If you haven’t already read about why and how I took my kids’ toys away, you should start here, just so you know I’m not some crazy, domineering mom type! (Not all the time, anyway…)
When I took my kids’ toys away, it was a moment of desperation, a time when something had to give. I’m so glad I did and I’ll never look back.
So here’s what we did.
1.Pack it all up!
I used big plastic storage totes left over from our move so I could keep things in the garage and go through them slowly, but boxes or garbage bags would work just as well. Collect all the toys, all the odds and ends, all the lost pieces hiding under the couch, and put them somewhere together where your kids can’t come in and dig through it without you.
2. Implement your system.
Ours works like this: 5 cards per child. If you hit someone, you lose a card. If you throw a fit, you lose a card. If you disobey, you lose a card. You get the idea. At the end of the day, how many cards each child has left is how many toys they get to choose from storage the next morning. So if my daughter has a really good day, she’ll get to choose 5 toys (or toy sets) to bring out and play with tomorrow morning. If she has a bad day and loses 3 cards, she’ll only have 2 left and get to choose 2 toys for the next day.
3. Sort and categorize the toys.
Throw out any that are broken or store them in a memory box if you just can’t let them go. Donate or sell any that don’t get played with anymore or are too young for your growing child. Then categorize the rest and put them in their own easily storing bins, baskets, totes, or boxes. We use these and these because they’re clear (easy to see what’s inside for your pre-readers), stackable, and won’t break open easily if knocked off a shelf, which sometimes happens.
4. Find a good location for Toy Storage.
Ours is a closet under the stairs, but you could use a tall bookcase with a curtain across the front or a cube organizer or a portion of your utility room. Anywhere the kids won’t get into without your permission. Adjustable shelves make the storage space even more effective because you know your kids are almost always going to ask for the toy at the bottom of the stack….
5. Set up shop and stick to the plan.
It can take a week or two for the new system to sink in with your kiddos. Be patient and consistent. If you play your cards right (cards, get it? *wink wink*), you won’t have to yell or threaten or spank anymore. I don’t give my girls a warning before they lose a card. We had a talk at the beginning when we outlined the expectations and rules and now, if they do something out of line, I just walk to the fridge, take down a card, and say “You lost one card. You have four left.” Don’t get angry or try to talk sense into them, and especially DON’T say “If you don’t stop, I’m going to take away a card!” Just take the card. They have five chances to shape up. Also, DON’T let them take more toys than they have cards for. Unless you like implementing systems that don’t work, then, by all means, help yourself.
6. Make sure they put away each day’s toys before bed.
Seven pm is bath time around here, so 6:45 is clean up time. There have only been, at most, 10 toys out during the day, so it’s much less daunting for a 3-year-old to clean up, especially if mom and dad are helping. Put the toys back in Toy Storage, let them check to see how many cards they have left for tomorrow (super helpful for that often difficult bedtime routine), and choose new toys in the morning. We had trouble with our youngest getting out of bed a bunch of times, but then we started taking a card away each time she got up and it put a really quick end to those nighttime journeys.
The Benefits of Limiting Toys
- Less stress, even for your kids: Kids get stressed out just like we do. A room full of brightly colored toys which they’re always being told to put away is stressful! Cutting down on clean up makes them happy and it makes you happy. Win-win!
- More contented kids: My kids rarely ask to buy things when we go visit places or even when we’re at the store. When the toys are all packed away, they forget they have all those different things, so each day can feel like a trip to the toy store (and it’s free!)
- They’ll play together better: For one, they know they’ll lose a card if they don’t. But also, there’s just something magical that happens when there’s less stuff to fight over. They work together to make the most out of each toy and create new games to play with the few things they have for the day.
- Increased creativity and imagination: This one surprised me the most! One food cutting set becomes a bakery, a collection of moon rocks, a stencil set. One fold up play house is a castle, a dog house, a doctor clinic, a rocket. A couple of wooden spoons and some dry rice become a cooking set, a bank, a grocery store, and a rock band. Kids don’t need much to play make believe. We’ve found that less truly is more.
- Increased independence: Have you ever given your kid something new in the hopes of buying yourself a little alone time? Me too! I’m guilty of thinking if I give them this new stamp set, then they’ll play happily with it and I can get a half hour of uninterrupted work time. And it works, sometimes. The truth is, our kids need newer, brighter, more exciting things exactly because we’re always giving them newer, brighter, more exciting things. Cut things back, give them their own toys on a limited basis and they become suddenly more independent, more content to play with what they have. And the fact that one toy can now play so many roles means that instead of 30 minutes, I usually get closer to 90 minutes of happy playtime. Parenting win!
I’m telling you, less really is more!
Tell me in the comments: Was this helpful? Have you limited, or are you considering limiting, the number of toys your children have/get to play with? What other benefits have you noticed?
Blessing upon blessing,