1) Children with fewer toys get more creative with the items they have. I have seen this with my own daughter when she props her doll stroller up just right so that it lays flat to serve as a 'bed' or when she asks to have a silk scarf tied into a super hero cape and then later drapes it around herself as a toga (she does have some dress up clothes, just no togas).
2) Children who have a more limited toy collection treat the toys they have with more care because they recognize that toys are not an endless resource. A child with one or two dolls will be more careful with those dolls than a child with 10.
3) Fewer toys are less overwhelming to children and easier for them to clean up themselves. This is the most fool-proof way to make sure your children can properly clean up their own toys. There are certainly organization tricks as well which I will cover in part 2, but reducing is a very important first step to achieving this.
4) Helping your children declutter their toys is part of teaching them that life is not about stuff and that generosity brings joy to the giver as much as the receiver.
Depending on your child(ren)'s age and maturity, consider involving them in the decisions regarding which toys to pass on to other children. Some ways to get them on-board:
- You can simply ask if they have any toys they are done playing with that they would like to give to other children. Encourage their generous spirit and emphasize how some children are not blessed with as many toys and would love to have the toys they don't play with very often.
- You can offer that your children sell their toys on a garage sale and then they get to use the proceeds for one special toy they've been wanting, or - better yet - for an experience such as a trip to the zoo or children's museum.
- You can pay them a sum (say, $.25 per toy) and then donate. Similar to above, they can use this money for something they want.
If your children aren't old enough to be involved with the decluttering or you feel they wouldn't handle it well, consider watching over a week or so what they play with the most and remove items that they don't play with as often. You can do this slowly or all at once, but either way, I recommend packing them away for at least a couple of weeks before donating or selling so that if a specific toy is noticed missing by your child, you can "find" it and return it to them. Other good candidates for decluttering include broken toys or those with missing pieces, as well as duplicates. Additionally, you could consider removing toys that you don't like (annoying toys or those that don't support your values) or that are too specific (i.e., they don't encourage open, creative play).
Once your decluttering is finished, reassess over a few weeks if the new amount of toys works for your family - you may discover that everyone is happier with less and decide to reduce even more.
Related reading and recommended resources:
- Simplicity Parenting by Kim John (M.Ed) Payne and Lisa M Ross
- "A Helpful Guide to Decluttering Toys" - http://www.becomingminimalist.com/a-parents-tip-sheet-for-owning-fewer-toys/
- Stuffed Animals for Emergencies (A great place to donate gently used stuffed animals to a good cause) -http://www.stuffedanimalsforemergencies.org/
- "Why I took all my kids' toys away" - http://www.livingwellspendingless.com/2012/09/14/why-i-took-all-my-kids-toys-away-why-they-wont-get-them-back/