One toy, two toys, three toys, a hundred! It is wild just how fast toys accumulate after having children. Okay, to be fair, we had a lot of plush animals before having children. (I love them). But since Little Fox’s birth, we have acquired enough toys to fill two industrial storage shelves. And that’s after several rounds of purging.
Do the girls need that many toys? Well, probably not. I’ve done one purge in the last month which has helped a bit. But the fact that the plush animals are as much for me as for the girls certainly complicates things. So, I haven’t perfected my toy purging yet. But I have got a great system for rotating and storing the toys we have. The best part? No matter how disastrous the living room looks, it never takes more than five minutes to clean it all up.
How Many Toys?
And that takes us to the question of how many toys should be out at once. My answer is not many, and here is why. Imagine you are headed into a bookstore. Except instead of being this size of a regular bookstore, it is the size of an Amazon warehouse. And on top of that, all the directions and labels are in a foreign language.
That would be overwhelming. And that’s exactly what it is like for kids when they have too many toys out. The toys aren’t loved and enjoyed. They become one big pile of blur.
Little Fox has never had a grand amount of toys out at once. Though sometimes she manages to sneak more and more into our living room. And over time, I can tell when we have passed the threshold of too much. The toys no longer are played with. Instead they are dumped across the floor along with anything and everything she can reach. It is like her solution to having too much is to make the entire floor a toy pile. This is different from when she’s playing with her toys, and they tend to congregate in several different areas of the room and hallway.
The general guideline I use is how many toys can I clean up in five minutes. It is all the amount Little Fox can clean up in five minutes, though I don’t count if she gets distracted. Also her putting away isn’t as exact as mine.
Toy Rotation and Sorting
Toy rotation is a great way to have a variety of toys without overwhelming your child with them all at once.
But then I have to figure out what toys to have out. And which toys to swap with what. So I’ve taken the toys we have and sorted them into macro categories: puzzle, building/creative, figures, and books. Then I subdivided each group into an amount that was okay being out at each time. The plush animals I sorted separately into real animals and pretend creatures.
So toy rotation looks like this:
Puzzle: Choose one
Eg. for my two year old: wooden animal puzzle, numbers 0 to 9 wooden puzzle, or clock block puzzle
Building/Creative: Choose One
Eg. stacking bowls, wood building blocks, lego/mega blocks, or soft number blocks
Figures: Choose One
Eg. kitchen and fake food toys, dinosaurs, Princess figures, farm animals, or cars/wheeled toys. Toys with wheels used to be in their own category but I’ve recently consolidated it with figures. And now cars rotate with the figures too. If Little Fox played with the cars more consistently I’d continue to leave some out all the time. When I do bring them out I pick three to be in rotation at once.
Books: Choose Seven to Ten
There are a couple ways to sort the books. Currently I do it by spine colour, and the purple books are in rotation now. We always leave the favourites in, but I store those on the dress up bookshelf to separate them from the books that are “in rotation”. Other categories I’ve used for books are: educational, animal books, religious, and books that deal with life topics such as sharing, brushing teeth, or becoming a big sister.
Out all the time: dress up corner (for my two year old: one dress, pretend glasses or sunglasses, purse/clutch, four different kinds of shoes, and a pretend phone), cleaning supplies (child sized mop, broom, and dust pan), and the piano (which is the only sound-making toy we allow in the house). Also Little Fox’s favourite plush animals (Сірко and Fopsy) are always available. Little Badger only plays with the teething toys right now. So I keep a couple on my side table while she learns to hold toys. Eventually, I’ll add baby toys as a category when Little Badger can crawl. Since Little Fox is under three, the baby-safe quality is still in effect for all toys.
The Ultimate List of Children’s Toys
Here are a list of the different kinds of toys we consider good to keep/have:
1. Dress up (recommend: a hat, set of wings, a cape, a cloak, and large silks or small thin sheets. We added shoes because Little Fox loves to try on other people’s shoes and wear shoes all the time)
2. Figure/Static Toys
- Plush animals (no more than 5 out at a time, though we usually have 10 so I’m one to talk ;>P)
- Dolls (we don’t have any because I don’t like them)
- Plastic animals (can further sort by farm, Arctic, safari, etc. if you have lots)
- Plastic figurines
- Any other “tiny toys”
- Kitchen toys
- Cleaning supplies toys
- Doctor toys (we don’t have but I know older kids love to okay doctor)
- Pretend tech (old remotes, laptop that doesn’t turn on, etc. because kids love pushing the buttons. Plus they don’t make sounds because they don’t work so I love that)
3. Building/creative/multi-use toys
- Blocks: wood, plastic, felt, etc.
- Stacking bowls and cups
- Magnetic connecting toys
- Plastic pipes connecting toys
- Straw connecting toys
- Art supplies (we are renting, so I keep these out of reach and only for use when I’m right beside Little Fox)
- Play Doh
- For under 3 these are mostly wooden animal/number/letter puzzles
- Educational toys can also fall under this category if it isn’t a building/creative toy
5. Other Multi-Use Toys:
- Cash register (playing shop, bank, vet, etc.)
- Silks/sheets (dress up, floor is lava or ocean, fort building, etc.)
- beach ball
- jump rope
I love our cube shelving for storing toys. It is easy to put different sizes of bins or baskets depending on the size of toys. Plus the plush animals fill the extra squares quite nicely. For children below reading age, it is helpful to have picture labels on the bins. We don’t have a colour printer so I haven’t made ones for us yet. Accordingly, Little Fox returns her toys to any bin rather than the right spot when putting her toys away. The floor is still clean so I don’t mind. You can check out good picture labels and other toy label on our Pinterest board on toy storage. After reading age, you can label the bins with word labels, picture labels, or both.
Clear bins are the best for storing children’s things. But if you don’t like clear bins you can just use very clearly labelled bins. Make sure you can read the label clearly from three feet away.
Purging toys can be difficult, I know! But here are some tips and tricks you can use to maximize your toy spaces.
Toys you can get rid of right now:
- toys that are broken
- sound making toys (if they are a gift and you can’t just trash it, store it in a box labelled bring out when so and so is visiting)
- toys that annoy you or bother you for any reason whatsoever
- toys your children have outgrown
If you’re worried a toy is a child’s favourite: put it in a box and if they ask for it within a month you can return it.
Use the one in one out rule. When a child gets a new toy, before they can open it/play with it, they must choose another toy to take out of circulation or give away/donate. It is easier for a child to give away a toy when they know they have something new to replace it with.
When a toy breaks put it in a “broken toy” bin. If it is not fixed within two weeks or by the end of the month, throw it out.
Expensive toys and gifts are guilty clutter (see our home organization crash course). If it is not being used or isn’t fun, or if it doesn’t fit your family values, get rid of it. Seriously. Take a picture of your child playing with the gift toy if you want. If it’s from someone who comes over often put it in a box to take out only when they visit. After a few visits stop taking it out. You’ll notice that they won’t miss the gifted toy either and feel better about getting rid of it.
The Byzantine Life
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