Minimizing Your Kids’ Toys Before Christmas

Published on November 19, 2015 By Lauren

We’ve all been there. The gifts start rolling in. The wrapping paper hangover has died off. Now it’s time to put away all the gifts, clothes, toys, and the rest of your child’s haul from family and friends. Now where do we put all this stuff? After years of this nauseating cycle, I finally jumped off the ride and decided to minimize my kids’ toys before Christmas.

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We’ve all been there. The gifts start rolling in. The wrapping paper hangover has died off. Now it’s time to put away all the gifts, clothes, toys, and the rest of your child’s haul from family and friends. Now where do we put all this stuff? After years of this nauseating cycle, I finally jumped off the ride and decided to minimize my kids’ toys BEFORE Christmas.

The most important thing for us to remember is that the kids need to be involved. If they’re at least 2 years old then children can be a part of the process in a productive way. This is part of the big picture of simplifying the holidays and focusing on time and experiences together.

It’s also important to involve the kids because you don’t want them to feel like this is something that happened TO them against their will. Think about it.  It would be pretty dramatic to get home from a long day at school to find that many of your toys are gone, your room is out of the order you left it, and any toys you have left aren’t in plain site. That’d be pretty unsettling. So instead we like to include the kids so that we can all make the best decisions together as a family.

Since we’ve already talked to our kids about the real meaning of Christmas, we can easily proceed from preparing their hearts to preparing their rooms and belongings for the season as well.

We’re not just making room for new toys. We are hoping to minimize the permanent presence of toys and not just make room for bigger or newer toys.

The first big step is to clean out the existing toys. We like to make four piles:

  • Trash – broken, missing parts, just worn out
  • Donate – good condition, could bring joy to another child
  • Too Young – it’s too young for your child’s current age but could possibly be gifted to a sibling or cousin
  • Keep – Yes, I like these toys!

It’s important to note that the “keep” pile probably needs to be monitored closely. My children often try to hang on to toys for sentimental value or just because something still has a little life left.

mess in child's room

Here are some questions that might work to help decide what really needs to stay or go.

  • Have you played with this toy this month or was it stuck under the bed until now and you’re just not realizing it was gone?
  • Would a younger child find more enjoyment from this toy?
  • Is that broken piece making the toy dangerous to keep around? (too sharp? exposed electronics?)
  • Is this a duplicate toy that could be enjoyed by another family?
  • Is this a toy that you got in a cereal box or gumball machine? It probably needs to go in the trash to make room for quality toys.

The final question we ask about the “keep” pile is to have the children decide if there are any of their favorite toys that they’d like to give to a child at a shelter or donate to a resale shop that another kiddo could play with more. This step isn’t absolutely necessary, but it gets them thinking of others. I’ve noticed that the more my children held tightly to their belongings, the more materialistic they were with their desire to get more toys. And the converse showed through also. The more easily my kids gave away their toys the less those toys and the ownership of things had a hold on them.

The next thing we do is inventory our “keep” pile. It’s full of things we like and play with. This is a great exercise, because it will show you and all the kids what each child is interested in. We like to build on their interests instead of just buying into the latest marketing campaign. So if a kid likes Legos then we keep that in mind as we build out their gift list for that year.  Maybe there is a set that would really complement what they've already collected. If they enjoy arts and crafts, then maybe they would like to receive more advanced project supplies to help expand that love.

This is great info to have for grandparents and extended family also since they love to ask:

What are your kids interested in ? What do they like?

Once the inventory is completed then we have a good idea of what needs to be organized. Check out the space. Make sure you have baskets, trunks, or drawers for all the different sets of toys.

For example, we like to keep all the baby clothes in a single bag with the accessories.  All the children's dress-up clothes live in a giant trunk. When I see that the trunk has been cleaned out (too small and stained/torn costumes are all removed) then I can see how much room is available for new dress up clothes to delight the children’s imaginations.

It’s also a good time to see if a certain group or type of toys is taking over the room. Maybe you’re running out of room for all those die cast cars and race tracks. Perhaps a truly insightful Christmas gift would be a new organization system to keep all those cherished belongings organized and nicely displayed.

If you know that you’re gifting the child a particularly large toy this season, then now is the time to make sure that enough toys have been removed to make room for that new toy. Maybe they donate a few more items or gift them to siblings. The kids don’t have to know why they’re clearing out extra space unless you think the anticipation will add to the excitement in the long run.

If you still need room for what is coming under the Christmas tree then I’ve saved the best tip for last: We store half of our children’s toys in the attic.

Yes, we rotate their toys in December and July. It’s not because toys are seasonal. But my kids are human and do lose interest over time. If you’ve never tried this method then I would challenge you to see the results once.  You might be surprised.

We go through and gather an entire group of toys and pack it up. So let’s just say that we gather the entire group of kitchen, food, picnic, and tea set toys. We place them in giant plastic bins in the attic. Then we rotate the kitchen toys with another set of toys in July. Maybe we take up all the baby dolls and trade them for the Little People sets. It could be that we trade the building blocks for the doll house. Whatever the case, the kids act like it’s Christmas all over again! They are so excited and they love their “new” toys once more.

Rotating groups of toys is not a punishment. It’s not a trick. It’s just a way to keep the kids room better organized and not overrun with toys.  The bonus is that they don’t get bored with their belongings.

What tricks do you use to minimize your children's toys before Christmas?  What tips would you share with new parents to stay ahead of the game?

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