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The painless way to declutter your kid’s toys

It just takes five easy steps.

declutter your kids' toys

As parents, we want our kids to be happy. We live to see the joy beaming across those little faces when they tear into birthday gifts. A Christmas tree stacked high with gifts is about as American as apple pie. But what if I told you that having fewer toys is actually better for kids?

Because it is.

I know because I am a mom of two young children. But I also have a Ph.D. in child development. I know a few things about what a young child needs to develop, grow and thrive. They need food, a loving family, a warm bed and a few carefully selected toys. What they don't need? A bunch of mindless toy clutter.

The research shows us that when we cut the excess from the lives of children they focus better and have less stress. But getting rid of toys is complicated: What do you keep? What do you toss?

Here are five steps to get started.

Step 1: Observe

Take a week and observe. Which toys get the most action? Which are neglected? I suggest taking notes on the favorites so that you can be sure to keep those toys. While observing, also start thinking about toys differently. Think about how each of these toys are adding value to your home.

We know that our children learn through play, therefore toys are the defacto tools for learning. We need to equip our kids with the best tools possible. Ask yourself the question, “How are these toys benefitting my children?"

Examine each toy and decide:

  • Does this toy offer opportunity for creativity?
  • Will this toy help my kid to burn off energy?
  • Can this toy be used in many different ways, by kids of different ages and genders?
  • Does my kid LOVE this toy?

Everything that we bring into our lives and home should have added value–toys are included.

Step 2: Reflect

You have to figure out how these toys got into your home. Did you buy them? Were they gifts from extended family members? Brian Gardner of No Sidebar explains, “We don't need to look any further than the mirror—or our own closets—to realize our children's excess is usually a byproduct of our own habits, or the result of spending choices we make."

That means taking a good, long look at the way we buy and what it's teaching our children. Anyone can declutter, but staying decluttered is the hard part.

We have to change the way we buy if we want to stay decluttered.

Step 3: Arrange

When toys are buried in the bottom of bins and toy boxes they are difficult to access. When you store toys at the top of the closet they are difficult to access. If we want kids to play with toys and engage–they need to be out where they can see them.

I suggest placing toys individually on shelves (you can see how I did it in our playroom). Use short bins or trays to keep toys contained–that way kids can easily see what is inside. The last thing we want to do is invite our children to dump bins all over the place–and toy boxes invite dumping.

When we arrange the toys with care we are teaching our children to do the same. They are learning to care for, value and clean up their belongings–rather than to toss them haphazardly into a box.

Step 4: Select

When choosing which toys to keep in your home I recommend keeping mostly open toys. Open toys are toys that can be used in a variety of ways for a variety of different purposes. These can typically be used across varied ages and genders. These are toys that evoke imagination and pretend play, such as a puppet theatre, balance beam, balls and art supplies. Closed toys are different because they are toys that can be completed or mastered. If your child finishes a toy and says “I did it," it's probably a closed toy.

Examples of closed toys are puzzles and shape sorters. Closed toys are great too–but because they can be completed rather quickly, you will need to have a large number of closed toys to keep kids busy. With closed toys, kids will also grow out of them faster and purchases will need to be made more often.

I recommend keeping a ratio of 75% open toys to 25% closed toys in your home. This will help your child to play independently for longer periods of time. Having more open toys will also allow for more creativity and innovation in play.

Step 5: Detox

First you observed, then reflected and selected–now you are ready to downsize. Downsizing the toys should never be a punishment. This is a happy and welcome change for everyone involved–so be sure that your attitude and language reflects that. Generally speaking, kids react very well to this change.

When we get rid of toys, we are giving our children extra space and time to innovate and be resourceful. But it's important to keep in mind that as they “detox" they might experience boredom before they figure out how to get back to the basics of play. Don't fill this temporary void and boredom with more screen time. Once you push through the detox period you will see some pretty amazing things coming from your child's play.

So are you ready to do this? You and your family are going to love playing simply.

These open-ended toys are sure to shine in a decluttered and organized play space.

Lovevery block set

Lovevery block set

With limitless ways to play, this science-based 70-piece set engages little ones of all ages to unlock STEM concepts like math, physics, and engineering, along with higher-order planning and problem-solving. Bonus: The included wooden box is not only ideal for neat and tidy storage, but also converts into a play car!

$90

Janod llama ride-on

Janod llama ride-on

When choosing toys that take up more real estate than average, make sure you like looking at it in your space. We love the look of this irresistibly adorable and colorful ride-on which doubles as a sorting toy.

$88

Plan Toys doctor kit

Plan Toys doctor kit

Ideal for empathetic imaginative play, a doctor's kit tends to get some serious mileage. This heirloom-quality set comes packed up neatly in its own soft cotton bag.

$30

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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