If you have a house with kids, there’s a good chance you have a house with toys and games. As we approach the holidays, you know that there’s also a good chance you’re about to the proud owner of even more toys and games.

Now is the perfect time to go through what toys, games, books,  and other items the kids have right now, and do a real clean out, before the new wave of fun enters the home.

toy clean out

Cleaning out the toys and games is a good idea for a few reasons:

  • The space. You’re going to need the space, or toys and games will take over more of your house than they already have.

  • The gift ideas. You’ll have a better idea for yourself (and anyone else who wants to know) what your kids might want this year.

  • Donations.  It’s that time of year where gathering new and gently used toys for those in your community less fortunate is most appreciated.

The best way to tackle the project is to find the collections and take everything out, going through each piece and asking yourself these questions as you go through it all:

1)  Is it broken, or missing pieces, or dirty and hard to clean?

2)  Is it for an age younger than your kids are at this point, no longer inspiring play and learning at their age?

3)  Are they out of the  current “favorites” list for your child? Has it stopped being the “go-to” plaything when he or she gets the option to choose what toy to play with today?

4) Does it create aggravation for your home (fights, tantrums, yelling, poor sharing) and really makes you crazy?

If you answered “Yes” to any of those questions, it’s time to consider letting go of it.   If it’s in good shape, donate it.  If it’s broken or missing pieces, toss it.

What if you said “Yes” (especially to #2 or #3), but you’re not sure you’re done with children, or you have kids that are TOO young for some of the items just yet?

  • Save only what your first one truly loved and enjoyed. This is a tried and true toy

  • Clean off thoroughly and wipe down with a cleaner

  • Box up by age (0-6 months, 6-12 months, 1-2 years, etc) and label clearly

  • Store away, oldest age in the back, youngest age up front, so you can access in order of aging through the toys

Oh, and did you come across a bunch of board games that you know you want to keep, but the boxes aren’t in great shape?  Consider a couple of alternatives:

  • Lose the box altogether.  Put the pieces or cards or whatever is part of the board game in a ziploc bag, and then hang the game boards on a wall for decoration! (Install a length of chair rail or moulding as a ledge).

  • Take the pieces (and the board) out of the broken down cardboard box, and replace the box with a Game Saver, a plastic box designed for common types of board games.

In an ideal world, of course, your children would help participate in reviewing these toys. They know what they don’t play with as much any more, and you can encourage them to help select items that someone less fortunately might be able to appreciate.  They might surprise you on how many items *you* thought they loved that they’re okay with letting go of now.  (And don’t try to argue with them around “But you used to love this toy!” or “But your Aunt Sally gave this to you!”   You’re introducing your *own* feelings (and guilt) to it, while they’re just following direction around selecting what they think they can let go of at this point in time in their lives…)

What if you said “Yes” to one of the questions, or your child has said it is time to let go of it,  but you just can’t bring yourself to separate from a toy or doll which is full of memories (mainly for you)? Think about an option that takes the toy out of the play space, and can be preserved, in some way, for the memories. Some ideas:

  • You can create a modestly sized “memento” box for your child, making sure to limit what goes in it and how much space it takes in your storage area

  • Take pictures and create a “Sentimental Scrapbook” (photos with captions about your where the toy came from, or with pictures of your child playing with it, or your stories of your favorite memories of it)… you don’t have to make the scrapbook right away, but can take the picture and let go of the toy, saving the picture for when you can create the book

  • Display a special toy in a shadow box as decoration for the room.  I’ve seen cool displays with stuffed animals, books, matchbox cars, dolls… anything will work!

  • Whatever you decided — Just be sure to remove it from the current “in play” stash of toys around, so that sentimental pieces don’t end up damaged or lost before you’re ready to do with them what you will.

Good luck!



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