Your child’s playroom is beginning to look more like a toy store than a place where he can grow and develop. Somewhere along the way, quality took a back seat to quantity. It’s time to take action and pare down the toy supply. When you declutter, the result is a calmer play space that won’t overwhelm or over-stimulate your little one. Although it may seem like a daunting task, deciding which toys to eliminate is easier when you consider some key factors.
“Start with what is and isn’t being enjoyed,” recommends Stephanie Hackney, owner of Organized for Living in Austin, Texas. Has your child played with the toy in the last three months? If not, it’s a safe bet that it can go. If you have more than one child, keep in mind that what one child doesn’t like, another might love. Kids are individuals with different tastes.
There are some toys, such as blocks or wooden logs, designed to tap the imagination, and it's a good idea to hang onto them. Your child might lose interest in them and then regain it later. They are open-play toys and as children grow, they find different ways to play with them. When he’s 4 years old, your son might build the perfect fort with those blocks that he tossed aside when he was 2 years old.
Children eventually outgrow most toys. To determine whether the toy is age-appropriate, Hackney recommends considering this question, “Does the toy still provide mental stimulation or a challenge to my child?” If not, it’s best to get rid of it.
If you value a particular toy and have younger children who could someday enjoy it, save it in a storage bin that is out of sight. If your child received a toy from a friend or family member that she hasn’t grown into yet, store it in a place where she can’t see it until she’s old enough to appreciate it.
Trash damaged or broken toys. “Is the toy in good repair? Are all the pieces present and accounted for? If not, then out it goes,” says Hackney. If your child has duplicates of a particular toy, such as two yellow dump trucks, keep the one that’s in better shape.
Safety is a concern for all parents. Make sure the toys you keep don’t pose a choking or electrical hazard. The Consumer Product Safety Council recommends using a “small-parts tester” to be sure the small parts of toys are safe for children. Eliminate toys with strings or cords that could accidentally choke a child. The website Safe Kids USA recommends that children under 8 years old are not given toys with electrical plugs or batteries.
If your child has dragged a doll around with her for a couple years, you might want to keep it for posterity – she can show it to her own children one day, and it will bring back warm memories. Expensive or well-made toys from material such as wood should also be kept. Classic toys or gifts from special people are often treasures. Store them in a trunk or a treasure chest that isn’t opened on a regular basis. Make a vow to limit treasures to those that fit in the trunk.
Involve your child in the decision-making process, and he’ll feel like he has some say over his personal belongings. “When you ask which toys can go and which must stay, most kids are surprisingly good at making the decision, especially if they know the toys they get rid of will go to a child in need,” says Hackney. This is an opportunity to teach your child about giving back and sharing with those who are less fortunate. Take him with you when you donate the toys, so he can see the fruits of his good deed.
As you sort through toys, you’ll place some in the trash, some in the toy box and others in a donation bag. Consider keeping select items in a holding tank. If your child says she doesn’t want the toy anymore, but you think it’s possible she’ll change her mind, you could be right. If it’s in storage for a month or so, and she doesn’t ask about it, get rid of it at that point.