Spring Cleaning, A Guide to Decluttering Toys

Spring Cleaning, A Guide to Decluttering Toys

Spring is in the air, and there’s no time like this renewing, rejuvenating time of year to have a good look at the items in your home. Many parents will agree that when children join your household, they amass many toys and accessories. As a result, it’s very easy indeed to end up inundated with playthings that, in reality, are rarely touched! This is why at Eeny Meeny we really value and promote toys that have longevity through being open-ended, beautifully made and covering multiple stages of development. With the best will in the world, though, it’s easy to find yourself with more toys and playthings than your children really need, or use. This post shares our top tips for having a good clear out, what to do with no longer loved items, and how to move towards a more minimal, values-driven way of choosing toys for your children.

Taking stock 

Let’s begin with taking stock of what you have. If you have very young children it might be best to do this during a nap, but slightly older children can get stuck in and help at this stage. As much as possible, get all your children’s toys and games out of storage and lay them out. If you can sort these into fairly simple toy types, or perhaps toys for particular stages, this will help you in the next section! Here are a few ideas for groupings:

  • Age/stage, such as baby toys, toddler toys, pre-school toys

  • Small world toys - garages, doll houses, farm sets 

  • Construction toys - bricks, tiles, train sets, lego

  • Dress up

  • Physical play toys - sports equipment, balls 

  • Artistic toys - paints, drawing materials, play dough 

  • Role-play toys (may go with dress-up) 

If you have the energy you might like to make a list of everything you have, or it may be that the visual is enough! Next up, it’s time to decide what to keep, and how to choose what stays and what goes.

Deciding what to keep 

Your living room looks like a toy shop and you are feeling stressed already - let’s get to thinking about what to keep and what to say goodbye to! Natural instincts may be to turn to your children and ask them what they’d like to keep and what they are happy to part with. While this approach in itself is perfectly reasonable, we instead advocate for a more thoughtful, long-term approach that starts with this question, then delves a little deeper. When deciding whether to keep something, ask yourself the following questions to help make the decision:

  • Firstly - does my child still want this toy? Older children should be asked, to respect their choices where possible, while you might like to skip to the next question for younger children.

  • How often is this toy played with? 

  • Are there toys similar to this toy with the same purpose? Is there a toy that offers the same play experience as this toy even if it is different? 

  • Will this toy be used by a younger sibling, cousin or family friend, if not your current child/ren?

  • Does this toy have sentimental value, meaning that even if the above are answered ‘no’, you might like to keep it to look back on? Use this one with caution! 

Once this has been decided, make a clear pile of toys to keep and toys to say goodbye to. Now, on to organisation and giving toys a new life!

What to do with the toys you keep

In order to avoid another round of spring cleaning in the near future, we highly recommend rethinking how you store your toys to ensure they are played with equally, and really used. Our classic go-to is toy rotation. This means having fewer toys to play with, and most in storage. It can be helpful here to categorise toys as we did above, then have a selection of toys from each category available at any given time. Then, as the toys perhaps lose their novelty, swap them out for different toys which were in storage. The ‘new’ toys are suddenly exciting again, and the ‘old’ toys will come around again very soon with renewed interest. This also minimises the tidying you need to do!

We also advocate wherever possible to have toys displayed simply and easily. You might like open shelving to encourage little ones to self-select their toys, or alternatively have a low-level sideboard with opening doors for little ones to access as they choose. Either way, we recommend going for a piece of furniture or storage that focuses on toys being outward facing wherever possible (not stacked or thrown in a basket), reminding children of everything they have available and to avoid toys being ‘forgotten’. This is also helpful if you’ve moved to a rotation-style play set-up, as children really do get to see everything they have available, even if there are fewer options. 

What to do with the toys you choose to let go of

When it's time to clear out your child's toy collection, you have a wonderful opportunity to make a difference. By donating these pre-loved toys to charities or families in need, you give them a second life and help in giving every child the start in life they deserve.

Some organisations, like Little Village, rely on donations from families to directly support other families in need, without any financial transactions involved. Alternatively, you can donate to charities, such as NSPCC or Fara that sell the donated items and use the proceeds to fund awareness campaigns, research, or other vital initiatives.

Involving your children in this process is a valuable lesson in compassion, community, and environmental stewardship. Encourage them to think about the happiness their once-cherished toys can bring to another child, turning a simple clear-out into a meaningful act of giving.

If you prefer to recoup some of your investment, selling on platforms like Vinted or Facebook Marketplace is a viable option. However, donating remains the most impactful choice for a more sustainable and compassionate lifestyle, reflecting the values we wish to instil in the next generation.

Thinking forward 

Wow! You did it - you had a good old-fashioned clear-out! Life feels lighter - perhaps your children are interested in their toys again. It can be easy, though, for life to return to how it was. Clutter and unused toys are of course inevitable in the life of busy families, but we do have a few tips up our sleeves to help minimise the chances of building up excess toys again. This is especially helpful if you have birthdays and festivals coming up, or plan to buy your children new toys soon. 

  • Go open-ended. Choose toys that can be used to suit the imaginative needs of your child, with neutral colours and lots of uses where possible. Wooden blocks can be a castle, a train, a house! Peg people can be pirates, princesses and police. If a toy has lots of play opportunities, it is far more likely to be used again and again.

  • Choose well-made. Going for toys that are built to last offer you just that - a toy you can pass from sibling to sibling and that will last many years. Choosing cheaper toys that are not very well-made will feel like an economical option, but if you find these items last a few months and are broken, you’re back at square one. Going for something that is built for lots of love from little hands saves you money in the long run. If we had to pick, some of our favourite brands for toys made to last would be Dantoy, Raduga Grez, Connetix, and Londji.

  • Go multi-stage. As with open-ended toys, toys that will grow with children have fantastic play value, even if a child doesn’t currently show much interest. A wooden rainbow might be loved by a one-year-old for mouthing, a two-year-old for stacking, a three-year-old for building and a four-year-old for imaginative play. Choose items that will grow with your child, and you’ll limit the items you’ll need to throw away, give away, or sell.

Well done!

Changing the way you do things is quite an achievement. Even the smallest steps towards a more sustainable and thought-out play collection are worth doing. We hope this guide was helpful! 

Emily Hanson

Freelance Writer, Education and Play Specialist

Emily Hanson is a freelance writer with specialisms in education and play. Emily holds a PGCE and M.Ed from the University of Cambridge - although her proudest achievements are her two beautiful daughters.

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