thinning out toys for our 3 yr old son - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 10 Old 11-07-2010, 07:56 AM - Thread Starter
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Hi there,

We have a fantastic 3 yr old son, who has far too many toys! I have bought a lot of them at consignment sales, and many of the others were gifts. We're hopefully going to have a sibling for him, but at this point the closest they would be is 4.5 years (without more losses). When I was pregnant and planning for them to be 3 yrs apart, it seemed easier to justify holding on to so many toys, but now that plan doesn't seem to make sense anymore, with the gap between DS and a possible sibling widening.

So at this point I'm looking for encouragement and support in thinning out the toys that we have accumulated for what's appropriate for our 3 yr old, and likely not keeping much for potential baby #2. We have lots of storage space but very little of it is meaningful or special enough that it couldn't be sold and bought again if needed (esp since most of it was bought inexpensively in the first place). And I'm happy for others to use these things while they are still working and have value.

So... what guidelines should I use on what should stay? We have lots of storage space in the playroom, but frankly too much for the toys to be played with regularly. I'd much rather have 1/3 of the items, leaving the right amount for him to play with all of them on some regular basis.

Some decisions seem easy, like parting with the wooden puzzles that he could master between 18-24m that have no further creative play options. I'd like to keep the play doh and painting/colouring supplies and lego/duplo as these should have room to grow with him for a few more years (but maybe keep only one of two the plastic play doh sets with attachments, molds, etc). He has 4 Little People sets but only plays with one -- I can part with the others. He also has lots of small cheaply made toys from McDonald's meals, loot bags, etc that should all go (only a few are actually real toys and not junk). I'm also keen to keep his play kitchen and about half of the food (though the 2nd cash register, half the food and the shopping cart can go). He really enjoys this one and comes back to it regularly. I'd also like to keep some of his dress up clothes (mostly old Halloween costumes) but should check to see what still fits.

After these easy decisions -- I'm wondering if I should give him some choice in this? Or at this age (he was 3 in July) is it important to involve him in the process or can I make the decisions myself?

I'm not sure about his wooden train set. He plays with it when I bring it out, but the current train table we have is too small for anything except one circle (can't do a figure eight), so I'm hoping to sell that table in favour of a larger one, and then see if the train set has some more life in it. I'm sure some boys play with theirs for years. It seems really tricky to play with it on the carpeted floor as the connections all come apart -- so a table swap would be a good idea and would be good for lego or other activities as well.

Anyhow -- sorry for the novel! Any advice on what you've seen your 3-4-5 year old boy play with over and over or otherwise how to decide on what has lasting power and what doesn't is all appreciated. thanks in advance!


Karen (39), DH (40), DS (7/7/07), with three m/c (11/05, 10/09, 11/10), BFP for mid-November -- keeping fingers crossed!!
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#2 of 10 Old 11-07-2010, 09:34 AM
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Since you have tons of storage, I would keep one or two bins full of toys for rotation. I keep one as a Rainy Day Bin that has toys with lots of pieces, or toys that lend themselves to activities.

Putting away those and the favorites might help you make decisions on the others. At 3yo, I would not include kids in the decision, personally. Too traumatic!

Good luck mama!
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#3 of 10 Old 11-07-2010, 09:35 AM
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i have 2 boys: one just turned 5, the other about to turn 2. Honestly, if we had no toys then they would just play with whatever scrap thing they could find.
Before I had TWO, I didn't understand how kids on the frontier/ pioneer times, heck other countries in modern times, had only 1 or two toys.
Now I realize it's all about playing (or tussling) with each other and their imaginations.
This is why I don't get too bent out of shape when someone gifts them plastic toys. They can play, and I can wean/ declutter when they're done playing.
For me, the most important realization to achieve, was to let go of control. I try to keep things neat, especially at the end of the day, but don't worry over the details.
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#4 of 10 Old 11-07-2010, 09:56 AM
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I agree with P.S. My kids DD(11) and DS(5) have lots of toys but more often than not you can find them playing some type of imagination game that involves none of the toys!

My kids are 6 years apart and between #1 and #2 the only toys I kept were toys that my oldest was still playing with. Having said that our toys now are of much nicer quality, not the plastic stuff we had when DD was little. The wooden train set and the wooden doll house I don't want to get rid of ever. DH and I are planning to store the nice wooden stuff away for when we have Grandkids! We see how that goes space wise.
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#5 of 10 Old 11-07-2010, 02:03 PM
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Personally wouldn't bother with a train table, our layouts usually end up a lot bigger that a table could accommodate. If you need something solid to lay it on maybe make a board, just a sheet of plywood. It could be fun to paint it.

I've seen people do this for older children when they have added a lip round the edge and castors so the board can be pushed under the bed when they are done playing. Great for keeping lego in check.

Each of our kids has a basket for the loot bag type toys, they are not allowed to keep more than that. I weed out broken stuff every so often so it doesn't get overwhelming.

I agree with the PP who suggested a rainy day box, there is nothing like bringing out something "new" to make a rainy day go better.

For anything I;m unsure about I tend to box it up for a while, if the kids don;t play with them when they haven't seen them for a while then we get rid of them. It also means if they suddenly miss something I can retrieve it.

My nearly 4yos current favorites are the wooden trains, toy kitchen, duplo and his toy tool kit (though I think that's because we've been doing lots of DIY recently, he hadn't touched it for ages)
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#6 of 10 Old 11-07-2010, 08:01 PM
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I was in your shoes with planning on having kids 3 years apart, and we wound up having 3 losses in a row. Our girls are 5 year apart, and I saved pretty much everything. I was glad to have the crib, cosleeper, swing, bouncer, exersaucer-- mostly because neither girl liked to be in those things for very long. Buying them again would have been a waste. I also saved whole wardrobes in all sizes and most toys. The clothing- especially newborn stuff, I could have donated. Seasons didn't match up exactly. Even now that my LO is 13 months old, I still like putting her in the stuff I bought new and my absolute favorites from her older sister. The toys-- I liked having the newborn (cloth) toys because it was so nice to be able to rotate through them and throw them in the wash. But really the rest of it could go. I saved 4 Little People sets (well, 2 were at my moms for my niece and nephew to play with and are now back at my house). Now we just had LO's bday and Christmas is coming and she really doesn't need anything. So my plan is not to hang on to toys any more and just the favorites for clothing.

I wanted to add that I agree that my now 6 YO hardly plays with much of anything. She likes dress-up, reading and coloring/crafts. I reorganized her play room and even set her little toy sets up each on it's own shelf so she can play right on the shelf and leave them set up. So 1 is Calico critters, 1 is Littlest Petshop, 1 Strawberry Shortcake, etc. She can set up scenes and leave them set up. Well, she has had off all weekend, and she hasn't played with them at all. But I can't convince her to let me sell any of them. Makes me crazy.

Mom to: Honey (6/04) and Bunny (9/09)
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#7 of 10 Old 11-07-2010, 08:54 PM
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I don't have boys but I do have two little rambuncious girls, a 3 year old (turns 4 in January and a 1 year old (turns 2 this weekend!). I tend to avoid toy clutter to so heres what my girls have:
-legos/wooden blocks- played with daily.
-Magnetos- played with when I want to play with them. They usually don't play without me.
- Play kitchen- played with daily, along with their tea..umm I mean hot chocolate set (we don't drink tea so DD renamed the set )
-Puzzles, puzzles and more puzzles
- rocking horse
-Playsets:Noahs ark, pirate ship, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse
-balls, balls, balls oh and did I mention balls??
-Trains, cars, mat for the cars and a few tracks. Both girls are asking for more tracks so they could build bigger tracks to play on with their trains. A car mat but its rarely played with, good for when we go places though since it folds up and contains the cars.
-Playdough, both girls LOVE LOVE playdough. One of my friends boys are older (5 and 7) and they will still play with the playdough when they come over.
-paint, crayons, markers, glitter etc.. Lots of art supplies.
-Lacing cards/beads.. DDs call them the sewing cards, they like to do them when Im working on a sewing project they can't help with
-I do have a small bucket of baby toys I kept since I watch my friends kids when they have date nights.
-Pop up activity tent (this is used for rainy weather which we have ALOT of)
Thats about it. Other than a ton of stuffed animals and books.

On their wish list (they will tell me when they really like/want a particular toy)
-rollar blades/bike (both girls)
- Dolls (had to throw out the ones we had, they were recalled ughs!), doll clothes, sling
- train tracks, more trains to go with their set
-puppets/puppet theatre
-more dress up clothes
-a bigger kitchen (they like to play together and the kitchen we have isn't big enough to allow them to.

As for what to get rid of, this is how I usually do it:
First goes anything stained, cracked, "slightly" broken, or just plain gross looking from to much play.
Then I get rid of things that just drive me NUTS (thanks MIL/FIL for sending the light up doll that makes noise even though I asked for no battery operated toys)
Then I get rid of things the girls just didn't play with.
After that I go through and look at each one and decided if its nice enough to keep, if we have the room and if its worth the time/space to keep it.
After I go through them DH goes through them. Then I watch the girls for a couple of weeks. Anything not played with in a couple of weeks go. I don't have room to store buckets to rotate toys in and out so if it isn't getting played with it goes.

~Heather~ Mama to Miss E (1/07), Miss A (11/08), Mr.T (2/11) and Miss A (10/12) Expecting our newest blessing sometime late Sept/early Oct.. Wife to my Marine since 11/2005
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#8 of 10 Old 11-07-2010, 10:49 PM
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I just finished reading Simplicity Parenting (GREAT book!) and did a BIG toy declutter as a result. I have a 4 year old and a 9-month old. I left out:
-a drawer of train tracks and a few trains
-a drawer of leggos
- some tangram type blocks
- some of those TRIO type blocks
- one set of batman toys (one car, one batman, one bad guy),
-two board games,
-two puzzles,
-4-5 pieces of dress up,
-a drawer with a rope, a magnifying glass, and his tools
- plain wooden unit blocks.

The baby's toys got reduced too (got rid of all the stuffed animals that he could care less about, donated whatever I could).

I trashed what was broken or missing major parts. I donated stuff they would never/will never play with. And I put away 3 bins of toys for rotating/toy library! When I did the delcutter, I put all the "sets" of things together in clear plastic bags, so it's easy to go in and switch out the batman stuff for a spider man and a villain, etc. All the costumes are togther in storage, all the littlest pet shop are in one place, etc.

My #1 tip: DO NOT DECLUTTER WITH YOUR CHILD. We tried it like 5 times thinking it was the kind thing to do - it's not. My son would profess his undying love for whatever item we suggested that he didn't play with. And let me just say - the amount of toys I left out was about 15% of what was out before and my kid DID NOT EVEN NOTICE. Not even a little. Yeah. Send your husband and son out for an afternoon at the zoo or something, and make sure they give you plenty of warning before they come home. I almost had a heart attack mid-declutter when I thought they were coming home and I had toys spread out all over the floor. It was just my husband running in for one thing.

Keep the stuff out that isn't "fixed" - meaning it can have multiple uses or ways to play. Not too static. Things that require more imagination, less batteries. We have some battery toys, but most of the things I left out are not.

Good luck!

Chessa , mama to Silas T (6/06) , wife to Chad . Welcome August Emerson! 2/8/10
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#9 of 10 Old 11-08-2010, 09:11 AM
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For the train tracks, there is a product called suretrack clips that hold the tracks together. They are particularly helpful for building elevated tracks but would be good for keeping the joints together on carpet, too.

Mom to unschooling 4everboy since 8/01
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#10 of 10 Old 11-10-2010, 09:18 AM
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My son is 3.5 and honestly if he just had a few cars to play with he'd be a happy clam. I recently sold and donated a lot of toys and then made an inventory of what was left, breaking it down into the following main categories/areas. I really thought he didn't leave him with much but now when I look at the list I should probably condense more. His playroom is large and central to the house so I make it a priority to keep it tidy, and son is pretty good about cleaning up. Everything has it's own home for easy access and cleanup.  AnywyasAnI found thinking in terms of stations/ areas to help in the weaning process. Things he plays with a lot have a *.


Blocks / Building
lincoln logs
wooden people
house furniture
wooden cars
*metal cars
*big wood truck


pattern blocks
lacing cards
Stack & Match Magnet Rings
counting bears
*marble run with marbles
river rocks
*glass gems
(tongs, scoops, spoons, containers)


Active Play
*ride on toy
*dump truck
music instruments
giraffe rocking horse


Puzzles / Games
*boggle jr
haba pirate
haba monkey
*haba castle
*3 jigsaw puzzles


Dramatic Play
*Little Colorado Kitchen
*Little Colorado Fridge
*Costco metal grocery shopping cart
dress up box
*ironing board (calls it his counter)
*cash register
*table chairs
*misc. utensils


Art Supplies

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