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How to get started with toy minimalism—and let creativity flourish

This isn’t about “missing out,” but discovering more.

How to get started with toy minimalism—and let creativity flourish

Last year I got rid of the toys for the benefit of my children. I call it toy minimalism, and let me tell you, my kids have gained so much in the process. I know this because I spend time loitering around the train table at Barnes & Noble.


While my kids play, I squeeze myself into one of the child-sized green Adirondack chairs (the ones that barely fit my post-baby-hips) and zone out with my coffee. I watch and listen.

If you have been to Barnes & Noble in recent years, you know it's as much of a toy store as it is a bookstore (with toys strategically placed outside of the children's book area). As I am indulging in my coffee, I see kids of all shapes and sizes come and go. One thing holds constant. I repeatedly hear the same request: “What can I buy today?"

It seems like a harmless request. After all, what's one more toy?

Why I got rid of the toys

I am outing myself here, but I said I “loiter" due to the fact that I never buy anything at Barnes & Noble–other than the coffee and a few books. This is because last year I got rid of most of the toys. I got rid of the toys because they overwhelmed me.

I got rid of the toys because because I feared a future of Legos jammed into my feet. I feared myself turning into that mom who screams at her kids everyday to clean up their toys.

I feared that I was going to have kids begging to buy every toy in sight when they went to Barnes & Noble.

But most of all, I got rid of the toys because I knew how much my children would gain in the process–I wasn't the least bit concerned they would be “missing out" without heaps of toys.

Because I know that children learn through play.

If children learn through play, then play is the work of childhood. This means that their play space is a de facto work and learning environment. As the Boss Lady it's important that I give my kids the best environment to get their job done–toy minimalism has done just that.

We started using toy minimalism in our house and have never looked back. My children have gained these six things by slimming down on the toys.

1. Creativity + Innovation

There was once a little boy who had a complete array of superhero attire. Batman, Superman, Spiderman and Ironman. Lucky dude, right? Then there was another little boy who had a bed sheet. He tied it around his neck and pretended to be all of the aforementioned characters. When he was done, he turned it into a blanket fort and then a curtain for his puppet show. Having fewer toys is directly correlated with more creativity and innovation. These are traits we all want to foster in our children.

2. Practice Sharing

Do you think humans have evolved to share? No. Do you think that cavemen and cavewomen were sharing. Heck no. Sharing is a social behavior that has developed as a means to keep the peace. It does not come naturally; therefore, it must be practiced. When you live with fewer toys children are forced to develop boundaries and limits that exercise this important social skill more frequently.

3. Independent Play

When kids have fewer toys they play more independently. When you have fewer toys that are carefully selected, children can easily find the ones they need. This means they can get the toys out on their own and put them away. There's no more “I'm bored" or “what is there to play." The options are out and available, which sets the stage for kids to dive in, engage in play, and think outside the box with new ways to use the toys they have.

4. Lower Stress

Clutter creates stress. If I can't manage to keep the toys cleaned up and organized, how in the world can I expect small children to achieve the same task? This means “go clean up your toys" is a request that many parents toss around lightly–but in most homes, this is no easy feat. Because where the heck does all this stuff go? There is something calm and reassuring about everything having it's place .

5. Conscious Consumption

When I buy a sweater, I give it a lot of thought. How much use is it going to get? How long will it fit? Is it good quality? In the world of online shopping, you can buy anything with the click of a button; therefore, I want my children to start asking themselves these questions. Toys should not be impulse purchases. Toys should be items that are highly valued and have an important place in the home and in the lives of your children.

6. Happy Mama

When I am lingering at the train table now, I can see all of these values developing in my children. Fewer toys will lead to less nagging, more sharing, independent play, creativity, along with setting the foundation for becoming conscious consumers. If this sounds like a recipe for a happier Mama–you're right. It is. As parents, our personal happiness influences our children and the overall wellness of our family. It starts with us.

So about those toyboxes…what's hiding down in there anyways? By slimming down on the number of toys in your house, you will be helping your children to grow and develop life long skills. Who can pass up on that?

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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.

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Balance board

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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!

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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.

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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

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