The great toy experiment

April 14, 2009 by

Every December, I go through the kids’ toys to make room for the new ones they will be getting for Christmas.  I throw away all the broken and “junk” toys.  If I have anywhere to donate toys, I donate the good ones.  Some toys get put in a box for a big consignment sale in our area in the spring.  I used to only get rid of toys the kids were growing out of or that I really disliked.  This past December, I wanted to experiment.  I grabbed a few rubbermaid totes and a couple cardboard boxes and cleaned house.  Just about all the toys went to the basement to hide.  Pretty much all that was left was art supplies, games, a basket of matchbox cars, legos, books, puzzles, the play kitchen, and some stuffed animals.  (Still sounds like a lot, doesn’t it?)  All the plastic, 10 minute attention span toys were gone.  All the tractors that made noise (but did little else), all the polly pockets ( I hate those things!), all the plastic hammers, all the noise making whatevers….all packed away.

When I cleaned they toys out of the toyroom and the bedrooms, it made more room for playing.  I re-arranged the bedrooms and I made the toyroom into an art studio.  Since the toys were gone, there was actually room to set up the easel permanently.  I put the art supplies on shelves that were easy for the kids to reach.  The supplies had their own space so they could easily be put away.  I was so proud of my accomplishments, but I knew it could be trouble once the kids got home.

After school that day, as the kids ran upstairs, I waited for the screaming and yelling to start.  Guess what.  It never did.  They were so excited by their organized rooms and the new art studio.  The kids got right to work on new art projects.  They never even noticed their toys were gone!

Days went by and no one asked about the toys.  Each day before and after school, they created art and actually played with the toys that were left.  I, also, noticed changes in their behavior.  There was far less arguing and fighting.   The kids stopped asking to watch TV.  The house became more peaceful.  Instead of asking for new stuff, they started using what they had available.

After Christmas, they added their new toys to the mix.   Our families finally started to listen to us this year and gave the kids art supplies and more quality, open ended toys rather than plastic junk.  (for the most part)  So, I didn’t feel like we totally had to reprogram our kids.

Here it is, April.  Do you want to know when the kids asked what happened to their vanishing toys?  The answer is, not yet!  My 4 year old son did catch me in the basement going through one of the boxes for a consignment sale coming up.  He said “I love these toys!  Where have they been?”  Then, he picked one toy out of the box, played with it for about 3 minutes and went back to playing with his homemade sword.

I am convinced, now more than ever, that less is more.  This view has been strengthened by the amount of room available in my house when we don’t have to store junk and the marked change in behavior of my children.  My husband and I hardly ever by the kids toys, but when we do, we buy quality, open-ended toys that allow the kids to think and use their imagination.  We encourage the kids to use stuff around the house to play and create with. We thought that if we had those things available, it would counteract the pointless toys that can’t hold their attention span.  It seems we might have been wrong.  For our family, getting the junk out and letting the kids be creative has really worked.  Do my kids have a few plastic, pointless toys?  Sure.  But, I hardly see them and in a few months they will be gone!

For some great ideas for creative, cheap play for your kids, visit this post from!

What are your thoughts?  Any great toy management ideas?

Comments (6)


  1. jsprik says:

    what a great idea!! and it makes them use their imaginations!! that’s always good!! great blog, i’ll be back!!

  2. Kirwin says:

    I LOVE that you posted about this, because I have been struggling with the excessive amount of toys that my kids have (mostly my son, since my daughter is not quite 3.)

    Last week, I just bundled up a HUGE garbage bag full of stuffed animals (in my opinion, the biggest waste of space ever.) For now, I’ve stuck them in the garage, just. in. case. someone asks for them. (I doubt they will.)

    Thank you! This is a great post!

  3. Hi Marci

    Thanks for visiting the Friday Declutter Challenge. Glad you enjoyed seeing how I organise my wallet.

    A client shared something with me once – she said when it’s the kids’ birthdays, after all the toys are opened, she hides about half of them and then reveals them throughout the year – they don’t even know that those toys were “missing” and it keeps things fresh without her having to buy more!

  4. […] from Overcoming Busy conducted “The Great Toy Experiment” at Christmas time. She packed up most of her kids toys and created an art room for them […]

  5. […] from Overcoming Busy conducted “The Great Toy Experiment” at Christmas time. She packed up most of her kids toys and created an art room for them […]

  6. […] from Overcoming Busy conducted “The Great Toy Experiment” at Christmas time. She packed up most of her kids toys and created an art room for them […]

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