How to Reduce Toy Clutter and Get Your Kids to Play More
Rewind to the year 2014: You should have seen the Amazon packages on my front porch. As a brand-new mother, I spent many of my days at home feeding my baby on the sofa. Which conveniently could be done while perusing Amazon for new ‘educational’ toys that would surely develop my infant into a baby genius.
Entering motherhood, I had a lifelong history of clutter. Therefore, it’s no surprise that I looked for new stuff to help check off the boxes I needed to “be a good mom” and make my kid happy. During this sensitive period of change in my life, I was immersed in more than just knee-deep toy clutter. I was also finishing up my doctoral degree in child development.
I spent more than five years studying and learning what kids really need to flourish and develop. Sure enough…an abundance of toys isn’t on that list. In fact, having fewer toys and making them more accessible can actually help children to learn, grow, and thrive. In case you’ve made the same well-intentioned mistakes as I did, I want to offer you these three tips to make change in your home:
1. Get rid of the toy boxes
Back in the 80’s, my brother and I had more than one toy box. The result was always the same: It was filled to the brim and the contents that settled to the bottom was forgotten about and/or destroyed. Oh, and the lid was always broken from trying to cram everything in there before closing it.
There is one sure-fire way to find the things at the bottom of the toy box: Dump it all out! When you get rid of toy boxes, you reduce the number of toys you have and begin to show your child how to take care of their belongings and clean up with intention. Who wouldn’t be happy to eliminate toy dumping in their house?
If the toys your kiddos love require deeper storage containers for organization (e.g. Legos), swap out the solid boxes or bins for transparent ones.
2. Move toward open shelves
Instead of toy boxes, consider moving to open shelves. When you display toys on shelves in shallow bins or on trays, kids can easily see what is available to them for play. It also makes putting things away so much easier (so yes, the kids can start to do it themselves!).
Try to avoid putting a door on those shelves too, because when the toys are out and visible it’s more likely that your kids will choose to engage in toy-based play more frequently…you know instead of unloading all your kitchen cabinets? The result is that you need fewer toys and those toys will be played with more often.
3. Reduce the quantity
One thing is for sure, new toys really light up a child’s face. As parents, we often have false hopes for these new possessions. In fact, we think if we give our kids more toys then they will play more independently for longer periods of time. In fact, that opposite may be true. Research shows us the kids play more creatively and focus better when they have simplified play spaces.
If you’ve ever walked into a playroom and felt overwhelmed, chances are good that your children felt the same way—maybe even more so! In the early years, kids are easily overstimulated and simplifying their lives and spaces is important. During this precious stage of life, they are learning through play. When we create a play space with their toys, this becomes a workspace for them to grow and thrive. So keep it simple!
It may surprise you to learn that having less actually offers so much more. I challenge you to give it a try in your home.
Photo credit: The Tot