Taming Toy Clutter: How to minimize toys and maximize creativity in kids

Posted under  EnviroKidz, Kids & Families on
In the midnight hours, when we are deep asleep, I am convinced our toy clutter multiplies. LEGO people and pastel coloured doll accessories are what glitter is after doing a craft. Little pieces seem to show up everywhere - in the bathroom, under furniture, and at the bottom of my rain boots when I'm rushing out the door.

It's Not Just Toy Clutter

Aside from the fact that there are toys underfoot all the time, my kids don't appreciate or play with most of what they have. When they go to play, they seem more overwhelmed and unfocused than inspired. So my husband and I held a family meeting. We explained to the kids why we would be getting rid of a lot of their toys. Also, we talked about why we will give them to less fortunate children. Finally, we agreed that, if clean up time rolled around and the kids didn't clean up their toys, we would put them in a bag to donate. But, we would warn them before they would go in that bag.

Minimizing Toys

Since our family meeting, we have donated three garbage bags, consigned a handful of toys, and recycled or threw out countless more. I'm blown away by the difference in our family. My kids play longer. Their play is more elaborate. And, our house feels less stressful because there is less clutter. It turns out the benefits of minimizing toys extend beyond our family. toddler playing with blocks

Science says fewer toys are beneficial for kids:

  • A study out of John Hopkins University found a link between scarcity and creativity.
  • When some Bavarian kindergartens elected to remove all toys, researchers found removing toys “…may help children learn important social competencies and life skills such as empathy, creativity, critical thinking, and the ability to resolve one’s problems.” In the absence of toys, these German students collected items from outside and got imaginative, playing with those instead.

This is how to successfully minimize toy clutter:

  • Decide with your kids what you will give away. While you don't have to schedule a family meeting and brainstorm as we did, I highly recommend discussing the plan of attack with your kids. More than once I have attempted to donate a forgotten toy only to have my kids find it and want it again.
  • Keep toys that are favourites, will grow with your child, and foster imaginative play. Battery operated toys tend to be used more literally and aren't as beneficial.
  • Sort through the toys you are getting rid of. Check plastics for chasing arrows and numbers. These numbers indicate what can and cannot be recycled. Discard of any broken toys. For the remaining toys, find a local charity to donate to.
  • With the remaining toys, select which ones you will rotate. Our marble run, wooden train set, and Playmobil are put away in our basement until the kids are bored. When we take them out again, they feel almost brand new.
  • Have everyday toys in easy-to-access bins or baskets. Forget labels and intricate organization because they aren't realistic.
  • Establish a clean-up routine. In schools, a song works well to cue clean-up time. At home, I use a timed warning.
  • Remember, less is more.
While I don't think I have solved the issue of stepping on a rogue piece of LEGO, our family does feel less burdened and more playful. Getting rid of bags of toys has opened my kids' eyes to see what they do have and what they really value.

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About The Author

Alana is a mom of three young kids, originally from Vancouver, BC. She started blogging to share some of what she does with her kids and some of the things she learned along the way. 

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