Too Many Toys
by SM Ford
Recently, I saw this question on Twitter: “How do you choose what toys to get rid of that your kids no longer play with (but if you ask them or they see you moving it they’ll want to play with it)?”
It’s a good question and there were good responses. One of my favorites was “keep the Legos.” I agree wholeheartedly. Allow me to organize and add to the rest of the ideas.
Check for Broken and Non-Working Toys
If your children are three or older, ask them to help you. Anything that is unsafe and not able to be repaired can be tossed and it’s unlikely a child will complain. (See more later.)
If parts are missing, and it’s something the child really enjoys, or you think is valuable, you may be able to find parts online. Repairing that missing eye on a stuffed animal or finding the missing game piece, shows kids you do care about their toys.
Find Any Toys That are Too Young for Your Children
You may want to set them aside for younger siblings that may follow or to give away. Again, even a toddler can help. Most kids can point out “baby” toys that they are too old for and may even be gleeful in doing so.
Put them in a box out-of-sight if you’re keeping. If donating or giving to friends, express the idea of how much the toys will be appreciated by someone else.
Especially if you have limited play space, consider packing some up. Start with older ones. Look for ones you haven’t seen them play with in a while. Or even ones you wish they didn’t play with. Or ones that are lesser quality.
You may need to do this when the children are asleep. If someone says, “Dad, I can’t find my ______” and you’ve packed it up, offer to look for it. You get to be the hero when you bring it out. Although some of these toys may never be mentioned again.
Or depending on your child, you may explain that we’re packing up toys to “give you more space to play.” Clarify that you aren’t tossing or giving away these items but putting them in a treasure box. Consider starting with seasonal toys. In the fall those buckets and shovels might be put away till next summer. A winter board game might go away in spring.
Several months later bring out the treasure box and let the kids rediscover old toys. Meanwhile, you’re looking for others to rotate out. If something is ignored in the rotate box, perhaps it should go in the giveaway pile.
Make Room for New Toys
When new toys are expected, get rid of some old ones. Depending on your child, he or she might be willing to help, if you explain why. Don’t forget to use it as an opportunity to donate toys for kids who are less fortunate.
One mom gave her five-year-old a certain number of toys to choose to give away. Having a limit helps the child feel more in control.
Remove Toys as Discipline
If your child is not cooperating about picking up toys, announce that everything left on the floor in the living room (or whatever room is appropriate) will go away in ten or fifteen minutes. Set a timer. When it dings, there may be a frantic move to save toys.
Calmly pick up what remains and put the box somewhere high or out of sight. Be unmoved by tears. Remind the child that toys are a privilege. Explain about being responsible for their toys. Next time when asked to pick up, your child may be more responsive.
As a reward for later good behavior, allow the child to pick two toys out of the box. Or you may decide there are toys in the box you want your child to have, so you choose to give them back.
It could be at bedtime or in the morning for a fresh new start. As time goes by, the child may forget about some of those boxed toys and you may decide to donate them.
Toy Time Out
When children fight over a toy, it’s often hard to tell who had it first. Take the toy and put it in time out. Or if a child is abusing a toy, put it in time out. You may want to set a ten-minute timer or keep the item longer.
In ten minutes, a child has probably moved on to something else. If there continues to be a problem with a specific toy, perhaps it needs to go away permanently. (Of course, keep in mind which child’s toy it is.)
“But I Want to Keep It!”
Some toys seem special for no discernable reason—at least to the adult. If your child is really attached to something, and it’s not dangerous, let him or her have it.
If children don’t want to give up anything, you can have them choose between similar objects. “Would you rather keep the red fox or the brown bear?” Explain that you don’t keep everything either.
You may not use all of these methods, but try several ideas and see what works best for you and your family.
About the Author
SM Ford is a Pacific Northwest gal, who has also lived in the Midwest (Colorado and Kansas) and on the east coast (New Jersey). She and her husband have two daughters and two sons-in-law and three grandsons. She can't figure out how she got to be old enough for all that, however. Sue likes traveling and animals, especially those in the cat family.
You can read Sue’s “Real Parenting” column on the 4th Thursday each month here at Mustard Seed Sentinel.