I’m not sure I can write an article about minimalist toys without thinking back. Back to 11 years ago, there’s a beautiful image in my head.
So, so beautiful.
It’s a a blue bookshelf I hacked to make a toy shelf with 6 separate nooks. In each space there was a toy or a small basket. In the corner of the room was a small, inflatable pool filled with plastic balls. My son had a few toys, one or two for each nook.
It was simple. It was easy. It was wonderful.
And then he started growing and we started buying. A few sets of legos, a Hot Wheel for being good at the grocery store, presents from grandparents when they last came to visit. And the list goes on.
How did his simple, cozy room get so cluttered with toys? We didn’t realize the dangerous path we were headed down until we were knee deep in it. I’d like to help others before it’s too late. This, my dear readers, is the inspiration for this article.
Minimalist Toy Tip #1: Live by This Mantra
Less is more. Less is more. Less really, really is more.
It’s so easy to say this and so difficult to do. After all, buying toys for our kids is sometimes as fun and exciting for us as it is for them. And our kids want new things soooo bad. But here’s the 411, buying too many toys for our kids does a disservice to them.
- Kids can’t keep them all organized.
- Kids have too many choices.
- Kinds become conditioned to want the instant—and fleeting—satisfaction that comes with something new.
- Kids have to cleanup their room all the time.
And guess what?
You have more toys to fix. (YAY!)
Remind yourself that less is more the next time you want to give in and grab just one more Barbie or Hot Wheel for your kiddo.
Minimalist Toy Tip #2: Buy Large Baby Toys Used
Baby swings, floor jungle gyms, and walker-type toys are expensive, large, and used for a short period of time.
Consider buying these items at Goodwill or garage sales. It’s much easier to get rid of something you paid $15 for, than something that was $115.
As soon has your child has outgrown these, get rid of them. You won’t have to worry about storing them or selling them to recoup some of your money.
My daughter’s first Christmas was heavy on Goodwill baby items. She had a cool stand-up piano that she loved…for a hot minute.
Once we were through with it, I loved freeing up that space and it was easy to simply return them to Goodwill for someone else to use.
Minimalist Toy Tip #3: Dispose of Tiny Pieces
As your kids get older, watch out for tons and tons of little pieces. I find that this is especially true for toys like Barbie and doll sets.
For instance, the Barbie dog will come with a dog bowl, a bed, and 3 tiny cans of dog food. These pieces seem cute at first until you have a hundred of them all sitting in random places because your child cannot possibly keep track of where they all go.
Not that I’ve been through that or anything.
When you take the toy out of the package, immediately remove some of the smaller pieces that don’t add to the play experience.
Another option is to let your child play with it all initially, watch, and then remove the pieces they don’t play with.
For older kids, let them pick the pieces to get rid of. Once they get used to putting aside extraneous pieces, they will get used to that expectation.
Minimalist Toy Tip #4: Brainstorm Gift Substitutes
It’s easy to overgive. Between holidays, grandparents, friends, and allowance buys, there are opportunities for overgiving.
When my son was little we used to give him Hot Wheels when he reached little goals. After all, Hot Wheels are $1. Needless to say, we unintentionally ended up with lots of Hot Wheels.
To make sure you don’t inadvertently end up with too much stuff, come up with fun options for gift giving. You can share it with family and use it yourself.
Minimalist Toy Tip #5: Train Your Kids to Give Away Toys
As your children get older, get them into the habit of giving or gifting away. Two good times to do this is before their birthday and before Christmas. Let them know you want to make sure all the toys are being used well and you want to make sure there is room for a few new items.
Make sure to reinforce that they don’t have to get rid of things they love, just things they don’t really use or have outgrown.
My son was pretty good at this – mainly because he didn’t want to take the time to go through this process. I would pick items I knew he didn’t play with and figured that if he didn’t care enough to spend the time to sort through stuff, he would be okay with my choices.
He always was.
My daughter, on the other hand, would usually pick one Barbie or something else small and consider it done and dusted. But, she is now a tween who (usually) has no problem getting rid of things she’s done with. She recently packed up box after box after box of dolls and Barbies that she knows she isn’t going to play with anymore.
Minimalist Toy Tip #6: Be Willing to Pay
There were times that my children wanted to get rid of something but were a bit torn. When that was the case, I would usually offer them a small amount of money in return for the item. They almost always took me up on it.
If I can move out a box of books that won’t be read anymore for $5, I’m happy.
As they get older, they learn the difficult lesson that most of the things they own—even the ones they paid a lot of money for—are not worth much of anything.
But for younger kids who have limited opportunities to earn money, this strategy is really helpful.
A Strategy for Minimalist Toys
There are many strategies you can turn to in order to keep the toy quantity under control.
Some like 1 in, 1 out. Others have baskets and don’t allow more than will fit inside. Some people limit gifts in order to decrease the amount of toys entering the house.
It doesn’t matter how you keep the toys to a reasonable amount. Just be mindful how easy it is for toys to come into your house and how much work they really are.
Interested in starting a minimalist lifestyle but not sure how to begin? This book is for you!