When I was pregnant with my first child, we were given a toy box, built by my husband’s grandfather. It was absolutely beautiful and we were so excited to fill it with the perfect toys. As if we knew what the perfect toys were for our unborn child. My husband and I planned to only have the amount of toys that would fit into this toy box and get rid of toys if it started to get too full. We imagined we’d continually weed out old toys as we file it with new toys. We would have a super simple toy space for our child to thrive.
Then our baby came and so did all the stuff.
We had clothes, blankets, calming devices, noise makers, and more baby items than we can count. And the toys. They just kept coming. We would get them as gifts or I would see something I thought was a must. It’s amazing how quickly you forget you wanted to keep things simple when it comes to giving your child everything.
Then we had our second kid. And we got more stuff. Then our third kid came and even more stuff entered our lives.
One day I realized all I was doing was organizing and reorganizing and decluttering and organizing some more. All while my kids were whining for my attention because they couldn’t find anything to play with. What happened to the simple play space I’d dreamed about before I had kids?
Sound familiar? Is your house overflowing with toys and your children still never seem to have what they want? Even though you had the best of intentions and provided everything they could ever want.
So here’s the truth. The extra stuff will not fulfill any need of your child’s needs or keep them engaged and happy.
Did you know, kids actually play better, are more independent, and have more creativity when they have fewer things to play with.
So how do you create a simple play space?
Let’s talk about the 4 things to keep in mind as you create your space and choose the best toys.
- How much space do you want to dedicate to the toys
- Will you have toys you want to rotate in and out?
- How does your child play best?
- Will this space be only for toys or is it also a living space?
As you think through these questions be honest with what will work best for your house, your family, and the way you want your space to feel. Rather than thinking about the toys you already have, pretend you are starting completely over. This will help you analyze your needs and your kid’s needs from a very honest perspective.
Now that you’ve nailed that down, you have to decide what kinds of toys you want in your space. You’ll likely have to get rid of some of the things you already have and may even want to replace older toys with more intentional toys.
Here’s how to choose the toys you’ll bring back into your toy room:
Will this toy last through multiple stages of my child’s growth?
If a toy will only be purposeful or enjoyed by your child for a very limited amount of time, it probably isn’t worth the space it’ll take up.
Does my child do the thinking or does the toy do the entertaining?
Toys can be very valuable for your child’s development, but if your child doesn’t have to think, innovate, or be creative, then that toy has very little value for your child.
Does the toy provide open-ended play?
What I mean by this is, can this toy be used in any way your child wants? Can she play in a variety of ways with the same toy? Example of open ended toys are blocks, magnatiles, play food, etc. These toys allow for creativity and will provide tons more play than a toy that can only do one thing. You don’t have to have all open ended toys. I generally keep our open ended toys out all the time and then rotate some of the toys that don’t allow for such open-ended play. A good example of this is a puzzle. Puzzles are incredibly valuable for kids, but they can only be played with so many times. This is a toy I like to trade with other families so we can rotate the puzzles that are in our toy room easily and consistently.
Is this toy well made?
This is an important one. So many toys you can buy will end up in the landfill within the month because the quality is so poor. We live in a consumer culture where most things will be replaced quickly and do not need to last. However, if you’re being intentional in what you bring into your house, look for toys that are well made so you don’t have to replace them constantly.
Here’s an example of the toys I keep in our toy space and the toys that get rotated.
Toys that are always out
- Magnatiles or Shapemags
- Blocks, big and small
- Lego Duplo/Lego
- Art Supplies
- Play Kitchen, cash register, table and chairs
- Musical instruments
Things I rotate
- Building sets
- Dress up stuff
Keep in mind, in order to keep our toy space uncluttered and purposeful I have to resist the urge to buy my kids the toys they see at their friend’s houses, the character toys that are short lived, or the trinkets they beg for, but never last.
Now we all know that things will come into our house that we don’t really want. Kids come home from birthday parties with goodie bags or get random toys from events, from others, and so on.
The way I handle this is each child has a small box where they put these small toys. (They really never open that box and play with those toys). If something goes in, we get rid of something else. If the box is too full, we get rid of things in the box. To be honest, it’s easy for my kids to get rid of these types of toys because they don’t get much joy from them. We end up dumping this box often and I talk to my kids about trying not to bring these extra things home because they just end up in the trash.
Curating your toy room takes a bit of time and a lot of thought. And once you have it the way you want, you have to be consistent with what comes in and out of that space. Clutter can creep up again very easily. I always suggest that you revisit your space consistently to make sure you still have the things you want for your kids. Remember, less is more when it comes to kids. The less clutter they have the more focus they will have. If each toy is chosen intentionally, it will be easy for your child to play independently and purposefully for hours. Play truly is a child’s work so let’s make sure the time spent playing is full of learning possibilities.