Toys. There are just so many. And they’re everywhere. Just when you think you’ve gotten them under control, here comes another holiday. You know what you need to do, right? Yup. A toy purge.
Some toys have sentimental attachments and some are expensive. And even though no one really plays with many of them, they’re hard to let go of.
I sometimes fantasize about having just two or three toys per child and always having a clean house, but that’s not reality, and it’s fair to my kids either. Instead, we live in our home and enjoy it — and do a toy purge a few times a year and I get them involved (a little).
Actually, PLAY is important to a child’s development, and toys inspire play. Benefits of toys include:
- Encourage independent and cooperative play
- Positively affect social skills
- Improve fine motor skills
- Improve memory
- Improve problem-solving skills
- Introduce children to advanced concepts, such as engineering.
And, let’s not forget, toys hold a speciahearts,l place in children’s hearts, and that’s definitely important. But having fewer toys is actually better for kids. And less mess is better for moms (Seriously, clutter can make people unhappy and unhealthy).
So, how do you do a toy purge?
Purging & organizing toys is no simple task. Before you start, decide how involved you’d like your children to be in this process.
Include Kids or Not?
There are generally two schools of thought here.
- You should respect your children and their belongings, so you need to include them in the purging.
- Children don’t know what’s best, aren’t in charge of the family, aren’t great at making purging decisions, will slow the entire process, and will add a layer of stress.
Do what you think is best, taking your children’s ages and personalities into consideration.
Do the first step of the toy purge without them—weed out toys that don’t earn their keep. These are often the ones they will fight the hardest for because they’re the biggest and loudest, even though they are likely not adored.
Then, include them in the second step and third steps. If there are a few things that are borderline, keep them in a limbo box somewhere for a few weeks and see if they are missed.
If no one mentions them after a few weeks, let them go.
Step 1: Gather All the Toys
Choose a place to work with open space and pull out all the toys.
All. The. Toys.
Empty closets, bedrooms, playrooms, living rooms. Wherever you’ve got toys hiding, bring them out. And prepare to be disgusted at the sheer multitude and excess of what your children own.
If you had any doubts before this moment, they are surely gone now.
Step 2: Sort into Categories
Sort through the toys and make piles of like categories. Cars in one pile, dolls in another, etc.
As you go, there will likely be items that are obvious garbage. Toss them.
Create areas for items you plan to keep, donate, and toss.
Step 3: Purge the Obvious
Get started purging.
Purge toys that are easy first. Some no-brainers to get the ball rolling are baby toys your children have long-outgrown, Happy Meal toys, goody bag stuff, small random things that don’t have a use or a home, anything that’s broken, kazoos.
Next, move on to some harder things. Be honest with yourself and really think about what your kids play with. If you’re unsure, send it to the limbo box and wait a few weeks.
Now it’s time to buckle down and purge toys that are harder. But what goes and what stays? I have strict criteria. Basically, if it’s annoying, noisy, and doesn’t earn its keep, let it go.
I only keep toys that:
- Encourage independent play
- Encourage imaginative play or creativity
- Build skills or are educational
- Will grow with my children
- Are easy to keep up and maintain
- Can be used in various ways for different kinds of play
- Are good quality (I’m looking at you, goody bag toys and knock-off Lego)
So what gets kept?
Lego, dress up, blocks, art supplies, play kitchens, babies, vehicles, dolls, action figures, and play dough are all good examples. Taking your children’s likes and dislikes into consideration, make thoughtful choices. Make rules for yourself and stick to them.
Step 4: Reduce Quantities in Categories
Now we take it a step further and examine the number of items within the categories established in Step 2.
This is where I’d suggest you get your kids involved — but first move the toys you’ve already purged elsewhere.
Pick a Category
Your 4-year-old does not need 167 matchbox cars. There’s no need for 4 different blocks. Five to ten Barbies is plenty, I promise. Two to three babies are more than enough. You’ll obviously want to keep more of each if you’ve got multiple children.
Lay Out Toys, Set a Limit
Line all of one kind of toy up and let your child(ren) choose their favorites.
Give them limits — either a specific number of items or the capacity of a bin or basket.
For example, line up all the matchbox cars and have them choose their favorite 25 cars.
Let the rest go.
Tell your child that his or her generosity will brighten another child’s day. Pass the toys to a little cousin or a donate them to your child’s preschool.
When new toys come in, as they inevitably will, stick to the guidelines you set.
If five new matchbox cars come in, five old ones need to go. OR keep the old favorites and re-gift the brand-new package of cars next Christmas.
If someone gets a new toy and it won’t fit in the bin, tough choices will need to be made. But limits are helpful and are teaching children valuable skills.
Stick with it.
Helping Kids Purge Toys
- Make room for new toys. (Santa can’t bring anything if there’s no room in the playroom. Try the Santa Sack Purge Method.)
- Send items to Grandma & Grandpa’s to play with (this can be permanent or Grandma and Grandpa can make them disappear).
- Put toys you’re unsure of in a box and tuck it away. If kids ask about those missing toys, you can pull them back out. If they don’t, you can confidently let them go.
- Sending items to school. (“Mrs. Martin was just telling me your class doesn’t have enough babies. Wouldn’t you love to share this one with friends at school?”)
- Pass items on to specific younger cousins/friends — name names and tell your child how much that child will appreciate this and how you know. (Your little cousin Max loves fire fighters. I bet he’d love this dress up set that’s getting too small for you).
Step 5: Contain
Now that you’ve drastically reduced the number of toys in your home, it’s time to shelve or contain them. Larger items, books, and colorful items that “pop” are fun to leave out as part of your decor.
Everything else can be contained in a bin or basket — especially toys with small pieces.
If you still have more toys than you’d like out, consider setting up a Toy Rotation system.
Your Toy Purge
You’ll likely need hours or an entire day to a toy purge, especially if you have little ones that need attention and food. But, I promise, if you stick with it and only keep the toys your kids love and will benefit from, your home will be less chaotic and easier to clean.
Does your home need a toy purge? Leave a comment below and let me know how you do or what your biggest challenge is.