I read a post the other day from a mother who was upset at all the toys her kids had. Actually I think most of the frustration was aimed at her mother-in-law for buying all the toys. Regardless, the problem was more toys than house; a problem that I, and probably most parents, can relate to. It is true, we feel like there is a parental obligation to hang on to toys until they are broken or outgrown. By out grown I mean we keep that plastic fire truck with the cheesy siren in the closet until all the kids are over six and dad has had a vasectomy guaranteeing no more little feet will ever go look for it. Seriously, why do we do this? If your parents are like ours, each of the kids will get sweet new fire trucks with a new state-of-the-art siren of their own for their third birthday anyway. (This is a good thing by the way)
Okay, so we are willing to get rid of toys, but how do we know which ones to ditch and what do we do with them until then? I expect there are a hundred different ways to solve this problem. I have seen a few clever storage and organizational tips such as this genius game board wall art. This doesn’t answer the bigger question. How do you manage, not just organize, your children’s toys? Well, here is one idea:
Our house has limited storage. Therefore our kids have limited storage. Currently we have a toy box, a toy corner, a few toy drawers and a toy closet. Here is how they function.
- Toy Box: This is for smaller toys and those random items kids claim such as the kitchen whisk. This is the perfect place for those kids meal toys that your kids have never learned how to use but can’t stand to part with. Every now and then we go through it (without the kids) and discard broken, missing or simply unused items. So far the kids have never missed them.
- Toy Corner: This is for larger toys, like the three giant tubs of dinosaurs your child got for Christmas, or their wood blocks. These toys have passed the three-day test and still get a lot of play time. Ours also happens to have a bookshelf for their books as well. This location has the added function of being where toys from the closet are kept when they are “out.” More on that in a minute. For the most part we have five to six items hanging out in the toy corner.
- Toy Drawers: These hold longer term collections such as ever-expanding Thomas Train set, puzzles and similar items. We go through them and remove the damaged and unused items every now and then. For the most part their contents are static, at least between major developmental milestones.
- Toy Closet: This is the secret to the whole system. The toy closet is not accessible to the kids. They may request to get a toy out of the closet but they must put one back in. They are almost never allowed to have full, open access to it. As a rule, only two toys per child are allowed at once. This helps maintain the clutter in the rest of the house and also teaches the kids to put items back when they are done playing.
Here is the beauty of this arrangement. When our children get new toys they usually love to play with them. They are kept in the toy corner for a while. The toys that were in the corner are sent to the closet. Once they get tired of them they ask to swap them for toys in the toy closet. Being the loving parents we are, we let them; after all, they are filtering out the keepers for us. The toys that spend the most time in the closet are now on a one way collision course with Goodwill. After a few weeks, we can removed the less played with toys to make room for the new ones. Sometimes the new ones may actually be the less played with toys. With this approach we don’t make the mistake of getting rid of a favorite toy to keep one they could care less about. Since the toy closet is not accessible to the kids they quickly forget what is hidden in the back and we can remove and donate them without the kids ever knowing.
Once our oldest did see the bag we were getting ready to take to Goodwill and started the, “but it’s my toy” fit. We simply said “okay, go swap it for a toy you would rather give away instead.” Guess what? It stayed in the bag and he was fine. So, there you have it. Our imperfect-but-works-for-us toy management system. All credit goes to my wife!
Have you worked out a toy management scheme or are you in need of one? Let us know in the comments. I am sure there are other ways to do this.