Toy Wars

My husband and I are considering a change around here.  A BIG change.  For months now, we’ve been feeling overwhelmed regarding the toy situation in our home. We have an entire room in the basement dedicated to toys, and a closet upstairs filled with toys.  Obviously, we have a few too many and they’re everywhere.  They’re under the couches, under the beds, all over the floor, stuffed inside drawers, pillowcases, laundry baskets… I’m constantly finding them (or pieces of them) somewhere.  I’ve tried everything I know of to help the kids keep their toys picked up and none of it is working.  Granted, this is my own fault for not teaching them to pick up their toys when they were small, but blaming myself isn’t helping, either!  :)

A few days ago, I became particularly upset and frustrated when I discovered that, thanks to little fingers, some of my calendar numbers were missing:

And the original operators manual from our very old sewing machine had been taken out and torn apart:

That was “the moment” for me.  The moment I wanted to pull out my hair and scream the cry of so many Mothers: “I can never have anything nice around here!”

I restrained myself from screaming.

But I did cry a bit.

And I prayed.

The result of all this is that it has come to our attention that the kids may simply be living with too much.  When the children of Israel came into the Promised Land, they were soon overwhelmed with all the good things there and it wasn’t long before they forgot where those good things had come from and stopped valuing what they’d been given. I feel that my children have come into a similar place of forgetfulness and under-appreciation. They simply have so much they don’t value what they have.

I’m ashamed of the fact that I can throw a toy away and the kids won’t miss it.  I’m saddened by the fact that if something breaks, the kids simply say: “we’ll buy a new one.”  I don’t want to raise them with a spirit of poverty, but I also don’t want them to live in such abundance that they don’t even try to take care of their things.  So my husband and I are considering a change.  A BIG change.

We’re considering giving most of the kid’s toys away.  We’re considering keeping about five or six small tupperware boxes of much loved toys and not allowing any more into the house.  Or, I should say, not allowing any more into the house unless they are pre-approved, educational toys that will last (i.e. nothing made of flimsy plastics).  Or, perhaps, not banning new toys but making sure that when new toys come in, old toys go out.  We’re still trying to determine what would work best.

So, I’m asking for your opinions/advice. How would you handle this in your home?  And if you were getting rid of practically all of your kids toys, what are the things you’d keep?  What are the toys you feel your kids couldn’t/shouldn’t be without? 

Some things we know we want to leave (or buy in the future) are:

1.) Dollhouse w/wooden furniture and doll people.  I especially love these little dolls.
2.) Play kitchen (made of wood) with play food and pots/pans/dishes (plastic and metal)
3.) Baby dolls and wooden cribs, doll clothes and blankets
4.) Cars, trains, etc. (wooden, metal, or durable plastic)
5.) Crafting toys (paint sets, brushes, paper, crayons, sewing things, etc.)
6.) Horses (made of plastic but very durable)
7.) Educational electronic toys (Leapfrog, Vtech, etc.)
8.) Outside toys (shovels, buckets, balls, bats, etc. to be kept OUTSIDE)

This isn’t a complete list, of course, but some things I can think of off-hand that I know we’d like to have for the children. And now I’d like to turn the discussion over to you. Your thoughts/ideas/suggestions would be most appreciated.


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15 Responses to Toy Wars

  1. Emily says:

    Excellent post. We got rid of most of Maggie’s “junk” toys awhile back. She has never really been into toys so it wasn’t too hard nor was there much stuff accumulated, mostly from relatives as gifts. Since I only have girls (for now) we have chosen to only have “toys” that encourage feminine godly behavior such as
    -wooden toy kitchen with play food, pots, plates, cups, and food
    -child size mop and broom
    -Fisher Price house with Little People
    -building blocks
    -baby doll with clothes, blanket, and clothes
    -books (carefully selected)
    -creative supplies (colors, paper, scissors, paint, etc)
    -outside toys such as bubbles, balls, shovel, pail, umbrella
    We also have a sand box and a child swing outside.

    I do have a few toys for Emma to play with and chew on.

    Maggie prefers big people things more than her toys. For instance I allow her play in the dish water and wash the non breakable items. She will play with dried beans and a 2 bowls for ages. She helps me when I cook and bake. And while I sew she pushes pins into the pin cushion.

    I don’t think our list is much different than yours.

    Heres a link to a friend of mine’s post about Life without toys. It’s great too.

    • Rina says:

      Emily, that is a great post! Thank you for sharing that – it gives me a lot more courage! We did go toyless for a little while and I found the same thing happened – the kids were more creative in their play and they never got bored. But I was a little concerned about taking this to something long-term! I appreciate knowing that others have done it and it’s worked out well. Thanks for your list, too. There are some things there that I hadn’t thought of so I’m going to add them to my list of things we’re possibly going to keep. Thanks so very much!

  2. Erika says:

    Boy, do I hear you on this problem, and I’ll be watching for other suggestions as well. Our problem isn’t so much that my kids don’t take care of their toys, but they do grow so attached, plus they don’t get played with. I hear so often from my son how he doesn’t have anything to do. Right. I steer him to his room and suggest he pick something to play with, and if there isn’t anything he likes, perhaps he can choose some toys to get rid of. We do need to eliminate some, and hubby and I discussed this very thing this week.

    Right now, what we’re leaning towards is having the kids work with us to cull what they do have, package them up nicely and take to an organization that provides toys for kids who have lost theirs in a house fire or other disaster. I think if we tell the children what we’re doing and why, they will look at their treasures more carefully and try to decide what they could live without. (In theory, anyways.) Then after that initial culling, we’ll see where we stand. Something’s gotta give, with our homeschooling adventure around the corner, we need to make room for school supplies!

    • Rina says:

      I am sooooooooooo glad to know that I’m not the only one with this problem! Thank you all for your suggestions – and please keep ’em coming! Jo, I understand completely where you’re coming from with your family. We, too, have parted ways with our family over many things and we also try to let major things be major and minor things be minor. Besides, isn’t showering children with needless gifts one of the best things about being an extended family member? I’m sure I’ll be the same as a Grandparent. But in the meantime, somethings gotta give! :) I’ll keep you all posted, and more ideas are most welcomed and appreciated!

  3. motherhen68 says:

    Well, with my boys being 10 & almost 9, it’s a little different for us. But when they were 7 & 8, I got rid of the toys. They had a ton of toys. Toys that NEVER got played with, but rather was strewn all over the house. Pieces would get mixed up with other stuff, then they couldn’t play. My brother & sil were the worst, giving gifts for children years older than mine were that basically required an engineering degree to operate (sigh, I’m so not an engineer!).

    I made a similar decision as you. We boxed up everything. I mean, everything, and moved to our attic. After a few days, the toys they asked about were brought down. This included Lincoln logs, legos, and art supplies. They never inquired about anything else. We left it in the attic. Our Thomas the tank set is still up there. When the weather is cool and I need to go up into the attic, the kids will go up there and play, but I refuse to bring it down into the house. They are too old for that now anyway. Last year I sold all of the toys remaining in the attic at my garage sale. The plastic sold like hotcakes LOL.

    The outside toys like bikes, scooters, skates, ripboards, etc remained. They play with these things daily, though my dh did run over with his truck my younger son’s ripstick. He had to buy another one with his own earned money. Things get put away now. We’ve also bought them scoop nets for playing in the ditch and they do have video games, both handheld and gaming system. They are allowed to play for a few hours of whichever one they want on the weekends, if their behavior has been good during the week. (see my blog post on Monday about taking away their X-box privileges during the rest of Lent).

    When I removed their inside toys, I found they become more inventive. They were able to see what they had, therefore being able to actually play with something. I also allow them to play with my bowls, tupperware, spoons, etc if they ask and return things when they are done.

    Good luck with your decision. You’ll be glad you did it.

  4. Jo says:

    I applaud your decision to pare down your toys. For outside play, my children hardly have any toys. They play with sticks and tree stumps and buckets and rocks. And their imaginations. However, for indoor play, we have accumulated quite a few of the plastic-y toys. One branch of the family, in particular, experienced great deprivation in youth, and now that maturity has brought prosperity, gains great satisfaction from giving fun, frivolous gifts. My DH and I have parted ways with our families over so many important issues (homeschooling, having a big family, women’s roles, Calvinism) that we’ve decided not to “offend the weaker brother” on this one. This isn’t to say that we don’t quietly cull the broken, unloved, and duplicate toys. We do. Maybe in the future we can accept these gifts with appreciation, but keep them stored away for most of the time. That’s something I’ll have to ponder more. Anyway, that’s our situation; thanks for your post!

  5. You know spring is here/ coming, and the need for toys will be a lot less in the warmer weather. If you aren’t sure about something, just box it up and put it away for a while. If the kids don’t miss it, then just get rid of it.

    It’s hard to imagine life without any toys, especially when you have kids. But the toys that lend themselves to creativity and imagination are timeless: legos, building blocks, etc. are such nice things to have around.

    As for never having anything “nice”, try to picture NICE as that which is eternal and timeless–the rock upon which there is no breaking. This, my friend, is the nicest of all nice.

    • Rina says:

      Thats a great reminder, Jena. The issue for me in this case wasn’t so much that they were “nice” things, it was that they had sentimental value to me (the calendar was given to me by my mother-in-law and once belonged to her mother, and the sewing machine once belonged to my husbands great grandmother. So it was really heartbreaking to find them in pieces like that. I still needed that reminder, though, regardless of the situation, and I thank you for it.

      And to update you all on our progress: My husband and I have decided to sit down with the kids on Wed. (when he’s off) and determine what will stay and what will go. I’ll let you know how it goes!

  6. momstheword says:

    We kept most of the toys in a room right off the family room. It was under the stairs so we called it the “toy” closet. Very few toys were kept in their rooms (except for new special toys). We also had designated rooms for toy play and some room were toy-free rooms so they remained clean and no toys allowed (my last two Wednesday posts are on toy organization if you want to check them out).

    I trained my children to play with one toy at a time and to put it back before taking another one out (I explained how on my “Works for Me Wednesday” post week before last, just look under the “Works for Me Wed.” label on the sidebar if you want to see it).

    One thing I did was to rotate the toys in circulation. Just pack up a bunch of toys and hide them for awhile. Then, when the kids get bored and want a change, bring them out and put some other toys away.

    I also scaled down our toys like you’re doing. Every birthday or Christmas was a reason to get rid of some toys to make room for more.

    I always let the kids decide (well, if they were old enough) because I wanted to train them to learn to let go of their clutter. Sometimes it was hard for them but it taught them how to let go I think.

    The list of what you’re keeping looks great. We kept cars, trucks, tinker toys, building blocks, small plastic animals, kitchen toy things, etc. If we went to McDonalds we tossed some toys to make room for more ones.

    • Rina says:

      I like the idea of toy-free rooms, and I LOOOOVE your article on how you trained your kids to put toys away. We’re planning on doing that – in fact, on Wednesday we’re clearing out all the shelves in the closets and doing that very thing. My husband is planning to build some shelves for me eventually but in the meantime, this was the next best thing. So I’m hoping that combining your training idea with the culling of the toys is going to help this situation. At least, that’s our plan for now! :)
      For anyone else reading, the article we’re referring to can be found HERE and it’s really wonderful!

  7. I love the list of toys you would like to get for the children…great great ideas!

    We have a very small amount of toys for our children, especially compared to most Americans. Each child has a small toybox or wicker basket with a few toys in it that they can take out, then put back up when they are done with them. I just make sure that the box can shut and the basket is not overflowing. If it does or is, we have to evaluate what has made its way in there and donate!

    Then I have all of our educational toys, puzzles, train tracks, cars or any toy with small easy to loose pieces, colors, legos etc in a closet that I keep locked in the hallway. This after being tired of finding all these pieces lost throughout my house!

    I bought those small tupperware shoeboxes at Walmart ($.99 a pc) and stackable baskets to place them in in my closet. It is neat and easy to get to/put up when they are done. They are only allowed one box at a time, plus they do not get tired of them as quickly as when they are at their disposal.

    We’ve been at this system for about a year and it has worked out well! :)

    Here is a post and picture I wrote about it back when I first started…

    I think you are on the right track for sure though!

  8. Mrs. Parunak says:

    Our house is bursting with toys, too. We recently decided to stop having birthday parties, and instead of giving the kids a bunch of toys, we give them just one or two and let them pick an “adventure” that would ordinarily be more expensive than we would do on a regular basis. We call it the “birthday trip,” and it hasn’t even phased our kids. They love it, and they don’t miss the heap of gifts a bit.

    As far as culling goes, I need to do a lot more, but it’s hard because I was so emotional about such things when I was little. (I even saved gum wrappers because I didn’t want to hurt their feelings by throwing them away.) I think it came from an over-active imagination that personified things. I see some of the same tendencies in my children, and I want to help them with the heart issues of being attached to stuff before I traumatize them by just getting rid of stuff.

    We are also facing the onslaught of generosity from people who want to show love to our children and do it through fun little plastic trinkets that are great for a few days, and then wind up stuffed in a Rubbermaid bin in our basement. I need to know how to handle that better. Organizing Mommy very wisely pointed out to me that gifts are some people’s love language, and that asking those people to stop buying so many would be like asking them not to love our children.

    • Rina says:

      Mrs. P, that’s a great point about love languages… I agree wholeheartedly, which is one of the reasons we’re reluctant to ban toys altogether, but are considering a toy limit… as new toys in, old ones have to go! We’ll see how it goes. Culling starts tomorrow!

  9. michelle says:

    Hi again,

    Toys are a big thing with me. With so many children, small house, too much stuff…something has to go!

    I am a stickler about what comes into the house. If is doesn’t fit one of our designated containers or doesn’t come in a set that will fit in a container and will fit in an open spot (right) than it cannot come in.

    We currently have huge containers full of:

    Big Lego
    Little Lego (several huge containers)
    Little People (Fisher Price Little People)
    House stuff (Fisher Price Loving Family)
    Waffle Blocks
    Dress up stuff
    Doll STuff
    Kitchen Stuff
    Board Puzzles
    Tape Books

    Smaller containers of:
    Pattern Blocks
    and a few more I can’t think of.

    Very small containers of:
    colored pencils

    I am known around here as the Rubbermaid Queen! One year I started adding to the sets of these items from ebay. I would buy huge lots of little people or waffle blocks for dirt cheap. When you have 3-5 children playing with them you need quite a few of the people ;-)

    One suggestion though, it seems there are favorite pieces and one way we have solved the fighting over these is to have what the kids call an auction. They line up all the people and take turns choosing which ones they want. It is so funny, when I walk into the room and see all 30-something people lined up I know someone wanted a person someone else had!

    I should post pictures sometime of ALL our containers…I’ll probably need to figure out how to take panoramic photos though ;-)


    • Rina says:

      Michlelle, the auction is SUCH a great idea! I’m going to start that right away. :) Thanks for the list of toys you guys have, that’s really helpful, as well as the suggestion to buy on ebay (which I’ve never done before.)