Motherhood Mondays: The Great Toy Experiment

When pregnant, I barely read any books (they freaked me out!), but happily I’ve stumbled upon some parenting books for toddlers that seem to have wise and down-to-earth advice. Simplicity Parenting is one of those books. Here are four enlightening tips about toddlers and toys…

* The number of toys your child has should be dramatically reduced. Dr. Payne encourages parents to put all their kid’s toys–bath toys, blocks, cars, balls, everything–into one big pile. That pile should be halved, and halved again, and maybe even again. Why? “An avalanche of toys invites emotional disconnect and a sense of overwhelm,” Dr. Payne writes. (That makes sense, even as an adult, don’t you think? Imagine how much calmer you feel sitting at your desk when it’s clean, versus covered with notes and papers; or how soothing your bedroom feels when everything’s put away.) Parents sometimes fear that their kids will be bored without as many toys, but the outcome is typically the reverse: Kids become more engaged once their toys are reduced. “As you decrease clutter, you increase a child’s attention and capacity for deep play,” writes Dr. Payne. And it can be surprising to realize how many toys you’ve accumulated (especially if you have lots of relatives:)

* Organize the room so your child can only see a few toys at a time. (Keep other toys stored in baskets or bins under the bed or in a closet.) With Toby, I’ve been putting a blanket over his toys, so he can focus on playing with one thing at a time. His room looks simple and inviting with just a few favorite toys. So much calmer than it used to, when it was covered in Legos and books and Elmo paraphernalia!

* Reduce the number of books in the room. Have just a few favorite books accessible at any given time. “Kids need the time to read deeply, and often repeatedly,” says Dr. Payne. Then you can rotate out the books once they’ve thoroughly enjoyed the first batch.

* Keep just one of each type of toy. Toby LOVES cars, and I realized that he has a toy taxi, a school bus, six race cars, two police cars and a digger. But, the book points out, just because one car brings him joy, it doesn’t mean that eleven cars will bring him eleven times the amount of joy. Instead, too many cars might seem overwhelming and devalued. Same with a stuffed animals, balls, etc.. Dr. Payne recommends just keeping the favorite one (or two) of each type of toy. The rest can be stored in a “toy library” in a closet for later, or given away or donated. That makes a lot of sense–I kind of slapped my forehead when I read that–and then put away ten cars:)

Isn’t this great advice? For us, the small changes have made a big impact. Even Alex and I feel calmer at home now:)

Do you ever feel like your kids have too many toys? Remember this crazy photo series? Do you feel like you want to simplify your own life? Do you think this sounds great or too extreme? Any other parenting books you like? I would LOVE to hear recommendations. xoxo

P.S. Speaking of simplifying, check out this Italian daycare!
P.P.S. More Motherhood Monday posts, including kissing and boobs.

  1. As I was a child I didn’t had many toys. My parents were still studying and didn’t had that much money. I used to spend a lot of time at the house of my grandparents or even the grandparents of my parents. I played with the old things they still got. And If I wanted something. I started building it my self out of things I could find. I learned alot about different materials and formed my creativity in a way. I was happy without all the newest Lego stuff. When my sister came my family tried to give her all the things they couldn’t give me. And she loved playing with all the playmobil and Barbie things. But most of them were just interesting for a few months for her until she got something new. Now a days. She sits in front the TV or PC all day. She is so bored all the time because she never learned to entertain herself. I’m trying to entertain her but she is hardly interested in things for longer than half an hour. Makes me sad.

  2. Hi! I’m just coming across this post now. We’ve already cleaned house, but now the trouble is explains to well-meaning family that he honestly doesn’t need anything else. Any advice?

  3. I am not sure if the keep one toy out works for kids. My kids seem to work the lego, then run to DP and his Friends plush toys and then to Thomas the tank engine. If I leave one toy out they get to bothering me within 5 minutes !

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  5. I just stumbled upon this older post through the links at the bottom of today’s post and it reminded me how distressing I found it to get new toys as a child – despite it being something I *should have* enjoyed. I remember once crying because my mum had given me my baby sister’s stuffed rabbit (since she didn’t take to it particularly and I had), because I felt guilty that I had a new favourite toy despite having promised my bear he would always be my favourite! I always thought myself weird for feeling that way but it has been comforting to read that I wasn’t the only overwhelmed little one out there. Interesting!

  6. Megan says...

    I’m about to finish this book! It has given me such peace of mind to think that my future kiddos can be raised in such a deliberate and caring home.

  7. As a 23 year old who has no kids who has not even begun to think about kids yet… the logic behind these reasons sounds awesome. Although I can absolutely see how in reality it fails miserably… toys are just too much… fun :)

  8. melissab says...

    yeah…good ideas….
    i don’t even think they need official toys for a couple years…they seem to play with everyday objects, etc.

    perhaps for generous relatives…a college savings fund set-up to contribute $ would be a great alternative to more toys?

  9. Anonymous says...

    I don’t have my own kids but, certainly, it seems that my friends’ kids have a silly – I mean really silly – number of toys.

    Here’s to a tidy space and a tidy mind! May your book’s excellent advice spread far and wide : )

    K x

  10. Anonymous says...

    The downside of only having a few books available is that you will then end up reading the same ones over, and over, and over, and over… for your own sanity, it is sometimes nice to have a wider variety.

  11. I am LOVING a book called “Playful Parenting” by Dr. Larry Cohen.

    And fewer toys is definitely better for kids!

  12. Great post Joanna! I’ve been looking around my house lately trying to figure out what to do with all my 3-year old’s toys. Perhaps, this may lead to another article re: suggestions on toy storage. Would love to see how you tackled this!

  13. Anonymous says...

    Toby is such a beautiful child. Congratulations.

  14. I started that book a while ago and somehow got sidetracked…thanks for the reminder to pick it back up. It was probably lost under one of the many baskets of toys for our almost-three-year-old, which fill his bedroom and the living room. Cutting the toys down 75% sounds like a dream, but my little guy has an inventory of them all in his head and I know he would miss almost anything we did away with. Is that addressed? Has anyone else dealt with that? I should pick the book up again…

  15. We just did a modified version of this and it has made a huge difference for everyone! After our second son, now 14 months, became really mobile, the toy situation got out of control. (We also have a two and a half year old son.) Not only were there toys everywhere, but it was taking a ton of time just trying to maintain order. I am organized by nature but I was outnumbered by my toddler tag team! Anyway, we just gave away about 50% of our toys on our neighborhood moms board and the rest get rotated. I do like having a small bin of the little cars and trucks though! Our two and a half year old loves lining them up in little formations! : ) Oh, one other thing…when our baby turned one, we requested no gifts (except from close family). We got him a few small things that we knew he would love, but it actually took the pressure off not to have a ton of incoming presents!

  16. Amanda Z. says...

    I think I know exactly what you’re going through with the toy cars. My little guy (27 months) is also completely obsessed with cars! Or vehicles of any sort. Last weekend I put his extensive vehicle collection in their own small plastic box and he flipped out of his little mind! He now lays on his stomach, on his floor, lining up and playing with every single car in that box. So I would hate to pare them down when he enjoys them so much.

    All other toys are stored in his room in a small (clean!) galvanized trash can. And the only books we have lying out are his library books.

  17. Your son is beautiful! He is the perfect mix of you and your husband. Well done. :)

  18. I am a neat freak so I love this!! My son’s favorite game to play is to stack plastic cups up like a pyramid and throw a ball at it…lol

  19. We have one large basket in the living room and a smaller basket in my daughter’s room (in addition to puzzles, books, and art supplies, she’s almost 3). But now that I think of it, maybe I should half the number of toys in the large basket.

    I always had a rule – no toys that make any kind of noise (other than real musical instruments) or have flashing lights. I always joke that our kid is deprived because our house is not overflowing with toys, not even close. But she seems to be doing ok.

    oh, and the best thing ever is building a fort/reading nook. has been a constant source of enjoyment for her. Sometimes I don’t mind climbing in myself! :)

  20. My little guy had his first birthday on Sunday and got a TON of toys! Normally we keep his toys in a toy bin. But with these new toys we are hiding them away and then rotating these new toys in later.
    He got a kitchen set and he spends quite a bit of time playing with that. It’s amazing how I can already see his imagination working!

  21. Massively agree with this. We are expecting our first child in October and one of the first things I stressed about (slightly strange!) was too many toys! Overwhelming for us as well as the child.

    Plus, the plastic and the waste associated with all these toys horrifies me.

    The comments were really interesting to read and find a middle ground.

  22. LC Taylor says...

    @Aya – you are totally right, of course. I think reading this while in my office prevented me from thinking outside the box. Help, I’m stifled by my law profession! ;)

  23. Anonymous says...

    The best advice I’ve ever been given regarding toys was to make 4 or 5 bins of toys and allow my child to play with just one for a few months. Then, rotate to another bin. This keeps all the toys “new” to them and allows for less clutter.

  24. toby is so cute! in france everybody reads laurence pernoud!

  25. So funny that you posted this, because I was just thinking about how many toys my 1 year old got for his birthday on Sunday. His toy collection was pretty meager before and it literally doubled or even tripled after Sunday’s party with the family. I split some of the toys between his room and the living room, but am thinking of splitting them out even further. The challenge is that they’re all such quality, beautiful toys that editing them will be a challenge. But edit I will. In this age of over-stimulation, it is so nice to hear that simpler is often times better. Thank you for the post. :)

  26. I really like this idea too. Although my little one is 9 months old and LOVES to pull things out of a box. It seems to be his favorite activity, along with pulling up on the sofa. Maybe this will come into play as he really grows into toddler-hood and more actively engages with toys? Thanks for such an interesting post, Joanna!

  27. I needed this post so badly – thank you!!

    We’re having our first child in September and just inherited a friend’s massive collection of hand-me-downs. For the most part I am extremely grateful – but the huge plastic totes full of toys put me in a tailspin of overwhelmed panic.

    This has validated my efforts to pick out a few and return or donate the rest. After all, we haven’t even had a shower or the first Christmas or birthday yet!

    Also, that last photo of Toby is total magic awesomeness.

  28. One of the BEST Tips another mom gave me was to rotate the toys. That way, you don’t need to buy a lot and everytime you re-introduce a toy, it’s like a brand new toy! It has worked to keep our toy “collection” to a minimum. However, I love these tips and will probably halve the toys that seem to have spread all over the floors.

  29. How funny, I am just in the middle of reading this book! I love it so much and even though I only have an eight month old I feel like it is preparing me for simple living; although it does sound like older kids feel refreshed by less clutter and better rhythms too. So great!
    Also, have loved all your other motherhood book recommendations. I am reading Bringing Up Bebe right now too. I find there are a lot of similarities between French parenting as the author describes it and the tips Dr. Payne describes in his book. Do you agree?

  30. Thank you thank you for recommending this book. Can’t wait to read it. I have two boys ages 5 and 3. We did not intend to fill our house with toys, but somehow over the years it happened. I try to organize, but the Dr. is right. All they do with the bins of toys is dump them out and walk all over them. They don’t play with them. I think I will begin to de-clutter today!

  31. Susan S. says...

    Consider donating your “purged” toys and books to a local daycare or preschool. They are always happy to have “new” items in their toy and book rotation and will be enjoyed by many kids. My kids were always happy to donate the stuff that they had outgrown to the little ones.

  32. Anonymous says...

    I was wondering if you have any advice/anecdotes on baby sleep habits. When did he start sleeping through the night/How many naps did he take etc. Toby looks like such a happy baby and usually happy babies are well rested babies. I don’t think I’ve seen you blog about baby sleep yet..unless I missed a monday:)

    Love your blog, btw!!

  33. I totally agree with this! We donate old toys and books before Christmas and my son’s birthday and every time we do it, he is amazed at the toys we pull out of his bins. And then he wants to play with all of them like they were brand new toys. I will definitely start a toy rotation now. Thanks so much for posting this.

  34. I agree that too many toys can be overstimulating, and it’s often true that a child can have more fun with a box than the toy inside! Let children use their imaginations rather than overloading them with mass made toys!


  35. u have a very sweet baby ….

  36. I could not agree more! And that goes for kids clothes as well…cramming extra amounts of clothes into an over stuffed dresser drawer is no fun! I am purging today! Yeah! I feel a calmness already just thinking about it! Good bye extra toys and clothes…

  37. I’ve heard that too much can overstimulate kids, especially as infants. Plus with less toys they are more likely to make emotional attachments to them and remember them as adults as fond childhood memories.
    ps.In the first picture Toby looks so much like you!

  38. “Simplicity Parenting” is a wonderful books. My husband and I read it often. Other bokk that we like are “Setting Limits with Your Strong-Willed Child : Eliminating Conflict by Establishing Clear, Firm, and Respectful Boundaries” and “Your Kids Are Your Own Fault: A Guide For Raising Responsible, Productive Adults”

  39. There is a children’s book called “Too Many Toys” by David Shannon. We read it together just before going through my 4-yr-old’s room every few months to donate toys. Our objective is to fill the box, which works great.

    I beleive in this completely — I will say though, that my son is an avid collector of hot wheels cars. I think there is still something to be said for the “childhood collection,” ya know? When we were trying to get creative with discipline about 6 months ago, (he started actually hitting me when he was upset and calling me stupid – pretty big deal stuff in our house) I made him pick one car to get rid of. He literally sobbed for two hours. He even held me while he cried because he was that upset — not furious, like I expected — just heartbreakingly sad. My husband joked that it would have been less traumatizing to have spanked him!

    Anyway, we’re very simplistic when it comes to toys, and we have a rotation of books in our house too — but the hot wheels, we’re always happy to add to.

  40. I recently did a cull of my one-year olds toys and realise a month later that I need to do another one. The problem for me is that many of them were gifts and it feels rude to just give them away. At the moment my compromise is to split the toys into 2 or three boxes for different rooms in the house so that they feel fresh to my son and there is too much in one place. But I can’t avoid the feeling that some of them just have to go. Even if it’s to the attic!

  41. Thanks Joanna that article makes me feel better, as Meadow my 20 month old, has one box of toys, and about 10 books! I always feel bad that she does not have little tykes cars, toy kitchens etc, but not now!

  42. Simplicity Parenting is probably my favorite parenting book. I also liked Everyday Blessings.

  43. Good advice! Simplicity makes me feel lighter too!

  44. Fern and Feather is having a virtual book club/group discussion on this book all this week. So funny that you’re writing about it today!

  45. I agree with this, for the most part. I have always limited my daughter’s toys to one basket in the family room and one in my office. Everything else is put away and occasionally I rotate toys. The only exception is books which are all available on her bookshelf. The one or two of each kind of toy seems extreme to me. Yes, simplicity is good but kids also need to learn to have ideas and opinions. When I worked in child care we would have kids who freaked out at choice time because they literally didn’t know what they wanted to do. I also think it is important that kids have open-ended toys. We have very few toys that use batteries- that seems to be a sign that the toy does the laying/thinking for the child. Advice for those who asked how to limit the toys others buy? We always put “no presents please” on party invitations, and the grandparents actually prefer when we make wish lists for holidays.

  46. MYy 4 year old Little Dude and I are just starting to implement the for every new toy you receive, you donate one to kids who don’t have any toys…. it has been working GREAT SO FAR! he cried at first but I think he’s getting the hang of it!

    We live in an urban studio loft without ANY closets and so, the toy issue is an ISSUE! We are working on it :)


    THANK YOU! :)

  47. This post really resonated with me. My 6 year old stepdaughter, who herself is far from materialistic, is frequently showered with excessive amounts of presents from both sets of grandparents (who seem to equate more presents with more love). Last Christmas she said she didn’t even like or want any of the presents she was given. So we did exactly what you mentioned: we made a big pile and got her to choose the toys she really liked, and gave the rest away to charity (which was about two thirds, all done by her with no prompting needed). I find that she seems a lot happier and calmer when she has fewer but more meaningful toys.

  48. Anonymous says...

    I feel so lucky that our local library lends toys so that we can rotate them easily and it gives us a chance to see what our 20 month old is really interested in before buying a toy. What he likes always surprises me!

  49. I agree with all 3 points. If the clutter of toys distresses me then it must be the same for our toddler. I’ve been secretly culling our boys toys for two years. They don’t even notice.

    I want to LIVE in that Italian daycare!

  50. Anonymous says...

    Thanks for the book recommendation Joanna – and from the other posters too. This was the kick in the pants I needed to stand up to both sets of grandparents who equate giving toys with love. Our son is only 19 months but I am already uncomfortable the amount of toys he has, yet feel guilty about getting rid of “gifts”. It’s time to purge.

    I look forward to some interesting reading!

  51. Great post. I love these bedroom/toy tips. I sometimes wonder if we haven’t given our child enough when I see some friends’ and neighbors’ children. But then, I don’t want to spoil her or teach her not to value things. This makes me feel even better.

  52. Have you checked out the Reggio philosophy ? Its also based out of Italy and truly inspirational. A lot of focus on found materials not plastic toys and such, also the classroom is considered a big part of it. Keeping it beautiful but not over crowded. I work at a reggio school and think your post makes so much sense!

  53. Anonymous says...

    I completely disagree with the book advice. I love giving my kids the opportunity to have many books out. We go through books at a crazy rate every day.

    Also a lot of this advice only works with one child. My three children each need their own car, etc, etc.

    I do agree that you don’t need to overdo the toys.

  54. Carol says...

    I’m not a mother but as an aunt I try to buy non-toy presents for my nephew’s birthday and at christmas as he has sooooo many toys. I try to buy things like books, craft items, or sports equipment instead.
    I know I may eat my words when I’m a mother, but I never want to have one of those houses where every room has been taken over by kids toys!

  55. LOVE this post! I am a 1st grade teacher and often watch my students during recess. Majority jump from one toy/activity to another in a matter of minutes…sometimes seconds. Their “play” is so surface level, rarely imaginative. I will definitely take this advice when I have kids some day!

  56. Sarah says...

    I definitely agree that overstimulation reduces kid’s ability to play. And, I agree about rotating toys, keeping playrooms clutter free, and helping kids to purge often. I talk to my kids (6 and 3) about giving to those who don’t have as much as we do, passing on to friends/family, or selling to earn money for other things (depending on whether we are donating, handing down or reselling an item). I think its important for them to understand the realities of “stuff”. But, I disagree about having only 1 of each type of toy. I suppose it would work for one young toddler, but I think it limits the type of play and social play that can happen. My kids assemble car races, line up toys, play interactive games, etc… that make use of a collection of similar items. The rule of simplicity is important, but to apply one hard and fast is not flexible enough to allow for a range of play, kids, and stages.

  57. About the link about the Italian daycare. Wonderful but…remember, that’s not REALLY Italy: it’s South Tyrol…BIG difference!! You won’t found anything remotely similar in the rest of the country.

  58. Anh says...

    I agree that huge amount of toys is not good but my 2 and a half has a very good memory. I used to rotate our toys and it worked when he was younger. Now, he regularly asks for specific toys that are put away so I have to go get the toy… What does the book say about older toddlers that are still too young to understand the concept of charity and giving away toys to others that don’t have much?

  59. Ester says...

    This makes so much sense and it’s very in line with the Montessori Philosophy. Maria Montessori even called this “chaotic play” when kids play but are not focus. It’s really really important for kids to learn to focus. I recommend “Montessory today: A Comprehensive Approach to Education from Birth to Adulthood”. I also enjoyed Bringing Up Bébé. I remembered you were also reading it? What did you think Joanna? I also recommend “French Kids Eat Everything”. It gives good advice about introducing new foods and help kids eat a varied diet.

  60. overflowing!

  61. Great post and it actually was the shove I needed to go do a big toy purge this afternoon.

    However, I’ll agree with some others about the books. Maybe it’s the book collector/hoarder in me (when I first moved into my now-husband’s house he nearly passed out when he saw all my books) but I think the more books the better. To that end, I am constantly adding more books to my three year old’s collection. Yes, sometimes we end up reading the same ones for a few nights in a row, but it’s fun to see what strikes his fancy. Marf, oerflowing book shelves make me happy too. :-)

  62. i love all these comments! fascinating and enlightening. thank you so much for sharing.

  63. Such good advice! I find my kids actually avoid their room when it gets too cluttered. Toby looks like he is doing Tai Chi in the second photo- so cute! Xx

  64. Sara C says...

    Great ideas! I’ve been meaning to purge for a while now. Another great thing about putting toys away is kids forget about them and when brought back out, they’re like new!

  65. * i meant for the situation with 7 year-olds and up and how to decide how many toys they should have. wasn’t trying to refer to to the reader as “barbie/7yr old”!! ;)

  66. Yes we absolutely do this and it works great. My son is 15 months and he gets completely overwhelmed by too many toys!

    I have one day a week that I do a rotation of books and toys. (Also, a lot of things that are “toys” aren’t really. It includes certain kitchen utensils and random little things he’s drawn to.)

    Everything has a place in a small box or basket and I try to pick up a few times a day if we are home. We have two play areas– one upstairs and one down– and each area usually has one basket of 5-6 books and 2-3 baskets with a couple things inside. Everything else is on high shelves or in the closet.

    Sometimes even just switching a toy from one room to another will make it more interesting, too!

  67. this all makes so much sense! you posted a while back about this scandinavian family who had this super minimalist home. the toys all went into these white cabinets at the end of the day and it looked like nothing had happened. or maybe it was an oprah episode! anywho, this is a great idea. and as for barbie/7 yr old, i played with barbies a lot but never had the barbie house or car, etc. i ended up making my own “house” with things i found around the house. i think not giving kids so many toys could inspire more creativity.

  68. This is great advice. The book is on my list to get!

  69. Michelle says...

    nice blog

  70. LK says...

    I don’t have kids but it’s great advice for everyone! I need to do this with my house. It’s funny because I actually started doing this with my dog when he was just a puppy. We bought him waaaaaay too many toys and eventually he started thinking everything was his so he started chewing on shoes, socks, etc. as soon as we started rationing his toys and implementing a rotation he stopped chewing on our things. Not to compare people’s children to my dog, but it seems to work across all species! Well I’m guessing Toby didn’t start chewing on your shoes, but you get the idea.

  71. What a great experiment! It makes perfect sense, too… My son (age 2 this June) has a lot of toys, but the are all hidden/organized, so it doesn’t appear overwhelming. He still has a lot though!

  72. i heartily agree, except with the book part. maybe it’s because i’m a librarian. we, meaning us early literacy peeps, espouse having books easily accessible to kids, reading early and often, and modeling reading – so a life long love of reading (and learning) is established. i don’t think you need to move NYPL’s main branch into your apartment, but i believe that you need to have books around you. an overflowing bookshelf makes me happy.

  73. Dear Jo,
    I’ve been lucky enough to hear Kim John paynes speak at our school. Let me say he is amazing! When I am listening to him I feel like I am in a gospel church, “um hm! AMEN! Yes, that’s right!” ! He has change me in the way I raise my child. I recommend his books to everyone.

  74. This is exactly what I do with my 17 month old. He has two drawers in the living room with his toys and two little shelves with books (the half of it from the library). He loves to pick up books which tend to be the same 3 for a couple of days. But mainly we are outside in our garden. 2 hours before and even more after his nap time where he can play with sand, stones, water and whatever he finds in nature. No toy can beat that.

  75. i completely agree with this concept but for myself with my CLOTHING. i have to dramatically reduce the amount of clothes i have on a consistent basis. i feel so much calmer!

    i cant totally see why this works for kids. i think the advice for kids is often advice that can translate into our adult lives as well.

  76. Girl, that kid of yours is so CUTE. Have a great week!

  77. The only thing I would say about the car thing- is that I used to nanny for a child who had loads of cars, but we would use them to do memory games, counting practice, colours etc etc. She new the names of all of them and we would line them in different orders, counting them, adding them, taking them away etc. It really helped to have something that she knew, loved and trusted to do simple tasks hiding as basic learning! x

  78. Toby is SO cute. My son, Case, will turn 1 this Wednesday and this advice is so important, especially as they start to engage in objects more and more. Thanks so much for directing me to this book. I’m also looking forward to reading The Emotional Life of the Toddler.

  79. I like the spirit of the idea (I have an almost-one-year-old with overly generous grandparents), but I do think it’s nice for them to have some multiples for pretend interaction (like dolls, stuffies, even cars). I think I would go more by how many of each he can play with at once; for instance one child could play with two or three cars at once, but probably not eleven. Plus, then he has more opportunity to learn sharing!

  80. We are moving from DC to Oklahoma on Saturday and I have been trying to figure out what to do with ALL.THE.TOYS! Now I know I can get rid of most of them. Thanks!

  81. as a related aside… it was always recommended to invite as many kids to your child’s birthday party as their age. (age 3- 3 friends etc.)

    this made a lot of sense to me and is how we organized their parties. it has some bearing on this topic as well; the older they get likely the more things they can absorb into their nervous system…

  82. I am a big advocate of this. I have a toy bin in the attic and rotate toys every few months. I have one small shelf for toys and if the toys don’t fit there, then I know we have too many toys!!

    Toys swaps with friends are awesome for this.

  83. Anonymous says...

    I was a nanny for what I would call a wealthy family for a while. The kids had a big attic play room full of toys…they never went up there! Mostly we made forts out of couch cushions, or played with a favourite toy (singular). One day they spent all afternoon playing grocery store and pulling canned food out of the pantry. Their mom was awesome. The house in general was friendly, but sparsely toyed. =)

  84. Thank you so much for reminding me of the book! I read it a year ago and now, after moving to nyc with my three little boys a month ago, I need to revisit it more than ever!

  85. I always enjoy your book recommendations!

  86. I’m intrigued by this advice. My 3 year old daughter’s favorite activity is to take lots of small toys, or parts of toys (marker caps are a favorite) and make a long, long “parade” of them. Maybe we’ll pare down to one “set”?

  87. I think that is good advice. I don’t have children, but I am a “soccer coach” for toddlers, ages 18 months to 6 years old. Have you thought about putting Toby in a class like the one I run. Its in a in door soccer facility and it gets kids use to moving and being active. The kids love and get more use to following directions in a group ans using their bodies in certain ways. The class I teach is called SoccerTots, in Boulder Colorado. I am sure there a SoccerTots or a similar class in NYC. Just thought you would enjoy the idea.

  88. @lc taylor: A car and a potato can have a race as well as two toy cars can. Instead of multiple dolls having relationships, why not a book, a can of beans and a remote control being best friends? Imaginations are vast and fun.

  89. This is awesome advice! I’m pregnant with our first baby and we’re not planning on getting lots of things at first. This will definitely help us to simplify.

    And I love the photos of Toby- especially the first one where he looks like he’s been having fun in the dirt and picking a dandelion! :)

  90. I love this idea and could adopt a little more decluttering into my adult life. My favorite toys growing up were a wooden sword my dad made for me and a jar with a mesh top where I could collect and observe bugs. I had dolls, legos, wooden trains but it’s those few simple things that get the most use and are the most memorable!

    ps–a future in fencing? I love that little belly photo of Toby.

  91. These tips are so interesting! My 15 month old son has a huge basket of toys in the living room and most of the time, he doesn’t even play with them. I wonder if it’s because it’s too overwhelming?

    I’m going to try this! Thanks for the tip.

    P.S. Toby looks just like you in that first picture! Where are his blue pants from? So cute!

  92. i’ve been thinking a lot about this lately… we’re planning to start a family this year and we live in a little one bedroom + husband’s office apartment, with NO room for toys! i’m thinking we’ll let everyone know once we’re expecting that we don’t have room for a lot of toys, and that using our imaginations will be something we want to emphasize with our children. instead, i’d like to fill our house with interesting stories to tell (from books and from our minds), and a few hand-made toys that mean a lot.

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  94. LC Taylor says...

    That’s a pretty interesting idea. I totally think the bit about over-stimulation is accurate, but I’m not so sure I buy the rest. I mean, limiting to one of each toy type could actually limit the type of ways a child could play, right? For example, how do you have a race with only one car? How can your dolls have pretend relationships if you only have one at a time? I agree that kids today should have fewer toys than they do, but I think multiples of favorites is okay. Also, limiting books just sounds backwards to me – how can you raise a reader if he or she can’t access all the books he or she wants at a time? I think books should be readily available to kids and the tv, for example, should not. Just my 2 cents… :)

  95. No kids yet, but I definitely like this idea. One question though, how do you help your family (ahem, gift givers) know to not buy so many toys?

  96. Anonymous says...

    i like the idea of reducing the number of toys (our house is on the market and we’ve greatly de-cluttered our toy situation), however, my kids love LOVE books and they have so much fun at night picking out their nighttime stories…i wouldn’t want to limit the imagination that books bring…

  97. I completely agree! The simpler the better in many, many cases.

    There may be a link between having too many toys from birth through childhood and then lacking the ability to decipher between a true need and a want when you’re older because you’ve always been overwhelmed by having so many unnecessary things.

    Just a thought!

  98. Katy says...

    Yes, I love this book! It, combined with “Unconditional Parenting” by Alfie Kohn formed the foundation of my parenting approach. Both are radically different from what I would have done on my own, and both have been profoundly important in my relationship with my daughter (2.5). I’m happy to see more talk about it!

  99. “when you’re pregnant”?

  100. My brother had one dirty rubber ball that he carried everywhere! none of the other toys were necessary after he found that one. however, i disagree with the book idea, i always think lots of stories and books are great to have around
    in dramatic fashion

  101. I’ve heard of these theories before and I have to say, us adults should take note! Especially when it comes to excess. I loved your comment that, “just because one car brings him joy, it doesn’t mean that eleven cars will bring him eleven times the amount of joy.” And after living the tiny apartment NYC-lifestyle, I have truly embodied the difference between NEED and WANT! Good advice for kids of ALL ages!

  102. love that belly shot of sweet toby!! looks like he’s doing a little tai chi or qigong :-)

  103. Thanks for the summary. Have the book from the library, but the layout and small font made it not-so-pleasant read. Now i don’t need to!

  104. I can’t remember where I read that we assume more options will make us happier but instead we end up more dissatisfied. The more options we have the more we feel that the choice we make MUST be perfect otherwise we’ll feel like fools.

    It’s a lot easier to weight the pros and cons between two or three options than 15!

    When we go to ice cream parlors I always end up choosing single flavor ice creams like strawberry or chocolate. I used to get the crazy kind and mix all kinds of things into it because I thought that if I can I should. But I’ve found out that the more I discriminate between so many choices the more I enjoy what I chose. The more delicious my single scoop of creamy strawberry ice cream tastes! :)

  105. man, i can use this advice and i don’t even have children! simplify simplify simplify!

  106. Thank you so much for sharing this. We have WAY too many toys. I recently cleaned out lucia’s toys and now I feel like I have to give it another go. To be honest her favorite things at the moment include the papertowel rolls (which we turn into everything from rockets to wands with the help of glue, glitter and paint) and an old salad spinner. The things that she enjoys best are paints and stickers and crayons. And she loves her books but she has SO many and we usually only read the same three or four. I actually cover her books with a blanket at bedtime otherwise I’d be reading to her all night.

  107. I think this is such a smart idea. I never understood why kids needed so many toys, will def be applying in the future

  108. I love this advice and lived by it, but its hard when the other person is a shopper and shows his love via gifts. I always wanted my child to love his ONE favourite car, but alas, he got many. AND I suck at organizing all the toys that have been acquired!!!

  109. Going right home and doing this tonight. We have about 30 farm animals in various plushness – i’m going crazy!
    Toby is so adorable and looks just like you, Joanna ;)

  110. oh my gaw, your baby is gawwwwjus.

  111. Great advice. I love the last photo of Toby. A future performer in the making? So cute.

  112. luv this idea- that eleven cars doesn’t bring 11 more times the joy then what one car can bring, fantastic point!!

    I’ll have to check out this book.

    I recently bought- 15minutes outside: 365 ways to get out of the house and connect with your kids.

    We already play outside for long stretches before lunch and after nap, so I didn’t think I “needed” this book, but it provides other creative options that fit within the seasons etc. some are simple, while others are adventurous.

    also- within that vein- Last Child in the woods

    ps- where did you get Toby’s blue linen-esque pants!? love them, they look so breathable!


    aka tiptoethrough.blogspot and @GrayDayShop

  113. I was an only child and used to have heaps of stuffed toys (and ponies and troll dolls) and used to create all sorts of situations with them. One of my favourite memories is my animal hospital under the dining room table – where I would care for, bandage and interact with all of my stuffed animals at my animal hospital. hahaha. I do imagine there was a lot more mess for my mum to deal with though!

  114. I kind of half agree, half disagree. My tot doesn’t have heaps of toys, but she does have a good amount. There are some downstairs, some on the main level, some in her room. She definitely has way too many stuffed animals, but one of her favorite activites is lining them up on her bed and playing “school” with them; she calls them by name and asks them questions! It’s adorable and keeps her entertained for quite a while (and she’s only 3). Likewise, she loves standing in front of her bookshelf and picking out a handful of books to read each day, and gets excited discovering which ones she wants to talk about. So…while I agree excessive amounts of toys is not necessary, I probably won’t be purging a large amount of hers anytime soon. :)

  115. This is such great advice! We live in a teeny tiny house so simplicity is essential and something I had to take into careful consideration when setting up my daughter’s nursery.

    p.s. that daycare. wow.

  116. Fewer toys sounds like bliss. Is this true for kids of any age?

  117. This is definitely helpful. AS an Auntie, I think I’ll start asking my sister about toys versus other items as presents from now us.

  118. I have found this to be the case for my toddler. We keep the vast majority of his toys in bins and boxes stored away and rotate out a few at a time to avoid sensory overload. Also at birthdays and holidays I’ve hidden the entire stash and doled out new toys one at a time so he can actually process and enjoy them. There are quite a few (repetitive toys in particular) that simply get regifted or donated.

  119. I am a play therapist and I LOVE this post. People are often shocked at the small amount of toys we have. And I don’t believe in “play rooms”. (except for my office…which is a therapeutic play room). We purge toys every few months. Another thing I would add to this list is to play with your child without toys. We have family time every night and it rarely involves toys…sometimes we may use flashlights or colored tape. I usually give a book by Dr. Becky Bailey called “I Love You Rituals” as a baby shower gift. It is a goldmine of rituals and activites to do with your kiddo and baby. (She also has what I think is the best parenting book out there.).But I can always tell kids who don’t know how to PLAY versus kids who only know how to play with STUFF. They come to my house and seem UNDERWHELMED…the kids who truly know how to play and imagine run and laugh and create ideas….Great post. I love it.

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  121. Anonymous says...

    Very smart! I have been kind of following these rules – keeping books in the closet and rotating them when we need a change. Also, all talking toys take the bullet train to the Goodwill since it freaks me out to hear strange sounds randomly. Sometimes I feel bad but you really have to be ruthless or else you are overwhelmed.

  122. That last photo of Toby doing tai-chi is awesome but it also serves as a reminder: On implementing all these various tips, how has Toby reacted to them?

  123. erin, i know, haha, that belly! it’s my favorite thing!!!

  124. sarah, that’s interesting…maybe for things like barbies for older kids you could keep more. he actually does say in the book “for kids seven and older…” but i skipped those parts! so maybe he makes exceptions for older kids.

  125. My parents were definitely guilty of the too-many-toys trend. We still have several boxes in our basement of them!

  126. Sarah says...

    Hm, interesting stuff. I wonder how this works for kids who are a little older? For instance, I can’t imagine my 7-year-old having as much fun playing with a single barbie doll or fairy toy as she does when she plays with several at once, and she imagines all types of situations where they “interact.” Not sure if I could get behind such an extreme toy purge, but trying to pare things down is always a good idea, for sure.

  127. I really, really, really like the cutting in half rule! And then halving it again… and possibly even once more! This could be practiced by many adults too…


  128. Toby looks like he’s doing ballet in that last shot! Well, ballet and showing off his sweet belly.

  129. Great advice! I need to donate some of my toddler’s toys, they are taking over the house! And interesting concept that it makes them feel calmer. I’ve noticed when my son’s room is messy he doesn’t play in there, but the second I clean it up, he’s interested!

    PS- Toby is getting SO big, I can’t believe it! Gorgeous photo of him with his car!