Whether you are still riding high on your New Year's resolutions or feeling the Spring Cleaning itch, you may be longing for a tidier home. Those feelings might be magnified by the influx of new toys since Christmas or if you have been binge watching the series Tidying Up on Netflix staring Marie Kondo. You might be ready to throw your children`s entire playroom into the donation bin. Read this first!
While I agree that too many toys are a problem and detrimental to the value of play, I have some tips for deciding what to keep and what to toss based on my own parenting experience and conversations with our customers over the 7 years I’ve been selling toys. My girls are now 8 and 12 so we have been through our share of different phases and stages of toys.
When you're evaluating the "joy" you get from your kids' toys, also ask yourself these questions:
Does the toy still hold value after it`s out of the package or out of battery power?
I can`t tell you how many times I have given in to birthday or Christmas wishes for the latest must have toy only for it to be a huge let down. My daughter once wished for a talking, crawling doll and waited patiently for her birthday to come to receive it. Once she tried it out and realized it was nowhere near as impressive as the advertising led her to believe, the doll was quickly discarded. Her most beloved doll has always been her Corolle doll. While it doesn`t DO anything, it brings the greatest play value as it`s her imagination making the fun happen. It was a valuable lesson for both of us about false advertising and the value of a classic doll that will be loved for years to come over a fake, noisy, robotic doll.
Lesson: Sometimes simple is best
Does the toy have longevity or is it a passing phase?
We started collecting Schleich when my oldest was only 1 year old and we`ve gotten years of play out of it. We started on Playmobil after age 4 because of the small parts, and the girls have gone back and forth between the two consistently. The nice thing about collecting a theme is that it makes it easy for friends and relatives to select gifts and it`s easy to find a storage system that works for it. I've also never felt bad about investing money into our Schleich collection as it's one of those toys that will saved forever and passed on to the grandchildren one day!
There are also multiple ways to play with it. At a young age the Schleich animals provided simple, imaginative farm play. They have also been beloved bath time toys. Sharks and whales and mermaids make for great bath time play! Now that the girls are older, their Schleich play involves elaborate stories, fantasy worlds, equestrian dreams, and photography and video making adventures. Their Playmobil adventures have led them to imagining different career paths, and role playing real life adventures thanks to the super detailed, real life details of the playsets. This new SUV even comes with a child car seat which the car seat technician in me loves! How many toys can you say provide 10+ years of play value?
Lesson: Choose toys that provide long term value, not a quick, fleeting moment of enjoyment.
Does the toy build a skill?
Toys like arts and crafts, building sets and puzzles are must haves as they offer skills such as problem solving, dexterity, and basic educational skills such as colours and numeracy. I have found with this category of toy the trick is in how they are stored and presented. If the building blocks are scattered throughout the house or the puzzle pieces are lost in the bottom of the toy bin, these toys are more likely to become clutter, and less likely to become valuable learning tools. Bins are great for keeping the building blocks contained and more accessible to become roads and cities or fences for their animals or turned into robots and vehicles. Puzzles don`t hold much value if there are missing pieces. Plastic Ziploc bags or even better, cloth storage bags, make a great way to keep puzzles together and easy to pull out and put away.
Lesson: Choose toys that teach. Is the toy teaching your child to sit passively in front of a toy or to engage with the toy in an imaginative way and learn something?
Is there more than one way to play?
Toys like building blocks are great because there is no right or wrong way to play with them and they can become almost anything a child can imagine which is exactly what you want from a children`s toy. If the toy only has one function, or too many limitations, is it worth the space in your house?
Another thing I love about this particular toy is the eco friendly packaging! The playmat itself is the "box" for the blocks! Just a small piece of cardboard to go in the recyling!
Lesson: Look for toys that have multiples ways to be used
So, what can you feel free to toss or pass on?
- Obviously anything that is broken
- Anything that is outgrown developmentally
- Toys that are not reached for over and over again. If it`s been sitting on a shelf for a year and buried in the closet, let it go.
Play areas can get overwhelming with the amount of collections and small pieces that come with many kids toys. I`m a big believer in the one bin method. I`ve always encouraged my girls to play with one bin or type of toy at a time and clean that up before switching to another activity. It has helped tremendously with their ability to focus and keep a tidy play space which makes for a much happier mom!
Let me know your favourite tips and tricks for storing toys, the most popular toys in your house, and how you`re progressing on your own Konmari adventure. I for one still need to tackle my own closet. I'm pretty sure I`m never going to wear (or fit! !) that 15 year old dress that`s hiding in the back corner.
We love to help customers choose toys that provide value and developmentally appropriate learning through play so we're here to answer your questions and provide you with quality toys that will last!