Rule of Toys

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but with two kids comes about 12 times the number of toys. When Eli was Liza’s age, all his toys would fit into this nice little wicker basket. I bought the basket because I thought it would be handy to carry his toys from room to room in it. That basket sits in Liza’s room now and it holds about four smallish toys and those ring hooks (used to attach toys to the stroller) and a couple of baby spoons she chews on. There are toys in the kitchen again. Toys in the master bathroom again. Toys in my bedroom again. Toys in the living room again. There’s enough toys here for nine kids–and no, that’s not a personal goal.

Believe it or not I have sort of a hard line about the kid’s toys. Here are my guidelines:

1.) The bulk of the toy population must fit in their rooms. I relax this slightly when they are babies just because it’s easy to have them spread out around the house for when you move from room to room. And also, Liza can’t really carry her toys back to her room. We do have a chest in the living room that holds toys. I do this because there are a few big things Eli plays with that are easier to spread out in the living room. To accomplish rule 1 I have rule 2…

2.) Toys must be regularly purged. This usually happens after Christmas and birthdays, and I am ruthless. I purge at other times too. Like, if we can’t reach Eli’s bed for bedtime, then I’ll see if I can clean out the cruft. If the toy is now too young for Eli, I put it away for Liza. If it’s still good and we aren’t saving it for Liza, the Eli’s preschool gets first crack at it. If they don’t want it, it goes off to a thrift store. If it’s broken, it goes in the trash. These first two rules used in combination allow rule 3…

3.) There will be no toy/play room in my house. I understand that some people feel it’s a must. If that works for them, great. If I’m going to have another room in my house, please let it be a guest room so my friends and family can close the door when they sleep, not a room for sad, old toys to accumulate. Now you might say, “Misty, why do you get a toy room (office) and the kids don’t?” My answer might sound a bit juvenile, but here it is anyway. It’s mine and Stephen’s house and we get to say what the rooms are used for.

4.) All toys must be put away at bedtime. This rule, I’ll admit, can be exhausting. At the end of the day, trying to pick up, get Eli to do his part, and get the kids to bed taxes me to the limit. However, in my mind, it’s a short slide from leaving toys out to anarchy. So no matter how tired I feel, the toys go away. This actually serves a couple of good purposes. After the kids are in bed, it’s adult living space again and I can relax for 15 minutes before I fall asleep myself. When I get up in the morning I don’t have to face a disaster. Mornings are hard enough for me. Having to get going while battling toys everywhere would probably cause me to have to be medicated. This is also why I never leave dinner dishes in the sink.

5.) I prefer toys to be battery free. With 3 sets of grandparents this is impossible and I know it. When my sister-in-law made this rule for her son I thought it was a bit silly. There are such fun things out there with lights! and bells! and talking cows! But it turns out, most of those toys are passing fancies for my kids. They use a lot of batteries and are freaking loud.

Side note: Why do toy manufacturers make toys so loud? Do they think children are deaf and if they only make the toy loud enough they might break through the deafness? Some toys are now, finally!, coming with volume control. If it doesn’t have a switch, I tape over the speaker so that it’s not so noisy.

Eli got tinker toys and Lincoln Logs for Christmas and he’d sleep with the tinker toys if I’d let him. Those are the first toys out in the morning and the last toys put away. They are better for him creatively and they take up less space than a lot of mechanical/battery-powered toys. Also, I don’t ever have to purchase a battery for Lincoln Logs.

I have one exception to this rule and that’s activity tables for when kids are learning to pull themselves to standing. We had three when Eli was little. I know, I know that’s more than some daycare centers, so sue me. For Liza we have two. They are very useful to have in different rooms so she can pull up and not be pulling books off shelves and onto her head. Also, Eli is still amazed by them. The two of them will sit for several fives of minutes playing together.

6.) At birthdays and Christmas, only three toys per child from anyone in the family. Three from us, three from my mom, three from my dad and step-mom, and three from Stephen’s parents. That’s 12 toys, way more than enough for any one kid to play with and enjoy at one time. There are several reasons I put this rule in place. It makes it more fair to less affluent family members. Hopefully, it will keep my kids from getting spoiled by stuff. And it does help keep the explosion of stuff under control.

7.) Books don’t count as toys. We’re bibliophiles; why shouldn’t our kids be too? I know this is going to cause no end of trouble later but I’d rather move to a bigger house on account of books than toys. Priorities, people!

That’s pretty much my rule set. What do you guys do to keep the toy population under control, or do you even bother? I can’t wait to hear how you guys keep the tsunami from overwhelming you.

8 thoughts on “Rule of Toys

  1. I am so stealing those ideas. We “do” the pick up at bedtime. I love the three toy limit. We are also getting good at purging out toys. My wife also loves puzzles so I am thinking those will count with books.

  2. I am always glad to hear that we aren’t the only “meanies” who don’t overload the kids with toys.

    We totally agree with you on rule #1 and #3. I’ve tried to purge toys, but whenever I put toys away, inevitably, Z will look for the toys I put away. I guess he’s still young enough for a lot of them. Maybe in a few months I can try purging again.

    We clean up toys at bedtime, too, but it’s not so bad, yet. We’ve managed to teach Z that toys either go in his wicker basket in his room or his toy box in the living room. We keep a small box in our room and the kitchen, and he generally keeps the toys in the general vicinity of where they belong. But yeah, having everything cleaned up as part of bedtime makes the adult portion of the evening very peaceful.

    Not celebrating Christmas means we don’t deal with a gift explosion. We do a small gift exchange in the form of stockings – so if it doesn’t fit, then he doesn’t get it. (This year he got a set of pots and pans that he loves) My family is not really in to the multiple-gift thing, so even for Eid, it’s not an issue. He will get a gift from my parents, one thing from us, and maybe one other gift. So if he is lucky, he will have three gifts for Eid. We sometimes feel guilty about the fact that he doesn’t get a lot of things, but he doesn’t seem to mind. (yet)

    He seems happiest with crayons and paper, stickers, his pots and pans, and “adult” items like my screwdriver. He adores going around the house trying to “fix” things.

    Your toy rules make perfect sense to me!

  3. Re: #3: I think “I’m the grownup” is a viable reason for any household rule you choose to make.

    Check for some suggestions on toy control–some really ingenious ideas go through there.

    The Container Store has a square bucket on wheels that they market as a toy container–great for storing and moving small stuff like legos, etc. Unfortunately, they retail for $25, so I’m looking for a cheaper alternative–possibly nailing wheels to the bottom of a box myself.

  4. Great rules! We do many of the same… except I’m not big on picking p every night like I should be! Numers 6 & 7 are a bit different for us. We make birthdays “no gift” parties. I know grandparents & godparents will do it anyways so they will receive some birthday gifts, but not the huge pile I know some kids get.
    I hope we are doing well enough financially that we hardly ever (if ever at all) have to turn down book requests. A parent HAS to have their priorities after all! 🙂

  5. I say amen to rules 2-5, and 7. Sadly, Dante’s room is half-full of our stuff, so most of his toys live in little baskets around our house. Also, I grew up in a family for whom Christmas was a big wacky fun explosion of stuff, so I sort of treasure that. We are working out the details on a year-by-year basis. It certainly must go hand-in-hand with purging. (And for Laura, it generally also goes along with buying New Baskets, which is rather like her own sparkly explodey Christmas delight.)

    Also, in reply:

    My answer might sound a bit juvenile, but here it is anyway. It’s mine and Stephen’s house and we get to say what the rooms are used for.

    Juvenile? I should say not! Adults being in charge of house decisions is perfectly rational, and does not need defending.

    Side note: Why do toy manufacturers make toys so loud?

    Perhaps it is to compete with the other toys on the shelves at the store? Once you’re past the register, why should it matter to them how loud the toy is? 🙂

  6. Since we have three children, the toy problem is also a big issue at our house.

    We also use rules 1, 2, 4 & 7.

    This year at Christmas, I only bought each of my children 1 toy. They get so much from other friends and family, I just didn’t see spending a lot of money to contribute to the chaos. I did buy some clothes and books, and they never seemed to miss the excess plastic.

    I try to rid our home of one toy everyday. Sometimes to the trash, other times to the “give away” box. I also purge at least twice a year. Still, we always seem to have far more than we need.

    Shortly after Christmas, and the arrival of the dozen new toys from other people, I found my girls playing a game they made up with their chapsticks. It lasted nearly an hour. I was glad I didn’t spend a lot of money.

  7. I’ll be curious to see if you have to (and will) institute “the sack” when Eli gets a little older. It worked well for Stephen & Andrew–at least for a while. During its heyday, it certainly made clean-up time easier. That and the warning that playtime would soon be over and clean-up was near.

  8. All – You’ve convinced me, “I’m the grown up” is a great reason for about any rule I decide to make. I’ll start using it more! I’m glad I’m not the only mean mommy that trashes toys and purges with relish.

    Joyous – I love parenthacks but never think to check out their toy busting ideas. I’ll look into it. Eli has three of those long plastic storage bins under his bed. One is animals, one is building toys and the other is puzzles and games. I’d like to say that he puts one bin away before starting a new activity but sometimes they are all three out and spread everywhere. But clean up is easy and he can access his own stuff whenever he likes.

    Paul – I’m with your wife. Nothing says “Happy New Year!” like new storage bins!

    Pop – Maybe when they are older “the sack” will be scary. Right now the threat of losing Wii time is enough to get Eli moving.

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