For the past few years, I’ve probably spent hours picking up toys. It seems as soon as I finish one room, I turn around to find another completely covered.
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If you’ve ever read “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” you’ll know that the author, Marie Kondo, advocates purging everything down to what you need and what truly brings you joy. I don’t know about you, but toys can be the bane of my existence.
Any parent who has stepped on Legos, tripped over a ball, or had to wash ALL of the dress-up gear knows what I mean!
Toys don’t always bring me joy. However, they do bring joy to my children, so I’ve had to come to terms with them.
We all know that toys have the magical gift of multiplying. I don’t know how they do it. From the time a child is born, toys simply appear. Grandparents shower them with gifts at birthdays and Christmas, and sometimes just because. Friends give presents, other friends give hand-me-downs, and you find amazing deals at the toy store.
Before you know it, your child is swimming in a sea of toys that he doesn’t know what to do with…and neither do you.
As parents, we must oversee the toy invasion and keep it to a minimum. There are lots of ways to do this, and Marie Kondo has some good advice. Let’s explore some ways the Konmari method can help.
Building Healthy Toy Habits
Before starting to Konmari the toys out of your house, here are a few habits that you should develop:
- Be picky! Make sure any toys your children keep long-term are sturdy and well made.
- Look for toys that have lasting educational value.
- Develop a rotation system to store extra toys when they are not in use and plan to change them out.
- Help your children develop the habit of putting toys away before getting out more.
The Konmari method is based simply off the question “Does this spark joy?” Items that do spark joy should be kept. Anything that doesn’t should be thanked and given away or sold.
Teach Your Children the Konmari Method
If your children are young enough, you can use two versions of this question: “Does my child enjoy playing with this? Are they benefiting from it?” If the answer to both is no, then get rid of it!
However, by the time children are 3 or 4 years old they can understand enough about the process to be involved. Starting early, you can use the Konmari method to teach your children how to understand the true value in items and guide them in learning to live with less.
In our house, we’re encouraging donating with our 3 year old. We ask if it’s ok to give the toy to another kid who doesn’t have any toys. After a few times, my daughter started proactively bringing things to me that we should “give to a kid who doesn’t have any toys.”
Set Some Boundaries
If you’re working with your child, help them understand there are some things that just can’t be kept. These include broken toys, toys they’ve grown out of, duplicates and toys that aren’t safe for any reason.
You’ll want to keep toys that are environmentally friendly, toys that are open-ended, and toys that spark the imagination. Once you’ve agreed on these boundaries, gather up all of the toys.
If you have more than one child, you will need to make multiple piles: one for each child, plus a shared pile. This process can take several hours, so don’t be discouraged. Like everything else you put through the Konmari process, make sure you’ve collected everything before moving to the next step.
Sort into Categories
Have older children do this themselves with guidance. You will have to do this yourself for younger children, but they can still help by carrying the toys to and from the different piles. Here are some sub-category options:
- Small toys
- Toy sets
- Stuffed animals
- Big toys
- Play food
Once the toys have been sorted, go through and begin to remove the ones that don’t meet your criteria. This will be hard for children as they can become deeply attached to the most random things!
Be patient with them and keep explaining why they can’t keep certain things. Set out a “good-bye” bin and give your child the chance to choose where the toys in decent condition will go (donated, given to friends in need).
Decide Which Toys to Keep
Decide how much space you will have for toys when you are done and designate a box or two. Let your children know that they can only keep what will fit in these boxes.
Allow your child to keep some toys that are especially loved, even if they don’t quite fit into your parameters. An obnoxious toy that never fails to light up your child’s eyes and fill his face with joy is worth keeping, even if you’ve determined that you’re going to toss all battery operated toys.
Once you’ve removed all the discarded toys, divide the remaining toys into two or three piles. You will store some of the toys to rotate out. This way, there will only ever be a few toys out. Your children should be able to clean them up and put them away in 5 minutes or less. I like to use image labels on the bins so my little ones can easily find, and put away, their toys.
Change them out from time to time with the stored toys. This will eliminate the desire to buy new toys. Remind your children that soon they will have some of their other favorite toys to play with and they do not need this newest toy fad!
Some other tips:
Try to get your extended family on board. When grandparents ask what they can get for the children for birthdays or Christmas, have a plan in mind. Let them know that instead of buying new toys, they can give money towards something big like a family trip, a swing set for the yard, or larger items like a bike or plat set. Another alternative is that they can pay for music lessons or club fees.
Be prepared to explain that your children have learned how to use their imaginations to extend the life of the toys they have. Your kids have developed creativity and have become more content.
Help children understand that every item has its place. They should know where that place is and always put the toy back when they are finished playing.