How Limiting Toys Helps Your Kids

Sometimes we do things for our kids because it is good for them, but there are other times when we are actually helping them out and making life easier for them today. Toys is definitely an area where it is helpful to your kids to limit their choices. Today I wanted to share three areas that limiting our toys has helped my children.


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1. Less Stress

Do you know that having too many toys is actually stressful to children? I am not talking about the clutter aspect, although that is certainly true as well, but more about the factor of the multitude of choices. Have you ever had to make a decision, however simple, that caused you to have a moment of anxiety? Sometimes I have those moments of anxiety or stress just over deciding what to choose on a restaurant menu. I am an adult, and I can reason through that, but a child can’t. The vast amounts of choices give a child that same overwhelming feeling. So many good options, they don’t know how to decide! It is stressful.

2. Play Better

I have seen this over and over with my kids. Many times my kids can get lost in their world of play without any help on my part. There are times, though, even though we limit our toys, that Stefan has a difficult time honing in on something he wants to play with. He picks up his blocks, then glances over at his cars and wants those, then sees his Legos and wants those, etc. He can’t decide. I know we have all experienced those times when our kids say they are bored or have nothing to do. This is not because they don’t have enough toys, or even because they don’t like the toys. Usually, this is just a matter of not being able to narrow down their choices and really start playing. Real play.

I have found that when my son gets like that, I can tell him to pick one box. I let him choose which one, but I tell him to only pick one and then go to another room where he won’t see the rest of the choices anymore. More times than not, he will get lost in his world of play. The problem was not the toys, the problem was the choosing of them.

3. Easier Cleanup

I want my kids to learn to pick up there own things right from the start. Having fewer toys helps them in this process. There have been times when we have been somewhere and I have asked Stefan to help clean up. Often I will go to help as well, and when I walk in and see the deluge of toys covering every square inch of the room, I am overwhelmed. No wonder my four-year-old is overwhelmed! 

Having fewer toys with a very easy system to follow makes cleanup time easier for the kids and me. :) I showed you How I Organize My Kid’s Clothes and mentioned that the bottom containers are toys. A simple system means even my two-year-old knows exactly where things go.

Have you found that limiting your kids actually helps them? Tell us how in the comments!


  1. We limit toys as well. We also have started rotating toys in and out on a monthly(ish) basis. My daughter plays so much more peacefully and independently when her toys are limited. However, I haven’t been so good about having her help clean up from the get go and now we’re battling that some…

  2. We’d just recently started “rotating toys”. My daughter gets to pick from board books, a car, a stuffed bear, and a box of real life items like ribbons, colorful spatulas, stuff that has different texture etc. I’ve noticed significant change is that she actually plays longer now. How and when do you train “clean up”?

    • I think I will write a post sometime on children helping. Usually if they can pull toys out on their own, then it is time to start teaching them to put them away–but not on their own. :) You’ll have to do it with them, but it is still good to have the helping alongside you than just doing it all yourself, even when they are young. It starts creating the habit.

      Thanks for the reminder about the busy box! I have not done one yet for Silas (my 10 month old) and I know he would love it!

  3. This really makes a lot of sense even though I have never thought of it that way. I do notice that my kids don’t play with half of the toys they do have. My oldest either plays with transformers or hot wheels cars. My daughter my little pony or doll babies. And the littlest one doesn’t really play with toys yet. This has inspired me to give some things away!

    • Isn’t it funny how kids only play with a few of their things? I guess we can learn by that that they do not need as much as we think they do! Good luck, getting rid of stuff!

  4. I agree with you completely on limiting toys. We hardly buy our toddler any toys because we found that he’s quite entertained by the simplest things. Since we don’t feel compelled to buy a ton of toys, we can spend more on quality ones, or buy him more books.

    Have you read the book The Paradox of Choice? It’s an amazing book that talks about how having *too* many options actually prevent us from making decisions and can cause us anxiety.

  5. I totally agree, but HOW!!? How do I decide what to get rid of? We have been given so many cool toys because cousins have outgrown them, or grandparents like to spoil us (rescue heroes, little people, geo trax). I’m talking huge rubbermaids full of these toys. We have lots of other toys too. We have way too many toys, and I worry that what the older one likes will not be what the little one likes. I don’t know how to decide because I don’t know if some of the toys are not played with just because they are not even noticed with all of the other options, but we REALLY need to declutter around here. Any ideas?
    I have really appreciated your blog. I was able to get rid of over 31 things in March thanks to you. I also put all of the little guy’s pj’s, socks, and onesies in a bin on our bookshelf in the family room since that is where we get him ready for bed, and it has made things so much simpler. Thank you!

    • Hopefully an upcoming post will give you some ideas. :)

      However, if you are not sure what to get rid of, you might could try a toy rotation. Put some of the rubbermaids of toys in the attic or basement where the kids can’t access them and then put it on your calendar to switch the rubbermaids in a month or so. That might also help you determine if they just aren’t being played with because there are so many, or if they really don’t like to play with them. I will have tips on purging very soon, so stay tuned.

      I’m so glad you got some decluttering and simplifying done! It really does make life easier, doesn’t it? Yay~

      Thanks for reading, Jenny, and thanks for your comment!

  6. I definitely agree and see a difference, too. The book Simplicity Parenting (brief review here) has suggestions for what toys are helpful to keep (like stuffed animals/dolls, wooden blocks, cars), what are helpful to get rid of (noise makers, overstimulating toys), and what may even be helpful to add (dress up clothes, textured toys).

    Our toys still make a mess (well, our little people are the mess-makers), but our biggest messy right now is craft stuff. It’s limited and accessible, but the cutting of paper that took an hour or the beads that go everywhere still get messy. But for now, I think those are probably good messes. 😉

    A helpful playtime concept that is emphasized occasionally on another blog (Play at Home Mom) is to introduce each toy to the child and spend time playing together with the toy and the child(ren) when it is first introduced. Of course, they may eventually deviate from the “expected” way of use, but that’s hopefully what we’re wanting as they develop and use their imaginations.

    Your post also reminds me about how beneficial it is to keep reading about simplifying–now I’m more motivated to find yet another item that we don’t really “need.” Thanks!!

    • I’m just seeing this! For some reason it went to spam. Anyway, yes, I agree to all the above. We choose toys that are interactive toys, no battery, and very few single item toys (i.e. not part of a collective set).

      I have done the idea of starting play with my kids, when they are having an especially difficult time getting into play. I do try to be careful, though, not to impose my imagination on them, because kids imaginations are hands down more creative. We adults have too much “real life” in the back of our minds that it sometimes colors our “imagination.” (I speak for myself anyway). I am going to check that blog out, though. Thanks!

      Yes, to the reading about simplifying. I am always continually inspired by others, because it is amazing how quickly I become accustomed to what I have in my home! And that book is on my list thanks to your review. :)

  7. We definitely limit toys: We just don’t have the room in our house for a bajillion things! I have a box and as things are not played with or outgrown they get put away to be brought out at some other time.

    • I totally get you about the no space! We live in a small apartment so I have to keep the toy clutter under control!

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  9. I am working on this now which is difficult after Christmas.

  10. I just love this post! We are strict with the amount of toys and clutter as well. We have always been since birth so this is not a new phenomenon. What is happening now that my child is getting older is the family is giving more stuff. She is 4. With each new Christmas and Birthday, it is getting increasingly difficult to hide and donate these gifts before she remembers them. Also, I give a list of suggestions and ask that commercial items with specific examples such as Disney princess and Pink not be given. On 3 occasions to date, one specific family member simply ignored the Disney Pink Princess rule. Then, secondly, she got things that were similar to my list which all had to be donated. The items did not color match our existing homeschool material. At the end of the day, she spent around $80 and all of it was donated. I have tried to explain myself and why we are the way we are. She refuses to get it. My in-laws, who do understand quality versus quantity, seem to understand . Even if they don’t, they have not said anything and ask for approval or a list before buying anything.

    I made a similar post as yours today in my local mommy forum. After a few hours, the moderators had to pull it. The moms all made me out to be evil and atrocious. I could not get them to understand that it is not about control! I live with my children. I know them and what they play with. I understand that they do not need stuff but they need love. I also understand that all too often, the gifts that are given at birthday’s are not thoughtful, they were picked up along with the groceries at Wal-mart most likely in the “gender-pre-determined” toy area to fill the need of the buyer to give a gift.

    I just get so angry when the holidays and birthdays arrive now. If our future is anything like the last 2 Christmas and Birthdays, then the money that I throw away from the discarded gifts could have paid for their college. I am sure we have reached $500 in donated gifts in just a year.

    I even made very specific gift suggestions for the 4th birthday party, focusing on recycled and/or regifted if at all possible. The moms in my local forum reamed me a new one for that. “Who does that?” Look, I want my child to have the toys her friends and family give her. I want to keep them. I want them to have purpose. I want them to spend their money wisely.

    I am helping you out! Well, birthday still sucked as the amount of stuff that instantly disappeared was nauseating. No, my child does not see this happen. She is not even aware of how much stuff she got thankfully.

    I love this post on how it deals with the clutter after the fact.

    How about a post that prevents the extreme waste BEFORE the fact. How to go about getting friends and family, guests at birthday parties and any other occasion to, if they feel the need to spend money, spend the money on these gifts the way you suggest?

    The family member found out this Christmas upon visiting that nearly zero of the items she has ever given are not in our home. Needless to say, she was not happy. Now, she is playing the victim stance, “I cannot do anything right. I will never buy them presents again.” Please know, since the children were born, I have always made specific requests and a list with many approved options. Also, when she would make “sly” comments at the children to gauge interest, I would promptly and clearly say that those items were not needed. She made herself into a perceived victim.

    We spend hours together as a family with the toys we have, the puppets, the legos, brass bands with all our instruments, cooking, reading in her pvc pipe house. The other children that visit play so well together. I never hear any fighting. Actually, when she was in the toddler years and toddlers would visit, I would hide the toys for that very reason!

    Please write a post on how to deal with the gifts before they become an issue. How to make suggestions tastefully and tactifully (both things I lack!) to the friends and family to get them to cooperate (and not, with complete and utter disregard and lack of respect, ignore your request). Lastly, how to tell them that if you do not comply with the rules, please know the gifts will be donated. No, I do not do the return receipt thing. Your money will be wasted. You will have caused me unnecessary stress and wasted my time as well.

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