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Should You KonMari Your Kids?

Trying out Marie Kondo's controversial clean-up method on the toddler set.

Should You KonMari Your Kids?

I literally didn’t leave the house for two days after reading the bestselling book by organizing guru Marie Kondo – The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. The premise of her book is that we should only surround ourselves with objects that “spark joy” inside us, or that are actively useful and to let go of the notion that we need to hold onto things purely out of obligation or sentimental value.

According to Marie Kondo, if you follow her method to a T, you will never have to de-clutter your house again – which is a pretty appealing thought to a mom of two boys under five, who is constantly tripping over Matchbox cars, Magnatiles, Duplo blocks, train track pieces and marbles.

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It was relatively easy – and enjoyable – to “KonMari” my own belongings and those of my family members: clothes, books, papers, miscellany, and even things with sentimental value. But after I’d KonMari’d all of my things, and yes, even many of my husband’s things (this did not go over too well), it was time to tackle the belongings of the true hoarders in my house: my kids.

In her book, Marie Kondo says that for kids four years and younger, it is up to the parent to decide what to discard or what to keep (if the child is five and above, you can involve him in the exercise). But honestly, what the hell do I know about what to keep and what to toss? Kids can be so fickle when it comes to their feelings about well, anything from snap peas to their vast collection of Micro Transformers.

Take the sticky guy that’s supposed to cling to windows but that after a day’s use just becomes gummy with lint and hair – and that my kids haven’t played with since the day they got it in a birthday party goodie bag last year. It is a scientific fact that literally, the day after I decide to throw that gnarly sticky guy away, my son will wake me in the morning asking urgently, “Mom, where is my sticky guy?”

Knowing that eliminating a particular toy could lead to total devastation for my son made me very reluctant to go through his room and decide what toys still “sparked joy” and which could be donated or thrown in the trash. But I persevered, hopeful that if I decluttered his room of all the “unnecessary” toys, he would be able to cherish and appreciate the toys left front and center.

I decided that I would look at each toy and try to remember the last time he had played with it. Like the Play Doh ice cream maker that my son has not played with in about two years. One of the levers is missing. Even when he used to play with it, he tended to fashion the Play Doh into what looked like “breasts” instead of ice cream, so the toy missed the mark from the very start.

I put it into my KonMari bag, and then a memory hit me – just a few weeks ago, his little brother had taken the contraption and pretended to make ice cream – no Play Doh needed – and serve it to his grandparents. So out went the Play Doh maker, back into the storage box. I don’t think Marie Kondo, blessed be she, accounted for younger siblings giving toys a new life. I left the room largely un-KonMari-ed.

My little one’s room was a LOT easier because we barely buy him any toys since, you know, #secondchild. I decided to go through his room with an eye towards getting rid of infant-related objects that I know we won’t miss: expired diaper rash creams that I’ve had since his brother was a baby, a lone Ugg bootie that I’d been hoping to find the partner of for over a year, those stickers that you’re supposed to put on the baby’s onesie to take those “I’m One Month!” photos. Needless to say, the purge was small.

So is it possible to KonMari your young children’s things? And should you? After my brief flirtation with it, I don’t think so. As many parents know, a child’s definition of joy – and even his approach to play – is quite fluid. Toys and their uses can evolve with a child’s growing sophistication and developing motor skills, and with the addition of new interests and toys. A lone Little People figure that has been sitting in the bottom of the toy bin for months, can find renewed life as the chief fire inspector of the brand-new fire truck your son got for his birthday. The musical tea set that you thought was too babyish for your toddler is now The One Toy your toddler is asking for. Sometimes the whole fun of “play” is simply dumping all the toys out, and admiring the spoils.

Plus, kids are fickle and unreliable. One minute, that cardboard box I helped my son fashion into a “fire house” (a very generous way of looking at my miserable attempt at DIY) is the prized possession that he is asking me to hide on the highest shelf so that his little brother can’t “ruin it”. The next he’s like, “I hate that stupid box, let’s stomp on it”.

And the gratification I’m supposed to get from my newly decluttered space? Well, the vision of a minimalist child’s room sparsely filled with toys made of twine and egg cartons is nice, but that would also mean I would have to be the kind of mom who makes toys from twine and egg cartons. The truth is, I am not that mom.

So I’ve decided to also be OK with just enjoying the newly de-cluttered spaces in the house that only belong to me: My side of the closet. My medicine cabinet. My husband’s things. (Sorry, Honey, that Marie Kondo is very persuasive!)

The KonMari method has shown me a different way to think about the things I own, and also released me from holding onto ideas of who I once was and who I hope to someday be. In a New York apartment, there is only room for who you are right now.

Who I am right now includes being a mom and a wife, which means I share my space with other people. So in this big de-cluttering exercise, what I really learned from it, beyond how to part with objects, is how to make room for my children’s things and to be OK with all the “stuff” that comes with children who are messy, and who do not live in Scandanavian furniture catalogs, and who prefer – most of the time – Fisher-Price and Hasbro to anything made from egg cartons and twine.

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A very important letter for new mamas

Listen, mom-guilt is a dirty liar. Yes, it's your job to fill your little human's needs, but you matter too. Don't forget to take care of yourself. Hang out with friends, take a drive blaring 90's hip hop or shower without interruptions—trust me, you'll be a better person (and mom) because of it.

Dear new mom,

You will shave again someday. Today is not that day.

Set expectations low, my friend, and set your partner's lower—at least where body hair and overall hygiene are concerned.

That conversation could go something like this: “From now on let's not consider shaving a “standard," but more like a gift that happens on birthdays and the first day of summer."

Voila, you are a gift-giving genius. You know what else is a gift? Shaving the inch and a half of skin that is between your skinny jeans and your boots. You're welcome world.

You will not be perfect at parenting.

Boom.

I have yet to meet a perfect mother, but when I do, she's going to be a tiger who is insanely good at making up songs. (Daniel Tiger's mom, we salute you.)

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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

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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

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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.

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Wooden doll stroller

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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

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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.

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Water play set

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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.

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Mini golf set

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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.

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Vintage scooter balance bike

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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.

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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.

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Croquet set

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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.

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Wooden digital camera

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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.

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Wooden bulldozer toy

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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.

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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.

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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.

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It's science: Why your baby stops crying when you stand up

A fascinating study explains why.

When your baby is crying, it feels nearly instinctual to stand up to rock, sway and soothe them. That's because standing up to calm babies is instinctual—driven by centuries of positive feedback from calmed babies, researchers have found.

"Infants under 6 months of age carried by a walking mother immediately stopped voluntary movement and crying and exhibited a rapid heart rate decrease, compared with holding by a sitting mother," say authors of a 2013 study published in Current Biology.

Even more striking: This coordinated set of actions—the mother standing and the baby calming—is observed in other mammal species, too. Using pharmacologic and genetic interventions with mice, the authors say, "We identified strikingly similar responses in mouse pups as defined by immobility and diminished ultrasonic vocalizations and heart rate."

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