Having minimal toys is a huge blessing to our family. Not only do we live in a tidy space and spend much less time cleaning, but we have way more time and mental space for all the worthwhile pursuits of life (like cooking and homeschooling and homesteading and blogging…just a few of my hobbies!)
But toys in appropriate moderation can of course bring joy to any childhood. I’m one of those people who tries to consider about every single thing I bring into my home and if it will truly add to our quality of life.
I also wrote more on this subject in my post “Why Toy Minimalism Gives My Children a Better Childhood”.
I understand that this way of living is not everyone, but even if you don’t consider each item in your home individually, I believe that holding a thoughtful philosophy to owning things can be helpful to everyone.
Also, please understand that I use the term “Minimalist” fairly loosely. I do not mean “as little as humanly possible”. I mean that we have only what toys make our life better, and all the rest have been edited out. Obviously, this will vary from family to family, and even from person to person within a family.
So without further ado, here are the toys we own, as well as an explanation of a few of the toys we have let go, and how we keep our toy collection at a sustainable minimal level that works for our family.
Toys by category…
Dolls and Stuffed Animals – We have kept about 2-3 stuffed animals or dolls per child, and this is by far our largest category of toys. My children are most attached to their babies/stuffies, and take good care of them. I also really enjoy making rag dolls and sometimes stuffed animals, so they have a particularly fond spot in my heart, and stay with careful moderation.
Melissa and Doug Baby Dolls are my favorite!
Cars/Things with Wheels – Sometimes you just need to zoom, ya know? My boys are the ones that keep the cars, mostly matchbox cars plus a few push-and-go cars. These cars get TONS of use. Just so much zooming and building of jumps and tracks and on and on. We have about a dozen cars all together. Leo recently spent his own money on a remote controlled car, which he keeps separately from the other toys.
We also have about 6 wooden train engines/cars that magnet together and the baby loves to play with these.
Animals – I do really love Schleich animals, they are beautiful and practically indestructible, and the kids usually get them for Christmas or a birthday. We have primarily horses, plus a couple of other animals. At one time we had a farm animal set, however it seemed that the horses were what the kids mostly played with, so that’s what we focus on now.
We let go of “sets” of toys…
I’ve decided that having sets of toys that must remain together to be played with is more stressful than fun. It’s distressing when we cannot find a necessary piece! When our toy collections was larger, this happened pretty much all the time. An incredible amount of mess was made “looking” for a missing piece of something.
I have always like the idea of having a set of wooden train tracks, and our kids were pretty excited when we got them one for Christmas a few years ago. Then, important pieces went missing. Bridges broke. And there were over 100 pieces in the set and it was a huge chore to pick them up and sort them out from the other toys. When the “new” had worn off the novelty gift, I found that the kids were playing with just a few trains, without the tracks.
So I pack up the tracks in a suitcase, and put them in the closet for a few months. They were never missed, so eventually I let kids know the train tracks had been fun and served their purpose and were going to a different family now. There were no objections.
The same thing happened with the dollhouse that I bought my girls. It was a nice wooden one, with lots of darling miniature furniture and tiny dishes and clothes and I loved it. They love it when I gave it to them to!
Then, pieces were scattered and broke and the doll house was always being tripped over. It’s not that it was cheap or they didn’t appreciate the gift. They just weren’t playing with it, and it was frustrating to keep together and safe. Plus I felt horrible when those cute little pieces broke. So we gave it away. I felt relieved.
I’ve had to admit to myself that I often got sets of things for my kids because I loved the idea of them, not because we actually needed or even wanted them. Honestly, I think it was harder for me to give away that doll house than it was for my girls to let it go.
Eventually we gave away all sets, and we didn’t replace them. Goodbye clutter and hello tidiness with ease! I didn’t chuck everything at once, so it never really seemed shocking.
There was no sneaking things out the back door with black plastic garbage bags so the kids wouldn’t see what I was doing. But as we gave away thing we didn’t want, we didn’t buy replacements. It was a gradual and natural process, and it worked wonders.
What about dress up clothes?
Ok, I do think that it’s really fun to dress up, but keeping dress up clothes under control has been a struggle as long as we have had them.
There was a time when I felt that I just needed to crack down and enforce the rules when it came to keeping dress up clothes put away. These kids should learn to be responsible for their stuff!
But then I remembered what it was like to be a kid and be told to clean up my room when it was pretty much covered in stuff. It was horrible, to put it lightly.
I realized that letting go of the dress up clothes and all the mess that came with them wasn’t teaching my kids to avoid responsibility, rather it was teaching them to prioritize how they wanted to spend their time and experience their life!
I let them know that the dress up clothes were driving me crazy, and we agreed that it was stressful to have to keep cleaning them up all the time. I asked the girls if they wanted to keep one dress up dress, and they both chose their favorite (the boys didn’t care at all.)
When those dresses wore out, we didn’t replace them, so now we have zero dress up clothes.
Oh, but don’t worry about the imaginative play. As it turns out, a scarf and blanket can be just about any dress up item that you imagine it to be, I also let the girls wear my dresses if they want to do some civilized play. And who needs a plastic tiara when you can make a crown of real vines and flowers from the garden? Have you ever had a fairy wand that was a single, delicate blossom? I highly recommend it.
What about toys for gifts?
People give toys as gifts, it’s a fact.
In this family, if someone gives my kids a toy (even an ugly one) we take it and say thank you and feel grateful that someone thought of us! The purpose of a gift is to bring joy to the giver and the receiver, and I don’t want to get in the way of that!
But my kids know that toys that are given as gifts are rarely kept long term. When the new wears off, it’s ok to let them go and bless another family.
I’m open with my own extended family about my simple lifestyle and they are great at giving gifts that don’t bring stress and clutter, such as quality books, art supplies, craft projects and other fun non toy gifts. But no matter what we get as gifts, the point is that someone cared about us enough to get us a gift, and that’s the most important thing.
What about books?
We are definitely not minimal about books. Books are a true love of mine, and no matter how many we have they don’t feel like clutter to me. They feel like cozy happiness. However, I’m pretty careful about the quality of literature we keep. We keep only books we really love and will read again and again. As it turns out, for us that’s quite a lot of books!
Each of the kids has little drawer for them to keep their “treasures” in. This may be jewelry or little accessories, cards or notes, or other little things special things that the want to hold onto. Treasure drawers are a private space, and others are not allowed to go through anyone else treasures.
I do ask them to go through and sort their treasure drawer every couple of months and they usually find that things they wanted to keep a month ago are no longer important to them. But having a little collection of personal items is important to me as well as them, so the treasure drawer is here to stay.
Other play things…
We have several bigger items, like a rocking horse, little chairs, a play rug, as well as outside bikes, wagons, and toy tractors in the garden. These things don’t cause a lot of clutter, but I know that if they ever outlive their usefulness and cease to be played with, it will be alright to let go of them as well.
We also have things like puzzles, coloring books, board games and a few outside play things like jump ropes, balls, and of course our beloved play set. These also provide plenty of entertainment without adding much more clutter.
So that’s it folks! We have had less toys every year for the last four years and we don’t feel deprived in any way. My kids live their best life playing outside, working along side me on the homestead or in the kitchen, or having grand adventures with their best friends (i.e. their siblings.)
Our toy collections is exactly right for us right now. It probably won’t be what works for other families, or even for our family in the future. As we grow and change, so can the things we own.
But I know this mama is happier when their is less stuff in our home, and that’s one thing I know will benefit this family!
We bake and build forts and recite poems and race and dance and play music. I’m surprised we have time for any toys at all, actually!