Feeling completely overwhelmed with the amount of toys in your house? A huge part of encouraging our children towards deeper, more creative play is reducing the amount of toys that are out at any given time. Not only does reducing toy clutter help our children, it also can help us feel less overwhelmed and controlled by the stuff of play.
I recently finished organizing all of our toys - purging toys we don't need anymore and decluttering our play spaces. It took a LONG time, but my girls are playing better, and I am feeling so much calmer about the amount of toys that I have stored away for later. Here's the thing: toys can be hard to let go of, as they often hold sentimental value and feel like a valuable thing to store “just in case.” However, research shows that more toys do NOT lead to deeper play. Less is more when it comes to playtime!
Here are 3 steps you can take if you are ready to make more room for play in your home.
Figure out just how many toys you have. While your kids are in bed for the night or out of the house for the afternoon, gather all your toys in one area. Begin to sort them by type and age group. I like to sort by building toys (like blocks/magnetic tiles/Lego), pretend play (baby dolls, dress up clothing, play kitchen items), vehicles (cars, trains, construction toys), instruments, fine motor toys (puzzles, stacking games, shape sorters), gross motor toys (tunnels, balance beam, pull or push toys), and baby toys.
Decide what to purge and what to keep. The toys in your storage closet won’t magically make your child play better or in a new way, so you don’t need to keep every single toy your child has ever received. Here are some questions to help guide this decision process:
Does my child like this toy? Can I see younger siblings playing with it?
Do I have lots of similar kinds of toys?
Is the toy broken? Is it missing pieces?
Does it encourage more than one kind of play? Or is it a push button/light up toy?
Do we have the space to store this toy?
Once you’ve decided what will stay and what will go, place toys out for your child to play with. Remember - only put out what you are willing to help clean up. Store everything else! I organize my toy storage by category, using large clear bins for things like pretend play/dress up and smaller shoebox-size bins to keep smaller sets of toys together (think a Duplo set with instructions, or instruments, or extra dollhouse furniture). If we had less storage space, I'd use under bed storage bins to keep things sorted and tucked away. Don't forget to use the toys in storage to rotate your play areas as your children lose interest in their current toys.
Ready to give these tips a try? Download my free toy overwhelm checklist to kick start your organizing!
Dauch, C., Imwalle, M., Ocasio, B., and Metz, A. (2018). The influence of the number of toys in the environment on toddlers’ play. Infant Behavior and Development. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0163638317301613?via%3Dihub