Involving Kids to Downsize Toys

There once was a time when I fit all of the kids’ toys into one toy box.  It was a glorious time.  They had a few stuffed animals, some blocks, and some play food to go with the little kitchen Matt built for Emma.

Then one day, there was an entire room full of toys.  The kids loved these toys and would play with them, but there were so many and not organized in any good way that the kids would take the toys to other areas of the home.  Areas where there was clear floor space.

It was at this point when I decided I needed to start weeding out the toys.  And that is what I did.  At 9 months pregnant.  Maybe it was pregnancy hormones that made me want to clean out the majority of the toys, but it was the start of downsizing the toy collection.

We homeschool.  A large portion of my “curriculum” is play based.  I want my kids to have the opportunity to play and use their imagination.  Make elaborate block towers, use LEGO to make a zoo and learn about animals, play Monopoly to learn math, work on puzzles together.

I found that we had a lot of toys.  A lot were open ended, and the exact type of toy I wanted my children to have.  A lot were not.

There were broken toys, favors from birthday parties, toys that the children never used and just sat in a pile.  

We needed a toy intervention.

I decided to involve the kids because I always think it is best to involve them when it is something I want them to take ownership in, and their toys are definitely something I want them to take ownership in.

I label a donate bin and I get a trash bag, and then we do it together. 

This is an ongoing process.  My kids only have so long of an attention span before they start playing with the toys we are trying to weed through.

One thing I had to get over quickly was saying *no* to toys they wanted to donate.  

It was something difficult because I did not want to hurt someone's feelings if they had purchased the toy, and I didn’t want my feelings to be hurt because I had purchased the toy!

We wait a bit to see if a particular toy is needed the next day, but after a week or so it seems the toy has been forgotten, and the kids decide to play with the many toys they have left.

I have been trying to instill in my kids how much we have, and how there are others that don’t have as much as us.  In their little brains they want to make sure that another little boy has Captain America figure, because it isn’t fair that Jack has one and another boy does not.  It is sweet to see how giving they are, and how much they want someone else to have even their most prized possessions.

My hope is that this giving spirit continues as they grow older, and that perhaps I can learn from their generosity.

We are moving back towards more open ended toys, and downsizing the amount of toys they have in general.  I would love to do a rotation system; unfortunately we do not have the space to store extra toys.  Instead, we will try and pare down what we have until it is a manageable amount.  The kids will be able to take ownership of their toys, and learn to take care of what they have. 

Do you work on downsizing kids toys with your children?  What type of toy organization system do you use?

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  1. I think it's a great idea to get them involved! We can all learn a lot from the generosity of our children and I agree with you that it makes no sense to feel bad or guilty if your child is choosing to donate something they've been given. We do rotate toys a lot because we have an unfinished third floor. We have tons of stuffed animals and those animals have inspired many veterinarian clinics, zoos and other imaginative play. At the same time my kids love constructing their own custom toys out of boxes and miscellaneous items they find. Last week I went through and did a giant purge of the junk that just doesn't make any sense but I know we could do more!

  2. We need to do this. I'd love to hear more about how you approach it with your children, what gentle language you use etc


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