Growing up, we didn’t have a lot of money, so to entertain ourselves, we mostly played outdoors and to my memory, what toys we had were few. Some of my favorites were a kid-size air hockey table, my Lincoln Logs, Erector Set, and of course my bike which got me everywhere I needed to go. I did have a few Barbies but I was never a big fan of any dolls, including her and Ken. (Sorry Barbie.)
Today, families are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of toys that kids have. Toys end up in every room of the house, causing unecessary clutter and chaos. If this sounds like your house, here are seven simple steps to reducing toy clutter and teaching your kids valuable lessons in the process.
- Pare and Share. To keep toys at a manageable level, establish a quarterly “donate day” when your child “goes shopping” in his toy collection to find things to give to needy kids. Encouraging your child to pare down and share with kids who have little is a great way to declutter, while teaching him that he can be happy with fewer things. It also helps him learn to make choices when faced between two things he enjoys.
- Less Is More. Getting your child to put her toys away might seem like a monumental task. However, when you dramatically reduce the number of toys, clean up time instantly becomes faster and easier. She’s less likely to fight you if there are only ten toys to put away rather than a hundred. Wouldn’t you feel the same?
- Banish The Box. Toy boxes are a good idea on paper, however, they’re not often effective because for kids, “out of sight” also means out of mind. The depth and darkness of the box hides all the toys except what’s on top. Toy boxes also obscures small items, which tend to fall to the bottom. Replace your toy box with an open shelf and small clear bin system, so kids can store their toys in plain sight. When you make storage and retrieval easy, you set your kids up for success.
- Birds of a Feather. To make it easier for your child to locate his favorite toys, store like with like. For example, keep all the stuffed animals together, building toys together, store cars and trucks in the same container, games and puzzles can live on a low shelf, and dress-up items are easily stored in a suitcase at the foot of the bed or even beneath it. Grouping items teaches kids to categorize and makes finding what they want easy.
- Reading Is FUNdamental. If your child’s room is overrun with books that never seem to make it back onto the bookshelf, try containing them in small plastic dishpans instead. Most kids’ books will fit into a dishpan with the spine facing up. Storing books this way makes it easy for kids to identify books quickly, just by flipping through them. The dishpan is great too, because unlike a bookcase, it’s portable for those times when youyou’re your child want to spend reading time together in another part of your home.
- Set A Trend. Be the first on your block to boycott the big gift-laden neighborhood birthday party. Your friends will thank you for taking the pressure off because they will no longer have to buy your child a gift, nor will their child be coming home with yet another “goodie bag.” Let’s just be honest… nobody’s kid really needs another cheap plastic trinket to take home. Instead of spending money filling the dreaded goodie bags, hire a clown or a magician. To create a fun experience, set up tables so the kids can do art projects or have them dress in fun costumes and put on funny skits or make up songs.
- Control Gift-Giving. Establish gift-giving rules for your family and friends. Strictly limit the number of gifts they may give to your child on birthdays and holidays. Let them know that you’re in the process of simplifying your life and teaching your child to understand that more is not better. Encourage family and friends to give your kids “experience” gifts rather than things. Tickets to the circus, a museum, the movies, a sporting event or concert are wonderful gifts that encourage spending time together without cluttering your child’s mind and home with more “stuff.”
Toys are a perfectly wonderful part of childhood when they enhance your child’s experience rather than overwhelm his space and stress him out. How have you taken steps to curtail the tidal wave of toys over the years?
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