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A friend of mine and I were talking recently, as our kids played, about the appeal of having a tidy, minimalist home. Then we both laughed, saying, “Sounds amazing if you don’t have kids.” Keeping an organized, clutter-free home with young kids seems like an oxymoron.

Our culture tells us kids need stuff.  When they outgrow or get bored with that stuff, we should buy them new stuff.  Conjuring up thoughts of kids in a house with “nothing to doooo….” is enough to give any parent nightmares or at least send them perusing the aisles at Target for something to keep them occupied.

I’m sure there are other families like ours that try not to overwhelm the house with toy clutter and put thought into what they purchase for their kids to play with. But even with careful consideration of toy purchases, they seem to have a way of multiplying in the home. Soon you’re stepping on Legos and rescuing Barbies from toilets.

So, if like me, you have a strong Spring cleaning instinct, consider giving your kids’ toy inventory a much-needed purge. And, just in case you have any resistors in the family, here are 5 research-backed reasons to support your mission.

British research found that the average 10-year-old owns 238 toys but plays with just 12 daily.

A UCLA study found 3.1% of the world’s children live in America, but they own 40% of the toys consumed globally.

Study results published in The Daily Mail reveal that over the course of our lifetime, we will spend a total of 3,680 hours or 153 days searching for misplaced items

A 75 year Harvard study showed the happiest, most successful people attribute their well-being to strong, positive relationships with others.

Active, outdoor play increases levels of BDNF in the brain which is essential for the growth and maintenance of brain cells.

Convinced yet that less is more when it comes to toys? I hope so. If you still need more convincing, go read Why Fewer Toys Will Benefit Your Kids.

Then come back here and read on to find out what to do next.

Getting started on a project is always the most difficult part. But when you categorize toys according to how kids learn, it becomes easier to decide what to keep and what you can let go.

Kids develop across a spectrum of abilities that enable them to learn, solve problems and interact with others as they grow. Start with a bin for each area of development.


Things like puzzles, games, sorting and any activities that introduce early math skills and basic learning concepts.


Art supplies, craft materials, musical instruments, any items that encourage artistic expression.


Favorite books, picture and word cards or other items that build vocabulary, literacy and language skills.

Pretend Play

Costumes, storytelling props and kitchen play items are tools for pretend play.

Motor Skills

Items that encourage movement, build muscle and develop hand-eye coordination for large and fine motor development.

As you sort into these basic categories toss out items that are broken or missing pieces. Get the kids involved with donating things in good condition that no longer get used. Don’t get too hung up on the categories, it’s not an exact science, of course some things will overlap. Put things where they make sense for you.

As you eliminate items it might become clear that very few of the materials you have are still in good condition or actually serve any constructive play purpose. But after the de-cluttering process, you can supplement within each category with high quality items that are worth the investment because they will actually get used.

Here are some guideline characteristics to consider and avoid when making new toy selections.

Bells and whistles

Toys should generally serve the purpose of learning and thinking, not entertainment. Too much light and sound is overstimulating.

Assembly required

Nothing is worse than thinking your child is going to go play with something and they come back every 30 seconds asking for it to be put back together. Make sure items, once assembled, stay assembled.

Small parts

Choking can be a hazard for kids of any age. Fewer small parts mean less safety risk and fewer parts that will get lost and broken.


Some kids tend to have narrow interests like trains or kitchen play. But even with toys there can be too much of a good thing. Diversify the portfolio.

One-trick ponies

Some toys do one thing and only one thing. Limit this kind of item and try to stick with materials that can be used in multiple ways.

There’s no looking back now that you’re equipped with research-backed motivation to support a strategic toy purge. You’ll soon see the benefits of your kids’ growing creativity, resourcefulness and attention spans. And I’m sure no one would argue with that.