No matter how many times you ask guests to forgo bringing presents or tell relatives to keep gifts to a minimum, every birthday and holiday arrives with a new pile of playthings. All of those toys take up a lot of space in your already crowded playroom of unused stuff. How can you keep your house clutter-free, reignite your kids’ interest in their old stuff, and get the most out of any new gifts? Try these six steps for taking on the toys before the holidays (and more stuff) arrive.
Out with the old
Take the time before any upcoming gift receiving opportunity to go through all of your child’s old toys. Determine if there are missing parts to be found, toys that can not be fixed or batteries that need to be replaced. If toys are damaged beyond repair, toss them before they get buried under the newer stuff. If they are in good working order but go unused it is time to find them a new home.
Practice creative charity
Many donation centers do not accept toys. However, your neighbor, friend, church nursery, local gym or childcare center may be interested in toys that are not damaged or missing parts. Depending on your child’s disposition, you can involve them in deciding which toys they are willing to part with and have them help “recondition” them. A toy that your child may not have played with in your own house can become a favorite toy when they see it at their babysitter’s house or at the childcare center where they play while you workout.
Organize for playing
Barbie dolls often get lost at the bottom of a toy chest and their clothes get scattered between the closet and a bin in the living room. A child may feel as if they have to play treasure hunt each time they try to find their things.
One of the biggest reasons toys don't get played with is due to disorganization. Since your kids were the ones who probably spread items around, involve them in making the situation right. Instead of running out to purchase a bunch of bins and labeling machines, take inventory of what you already have to organize your child’s toys. My favorite technique is to dump everything (and I mean everything) in one big pile in the middle of the room. I put our existing bins, boxes and baskets around the pile and set the timer based on how much we have to get accomplished. The kids are then challenged to get everything in the right bin (which I point out) before time runs out.
Put them away
While it is tempting to tear open all of the pretty doll boxes and pop batteries into the shiny remote controlled vehicles, hold off on opening all of the packaging of new toys. Take at least half of the new stash and tuck it away for a rainy day. An unfamiliar toy will be appreciated months after a birthday infusion of new stuff. Keep from turning the situation into a fight by opening some of the items for immediate play and casually removing items after the initial unwrapping for later use.
A toy that may have seem exciting for a few days after its arrival now sits untouched for months. One trick for renewing interest in an old toy is to put it in a different place. Take books that go unread on the bookshelf into the car or put them on the playroom table. Action figures that collect dust in a bin may be more fun outdoors catapulting off of your outdoor playset or as fun ice fort battle buddies. Another trick is to rotate your stock by storing toys in a closet and selectively bringing out bins each week. A child may find they enjoy a toy more if it is out of sight for a while or they can play with it in a new location.
Repurpose the old
Are several pieces of a well-used puzzle missing? Has that robot seen better days? Consider repurposing old toys for new uses. Can a set of building blocks be used in an art project? Puzzles can make interest collages to be used as artwork on your playroom walls. Think about a different use for some of the older items that cannot be donated to a younger friend or repaired for reuse. Think out of the (toy) box and come up with some ideas with your child. Coloring pages can even be used to wrap Christmas gifts for relatives or birthday gifts for friends!
Janine Boldrin is a freelance writer, mom of three and military spouse.