As kids get older, we revise the assortment of toys we buy for them by substituting with board games, advanced puzzles, remote control toys, electronic learning, and more, but there is still just TOO MUCH of everything!
Numerous research studies on early child development conclude that having less toys is beneficial for a child and that toys designed for open-ended play are the best.
As one blogger put it, “I’m not anti-toy. I’m just pro-child.” and this is exactly where I stand on the issue.
So, do your child a favor and cut the amount of toys in her room by half. Yes, by half! If you use Kon Mari organization method and establish your own ground rules around toys, you’ll be able to do it. The effect of a cleaner, quieter, emptier room will be magical. Guaranteed.
Following the main principle of the Kon Mari organization method, gather up all toys in one spot until you can see the entire toy mountain you own (it is always finite, no matter how much stuff you have). If your mountain is too scary, sort toys into categories: plush toys, figurines, boxed games and puzzles, etc. Then, working through each category, pick up each toy and ask yourself if it sparks joy for you. Whenever the intuitive check is not enough and you feel uncertain, apply your additional selection criteria based on what’s important to you. Here are a couple of pointers to help you define your own ground rules around toys:
- Does it squeak, vibrate, flash or talk? It’s probably trying too hard to stir your child’s imagination. She will do better without it.
- Is it made of plastic? Plastic is not soothing. Plastic is not creative. Minimize it. Opt for toys made of wood, fabric, paper, resin, etc.
- Can your child play with this toy in many different ways ? (open-ended play). A rug doll can be a hungry baby or a mean witch.
- Have you ever seen your child playing with this toy?
- Is the item still in good working condition?
- Do you have similar toys and if so, is this one the best to keep?
Don’t be afraid to toss an entire category if it does not provide any value for your child or does not reflect his or her current interests. You DO NOT have to own a toy, game or kit from each section of Amazon.com or each aisle of the Toys”R”Us store.
What I described so far is the prep work you should do before you invite your child to go through the downsized categories with you. The appropriate starting age for this type of collaboration is 3 or 4 depending on the maturity of your child. Getting your child involved in this process is really important. First of all, you want to show respect for her opinion by asking her to make a selection. Second, you teach her an invaluable lesson that parting with things is OK once they are no longer needed and that you can do so gracefully by thanking them for their service. Third, you give them an opportunity to practice decision-marking.
If your child wonders why you decided to go through all their toys, these are some of the points you can make at different parts of the process:
“You’re bigger now and you probably no longer play with some toys you used to like when you were little.”
“It’s going to be a lot easier to keep your room looking beautiful when there’s not so much stuff in it.”
“Thanks for telling me you don’t want this toy. That really helps me to know what kind of things you like.”
“Some of the toys will go in a storage box so we can play with them later, and some toys we’ll give away to kids who don’t have many toys and could use some more.”
Once you selected the toys you want to keep, it’s time to re-think toy storage. Every category of toys needs to find its permanent home — whether it’s a container, drawer, or an open shelf. Do not over complicate storage by installing a tower of 10 drawers, all labeled with a black market. It will look like a classroom and it’s just not fun.
Creating a mix of open shelf display and drawer storage is ideal. It keeps the toys tidy and easily accessible. It also looks a lot more inviting. I like the idea of a Toy Wall one blog mom has created (below). Here, she is mixing book racks to display the front covers of her child’s favorite books, open shelf display, a basket for plush toys and retrievable containers. Just looking at it sparks joy in my heart!
Montessori method is also well-known for mindful toy selection and open shelf display making it inviting and easy for the little ones to decide what they want to play with without feeling overwhelmed.
To learn more about the unique approach to play in Montessori method, I highly recommend reading “How To Raise An Amazing Child The Montessori Way” by Tim Seldin. I picked up so many amazing ideas from it when my daughter was younger.
The last point I’d like to make is setting up a simple system to rotate toys on a regular basis. Select few toys from each category to stay in the playroom, pack up the rest in clear plastic containers and put them away on the upper shelves of your child’s closet (if you decluttered it, you should have some extra space there).
Once a month, retrieve the container and select some toys with your child to replace the ones she’s been playing with. These toys will feel like new and your child will be delighted to meet the old friends and play with them.
Have questions, comments, suggestions about toy organization in your home? Please share!