Kids toys are such a double-edged sword. They keep our kids busy while we get chores and work done, and our kids love them. But they also become a chore at the end of the day when we have to clean them up. Your living room also becomes an obstacle course when toys are strewn everywhere.
But they seem like such a natural part of a child’s upbringing today that we never seem to question what effect they’re having on our kids. There’s nothing demonstrably negative about them. But there’s no miraculous benefit to them either. Why, then, do they seem so mandatory?
How to approach minimalism with kids toys
We always want our kids to be stimulated, engaged, and busy. However, there’s nothing to imply that not having toys would negatively affect children.
Further than that, there’s nothing to imply that kids without toys are not stimulated, engage, and busy. Before toys were manufactured, kids got along just fine!
This is something that people rarely contemplate. That’s because kids and toys are inherently a package—when you’re about to have a child, you know you’re about to have a lot of toys. But why?
It’s finally time we ask: do we need these toys that are strewn around the living room? It’s an especially vital question and one that you’re sure to run into during your transition into minimalist life with kids.
What toys do you need to keep? Do you need any? Let’s investigate the benefits and pitfalls in order to make an informed decision about whether it’s better to keep the toys or say goodbye to them.
Pros of Getting Rid of Your Kid’s Toys
Contrary to popular belief, your precious gems would absolutely not melt away from boredom if you did remove their toys.
They also would not become social outcasts. Actually the lack of stimulation can do more for their social development, creativity and critical thinking than a light-up magic wand can.
They’ll play outside more
Nature is full of toys! Once they catch on to that, they’ll love being outside (if they don’t already). Nature play is amazing for imaginative and adventure play. It’s also a great opportunity for your kids to connect with nature, which is something that’s largely lost upon kids today.
Their creativity will expand
If they have a device to make all the swirls, shapes, and colors for them, their minds won’t produce them on their own. Toys are a distraction that keeps them from achieving the full extent of their creativity.
For children, the world is so busy. There’s really no lack of mental stimulation—their minds are always going. After an imminent period of boredom their minds will slowly revert back to its essential state of creativity and naturally shift into imaginative activities such as art and pretend play.
They’ll develop social skills
Talking to people through XBox Live doesn’t nourish the kind of social skills that are important for proper development. Kids should be having more interaction with real people that they do with people online or toys.
If they don’t, they end up like a large portion of today’s youth with anxiety at the thought of having a face-to-face conversation. The art of conversation takes practice, and your child isn’t getting much of that in front of atoy.
They’ll learn to be more still
A benefit of them not being constantly revved up by outside influences is that they’re able to calm down easier and wind down smoother at the end of the day. To reinforce stillness, also incorporate a break or two for small kids throughout the day.
It’s not a time-out, it’s just a rest. Allow them to sit somewhere undisturbed (in front of a window that they can daydream out of, if they’d like) for 5-10 minutes.
They’ll share better
If material things aren’t a big deal at home, they won’t be a big deal when they get around other kids. They’ll be less conservative with items, and value the social interaction more than they value the toys themselves.
They’ll become more grateful
When receiving things isn’t an expectation, children are more appreciative when they do get something. They take better care of it and make plenty of use out of it. And an attitude of gratitude naturally makes holidays and special treats even more exciting!
They’ll value people and experiences over things
A lot of the time we give kids toys as a reward system. When we give them things every time they do a good job, they associate possessions with happiness and success. This creates a lifelong connection between getting things, and happiness and success.
When you reward them with fun experiences with the family, they learn early on what really matters.
Cons of Getting Rid of Your Kid’s Toys
It’ll take time for them to become self-reliant
They’ll have a harder time doing activities that they’ve grown accustomed to relying on material things in order to do. Some kids won’t go to the potty or eat without a device to watch. If you take them away, it could put you a step back in certain developmental processes.
They’ll be bored for a while
The change in mental function is not a sudden one. They’re going to have to adjust to no longer having all this outside stimuli. For a few weeks following, they’re bound to sit around, groan a little, maybe freak out every now and then. The awesome thing, though, is that boredom is perfectly okay!
They’ll bug you more often
This is also true for a few weeks following the transition, and especially true if they don’t have siblings.
They’ll want to talk to you, play with you, engage with you, follow you, and do things with you more now that they don’t have toys to hold their attention. They’ll basically turn to you to entertain them.
Their hovering might make it a little difficult for you to clean, cook, work, or tend to smaller children. This part takes a little patience to get through but that’s just their minds trying to stay engaged.
You’ll guilt trip yourself
You’re bound to still have moments of doubt about removing their toys. You might see them sitting on the couch quietly staring out the window and think, “They look miserable! They must be so bored! What are they even supposed to do without toys?”.
It doesn’t feel good to feel as though we’re not doing all we can for our kids by intervening in the situation, and these feelings can lead us to parent from a place of guilt.
They might be mad at you for a while
When they first learn of the clean out they’re likely not going to be too happy about it. That’s just a part of it. Kids are equally capable of grieving, and they’ll have to drive their lost things. Just remember that this won’t last forever!
Should you get rid of your kid’s toys?
The overall pros of getting rid of your kids’ toys involve a lot of brain development. Kids are able to harness their limitless imaginations and broad intellect when it’s not always being overshadowed by bright moving images or remote control race cars.
They become more independent thinkers and do-ers. Taking away their toys also makes them more likely to bind to people than things and more appreciative when they do receive something they like.
Of the cons of getting rid of your kids’ toys, however, all of them indicate some kind of negative consequence for the parent, not always the child.
You’ll probably have less time and a little more emotion to deal with that usual, but other than being a little bored your child will be perfectly fine. The cons just take patience on your part, and the willingness to re-adjust and find a new balance for this life without toys.
This is only a general examination—every kid has their own perfectly special wants, needs, and personality. Raising kids without toys generally yields more benefits than showering kids with toys.
We all naturally want our kids to have the best of things. But discarding their toys is not depriving them of joy as long as you demonstrate to them what joy really is.
Save that money you would be spending on toys and replace the material possessions with vacations, desserts, movie nights, family outings, crafts and experiments—good memories and experiences.
If you’re the kind of wonderful parent that has already indulged their kids in plenty of their wants, don’t worry! You’re probably wondering how to wean your kids off of toys and help them adjust to a life outside of their stuff. We’ve got you covered!
How to Make Departing With Your Kid’s Toys Easier
- Communicate with them. No matter how old they are, try to explain to them what’s happening and why. Let them know that their toys are going to make another kid that really needs very happy and that they’re doing an incredibly great thing! Compromise and assure them that they don’t have to part with all of their toys and allow them to pick their three to five favorites to keep.
- Little by little. Throughout the day or after they’ve gone to sleep, squirrel away toys that you notice they don’t play with as much, or toys that are broken or missing parts. Narrow down their toy stash, unnoticeable, a little at a time. Make sure not to discard anything that they’re likely to notice and be upset is missing.
- Have a garage sell! Garage sales are a fun way to get some things off your hands. Get your kid involved and let them set their own price for their stuff!
- Don’t pressure them. Their toys are really all they have that’s theirs. It’s already likely to be an overwhelming process for them so don’t make them feel bad for not wanting to give something up or express irritation at them taking their time to decide. It can be frustrating, but pushing them won’t make it any easier on them. A gentle nudge is all that necessary.
- Celebrate Gift Day! Donating is just like giving kids gifts, and that’s something to celebrate! You can make Gift Day a bi-yearly tradition. Help your child(ren) pack up the toys they want to gift. (Pro Tip: Dress it up like a gift by putting them in a gift bag and adding some paper confetti on top!) Take them to the donation box or center and let them hand the bag over themselves. Then spend the rest of the day celebrating their wonderful act of giving by taking them to do their favorite things, cooking their favorite dinner and/or dessert, and maybe letting them stay up a little after bedtime. Make it something they look forward to!
- Stand your ground. Sometimes we’ll get so frustrated with the process that we throw our hands up and walk away. Don’t worry, you’re doing great! The important thing is that you don’t let it keep you away. Even if it’s not that day, make sure you come back around to it with a better attitude, replenished resolve and, perhaps, a different approach. They already likely don’t want to do it so if they know that you’ll bend, they find a way out of it. Be persistent. .
Depending on your circumstances it might not be feasible for you to raise your kids without toys, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that!
Some of us barely get any time in the day as it is and just need our kids to be distracted from time to time in order for us to get everything done. Or you just feel like it wouldn’t be fair to relieve them of all their toys.
Your children surely won’t be any worse for being raised with toys—and you’re doing great, too! But any parent could benefit from a simple toy reduction even if it just means you won’t have to clean up, or step on, as many toys.
In the pursuit of your minimalist space, try to cut your kid’s toys at least in half, prioritizing keeping what they interact with most.
It’s a scary thought at first because we want our kids to have nice things. But we have to wonder if the mental and social implications are worth the momentary delight that comes with purchasing them a new toy.
Certainly, your love for them can’t possibly be measured by what you buy them so don’t feel guilty for insisting that they part with some things to make space. They won’t love you any less!