When my daughters were little, they only had four toys. Organizing them sure was easy!
OK, that’s not exactly the full story. When my kids were six and one, we lived in Italy for two months while my husband was at an artist’s residence. For those months, the only toys they had were a doll, a stuffed animal, a miniature set of blocks, and a box of crayons.
It was a great experience, not only of living in another country but also of living with less. Packing for that trip was a real test of my organizing abilities! To make space for my husband’s art supplies and still fit into our teeny-tiny Italian car, our personal belongings were relegated to two carry-on suitcases.
So, I packed minimal toys and one storybook treasury, so we’d have all our favorite books in one relatively compact volume (This was a pre-Kindle, pre-iPad trip)! To supplement the toys, I printed out this kite template for us to use.
It amazed me that, instead of being bored by having so few toys, my daughters were actually much more creative, socially interactive, and played for longer periods of time. This is borne out by plenty of studies (Check out these articles here and here). I saw first-hand that limiting toys helped my children be more engaged in their play.
The lesson is that the best thing you can do to boost your children’s creativity and organization skills is to help them have fewer toys.
At times, especially after stepping on yet another Lego left on the floor, you’ve probably been sorely tempted to get rid of all the toys.
Realistically, that’s not going to happen. Without being that drastic, there are things you can do to reduce the volume.
1. Pare Down: Eliminate the Excess
I know you’re tempted to do this on your own, but involving the kids in the process teaches valuable decision-making skills and lessons. They’ll learn how to tell a toy that has a lasting value from one that’s just a fad, and how to be generous by passing along toys they no longer want to other children. Here’s how to do it:
After you’ve pared the toys down, try creating a rotation of toys. This is a wonderful way to limit the amount available at any given time, helping focus the play and make cleanup quicker. The way you do it will vary by the age of your child.
Keep reminding yourself that fewer toys means more playtime.
It’s tempting to buy your children the latest toys or that new thing they’re bugging you for, just one more for the collection. But just as you don’t buy them candy all the time, you know that more toys aren’t necessarily good for them. Challenge them to see how high their creativity soars when they’re limited to just a few toys.
While you’re at it, you might just see what “toys” of your own you can do without. Will limiting them boost your own creative capacity?