Moms of Many Manage Toys

moms of many manageWelcome to this week’s edition of 4 Moms, 35 Kids: How Moms of Many Manage.  This week we’re talking about managing toys.

Be sure to visit the other 4 Moms to read what they have to say:

KimC at Life in a Shoe
Connie at Smockity Frocks
Headmistress at The Common Room

The very best way to manage toys, at least in my opinion, is not to have any.  Just send the kids outside to play with sticks, rocks and trees and have available a wide and varying assortment of boxes, string, paper, tape,  markers, fabric and other supplies.  While our children love that type of play they also enjoy having toys.  So my ideas on toy management are mellowed by the desires of our children and we’ve compromised with aiming to not have too many toys.

Obviously the definition of  “too many” toys may vary, but in our house we have a couple designated areas  to keep toys and we don’t get or keep anything that doesn’t comfortably fit into those areas.

Taming the Toy Monster

Don’t collect too many:

1. Keep it simple.  Choose simple, classic toys that will be enjoyed by children of all ages and avoid the flashing, talking, moving electronic toys that appeal for only a short while.  Don’t be fooled by some toy manufacturers today who are making all sorts of ‘junk’ toys out of wood and trying to pass them off as classics.  A toy is not a classic simply because it’s wooden. 🙂

Some of our “must haves”:

  • Blocks
  • A few quality balls – We love Oballs for inside use.  They’re super easy for little ones to catch and throw and light weight enough so that when big kids get involved the balls aren’t a hazard to our indoor furnishings.
  • Dolls – Each of our girls has two, a baby doll and an 18″ doll.
  • Dress-ups – Our boys and girls from 2 to teen enjoy pulling from our dress up boxes.
  • Building sets – We love DUPLOS for the little ones and LEGOS for the bigger kids.
  • Art and craft supplies – We keep an unlimited supply of paper (that we get for free) available to our children and allow them access to crayons, pens, pencils, markers, etc.
  • Cars, trucks and trains

2. Don’t buy toys.  We’ve found that generally speaking, if you leave the toy buying to others, your children will end up having plenty, especially if you have more than the average number of children.

3. Get rid of toys that aren’t often used, – Usually space is at a premium for large families so make the best use of your space by only keeping toys that are used frequently.  We cull through toys a few times a year and we always make one of those times November or December.  Read this post for more ideas on keeping down the toy clutter.

4. Remember that toys are temporary – Our favorite way to get rid of superfluous toys is to give them to new grandparents.  Our toys continue to be enjoyed by children and the grandparents are able to have a selection of toys for when the grand babies come over to play.

Keep ’em organized:

Baskets under desk keep toys organized

This is where “a place for everything and everything in it’s place” comes in.  If all of the toys are in a big toy box, they are likely top get dumped when one of the children is searching for a particular toy.  If parts and pieces of games are all mixed together in the game closet, the children may choose not to sort through the mess to find all the pieces of the game they wish to play.

1. Use baskets to keep different types and sets of toys separate so that children are able to find what they are looking for (and put them away when they are finished).

We have separate baskets in our family/school room for baby toys, toddler puzzles, train tracks, blocks, cars and army guys.  All of the children know which type of toy goes in which basket and where each basket belongs so pick-up is a snap and they always know where to find what they are looking for.

Toy free zone (mostly)

2. Use Ziploc bags – I use Ziploc bags to organize some toys within our baskets.  I put all the pieces of our toddler puzzles into a Ziploc and then store the bag with the frame.  Card games and games with small pieces also get bagged.

3. Keep toys in the area you wish the children to play with them.  This prevents some of the toy trail that happens otherwise.  We keep ‘quiet’ toys in our school room and ‘louder’ more active toys downstairs in the playroom and we keep very few toys in  bedrooms which makes it easy to keep bedrooms tidy.

4. Shelves are another of our favorite ways to store toys.  Shelves allow the children to see exactly what they have available and prevents them from easily dumping them all onto the floor.  (Oh, trust me they can still dump it’s just a little more time consuming for them. )

5. Rotate toys – We actually don’t do this in our home because although we have loads of living space, we don’t have much storage space.  But I have friends that have wonderful systems for rotating toys in and out of storage.

Since I’ve spent the blog week documenting  some of Colby’s antics and even sharing his catastrophic Christmas tale, I figure that it’s only fair to say publicly that Colby is one of my BEST organizers and picker-uppers.

Visit the other moms of many to read their thoughts on toy management:

The Common Room
Smockity Frocks
Life in a Shoe

Past 4 Moms posts:

The upcoming 4 Moms posts:

  • 16 – feeding company
  • 23 – Questions for the Four Moms
  • 30 –  Teaching children to do their chores

For more Moms of Many posts visit the 4 Moms page.

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16 Responses to Moms of Many Manage Toys
  1. Samantha
    December 9, 2010 | 8:45 am

    We do all of those things. Makes for a much easier clean-up! We have 6.


  2. Julie
    December 9, 2010 | 9:04 am

    We currently have 5 children 8 years and under with #6 coming late May/early June. We live in a 1200 sq. ft. house so toy organization is a must! Unfortunately we haven’t convinced grandparents that each child doesn’t need 10 new things from them for Christmas, the majority of which require batteries!

    Every December we go through all our toys and the kids are so good about getting rid of things they don’t use very much or are just willing to let go of so someone else can be blessed by it.

    Thanks so much for sharing what you have found to work for your family. It is helpful as our family grows.


  3. Lorie
    December 9, 2010 | 9:51 am

    Could you check your links to the other moms’ sites? So far, the first two have led me to posts from March. Thanks!


    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Thanks Lorie. Links are now fixed.


  4. Christy
    December 9, 2010 | 12:21 pm

    Toy management is very similar here at our house, although I keep the toys stored in the younger boys bedroom. I prefer the mess to be contained somewhere other than our main living area. Legos, army men, Hot Wheels, and Playmobil figures are the toys of choice here. And you are likely to find them in every room, in the van, in pockets, and in my purse.


  5. Taryn
    December 9, 2010 | 3:12 pm

    My children really enjoyed Dr. Drew’s wood blocks. Our youngest(of the 6) is 17 so I don’t know if they are still around. We ordered them through a large homeschool catalog. We never bought Sesame St., Barbie(only baby dolls), or anything on tv or movies(Disney). had some good toys,puzzles,etc.- we liked their pencil by number sets. We didn’t like board games- except for Scrabble, chess, and checkers. We used ziploc bags for storage, too and had no toys in the bedrooms. Now we have 4 grandchildren and are looking at toys again. Wish we still had those blocks.


  6. Jamie (@va_grown)
    December 10, 2010 | 11:01 am

    We have similar architectural blocks and we’ll keep them FOREVER! 9/10th of any mess in our house includes them! 🙂 We try to pick timeless stuff that they can use in all sorts of different ways–and we purge little plastic “junk” toys often.

    We don’t separate our toy baskets by type much because we find they tend to dump them anyway. So pick up is a breeze, just throw it in the basket and put the basket on the shelf. We keep puzzles, arts/crafts, and games in a separate cabinet that requires permission and supervision, so we’re not losing pieces all the time.


  7. Taryn
    December 10, 2010 | 11:34 am

    I’ve been watching PBS(Curious George, Barney,etc.) with my granddaughters and I noticed something- It says:Help PBS open their eyes- to what -subtle evolution teaching,etc. I thought of Genesis 3:7″And the eyes of them both were opened…”(KJB). Then I noticed-Imagine entertainment and the word imagination(Barney is a dinosaur from our imagination…). Genesis 11:6-“…and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.”-the city/tower of Babel. I remember the muppets(monster puppets)-Sesame St. pushing the swine flu shot(that caused me to miscarry in 1976) recently- and government school agendas. We have to be careful here-it is subtle-“Now the serpent was more subtil than any…”(Genesis 3:1,2 Cor.11:3 KJB).. I won’t buy pbs books/toys. Even Thomas the Train is narrated by an atheist’s creepy voice- George Carlin. I don’t think he is one anymore-he died. Mr. Noodle(Elmo’s) is weird…


  8. Stephanie
    December 10, 2010 | 11:39 am

    With the girls 23 months apart and sharing a room we have baby and toddler toys out. Most of the toys live in their room on the bookshelves. We have one five shelf bookcase with two shelves of board books and three shelves of toys including the peg puzzles (limited to ten). The other bookcase has two shelves with two baskets each containing baby toys, blocks, playsilks (instead of dress up costumes) and toy food. If the basket or shelf is full then something needs to go to make space for new- this hasn’t happened yet. The only stuff that lives elsewhere are things like the baby gym, balls, rocking toy and a few books so we can keep an eye on them while in the kitchen. My two year old is great at helping clean up and I think while some of it is temperament it is also because it is a doable size job when stuff is limited.
    The big questions I ask when I am looking at getting new stuff is what is this toy supposed to do? Do we have something similar? Will it be played with? Do we have space? How badly do I want to be picking up after this toy? What else can we do with the money?
    I have yet to find a good way to organize the balls or art supplies though. I wish we had a cabinet.


  9. Taryn
    December 10, 2010 | 1:13 pm

    I don’t tell my granddaughters they have to share- that reminds me of socialism/communism. I tell them Ephesians 4:32(KJB)-“…be ye kind…”. We don’t like toys with batteries, either.


  10. Taryn
    December 12, 2010 | 10:52 am

    Christian Liberty Press has 3 first grade books about Jesus and they advertise that the books do not have any pictures of Jesus- we appreciate that. A good book for parents is Disney and the Bible(1996). We watched few videos but as with board games- we tried them then gave them away or threw them out. I will not have videos for our grandchildren- Above Rubies magazine has a tape-Save Your Children’s Brain Space. I agree that our brains were not meant to store so many images- words take up less brain space.


  11. Heather@It'sTwinsanity!
    December 13, 2010 | 10:32 pm

    I LOVE this post! We have begged our family to stop buying toys because we just have too many. We have one small area for storage of toys and bedrooms are toy-free zones (except for a few exceptions.) I love your advice for large families!


  12. Taryn
    December 14, 2010 | 10:15 am

    I want to add in regard to a Scripture in my previous comment-“ye” is plural in the King James Bible. John 3:7(KJB)-“…Ye must be born again.”


  13. Susan
    December 20, 2010 | 1:58 pm

    Hi Kimberly,

    I have a question about leaving the toy-buying to others who buy gifts for your children: What then do you buy for your children? With my older children it’s not so hard because they want/like books, clothes, etc. But with the littles, I’m at a loss for other ideas. We “purge” toys periodically, too, but still with the hand-me-downs from the older siblings there is plenty already. On the other hand, even though 99% of what I see in the way of toys I have zero interest in, I still like Lauri products, blocks, trucks, Fisher Price Little People, ….. Thanks for your help!


    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Weeeelllll, we’ve done a few things on this score.

    We have been known to pull a hand-me-down toy out of storage, wrap it up and give it to a child who’s never seen it before. (The play kitchen and food that belonged to Amber, Kaitlin and Alyssa spent a couple of years in our attic before we pulled it out and gave it to Sadie and Savannah for Christmas.) This isn’t much different than buying used, is it?

    We’ve purchased items, books or tools that the child will appreciate in the future even though they may not be excited when they get it. (Matthew now loves the set of Narnia books we gave him for his first Christmas.)

    We might buy the child something very simple for a dollar or two. When we do this we put the money that we normally would’ve spent on this child into the child’s account for them to use later.

    Of course we’ve been blessed with grandparents who often ask for input about what our children would like and our kids have plenty of toys.


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