Are your children drowning in toys? So much so that they actually can’t decide what they want to play with because it’s so overwhelming?

Maybe you’ve heard Maria Montessori’s quote before: “Help me do it alone.” Well, this will only work if the right environment is given to the child. Montessori talks about the prepared environment.

So, what can you do to foster this philosophy and create a calm, beautiful and inspiring play area?

Declutter!

Start with a big declutter session. Gather every single toy around the house and sort it into categories. These may include cars, dolls, blocks, puzzles etc. You might then want to use the KonMari method developed by Marie Kondo. This means your child holds everything and asks him/herself: ‘Does this spark joy?’ or ‘Do I love this?’ If your children are not old enough, you can decide. Otherwise, I encourage you to include them and let them make decisions as well. Most children know instinctively what makes their hearts sing.

Assess what you have

Look at what is left in each category. This will help you decide how to store and display it. Chances are that you still have too much, and you might have to consider toy rotation.

Think about storage

You can’t foster independent dressing in the morning if the clothes are hung up high and they can’t reach them. The same philosophy goes for toys: if you want your kids to put toys away, the home where the toy lives must be easily accessible. It’s great to put the majority of toys on shelves, in baskets or in trays rather than in trunks or drawers. Maybe you already have these things at home, but otherwise you might have to invest in some furniture.

Rotate the toys and activities

Once you have the shelves and containers ready, start using and displaying the toys and activities. The rest should go into clear plastic containers with labels that will then be stored until you rotate the toys. The best to keep organised is to schedule the rotation date.

Have rules

It is important to have house rules. Personally, I think being organised and orderly can be learned and is a life skill. This means that it’s up to us as parents to teach our children. One way to do this is by establishing rules in your home. This can range from putting things away before pulling out the next toy or a daily, quick tidy-up at the end of the day, to everything having a designated home.

Fewer, but better quality, toys

Invest in some good quality toys rather than cheap plastic stuff.

Size matters

Try to get child-sized “tools” for activities. An example of this might be a small jar and a small glass from the op shop to practice pouring water, or a small broom to help clean the floor. Pre-school aged children especially don’t differentiate between play and work, so including them in daily housework chores has nothing to do with child labour, but with transferring life skills, and most children really enjoy this.

Do you have any other tips that work for your family? Please share in the comments below.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com


  • We do a big cull before every birthday and Christmas. It just gets out of control otherwise.

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  • Great tips – just have to follow though.

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  • i love having the big clear out and donating toys. Also gives you the chance to give everything a good clean and check over

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  • Some great suggestions in there, thanks.

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  • I did most of these by accident! Living in a small apartment we didnt have room and i believe kids dont need heaps of toys – just quality ones that can have multiple uses. Over the years we have collected gifts, hand me downs and other toys that i try to de clutter regularly. I rotate toys too, so my kids dont make a huge mess but still have enough to play with. And old toys seem like new ones when they ‘reappear’ a few months later.

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  • Some great ideas there, I deck utter before every child’s bday and again before xmas but with three kids in the last 12 yrs we’ve still got way too many. !!

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  • My kids didn’t have heaps of toys, we had limited space so they only had what they could fit

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  • We’ve definitely moved to fewer and better quality toys.

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  • what a great article….so true…

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  • This is a very good article. Children have more toys than ever before. When people come for dinner or stay, it is customary to bring something for the host. People bring something cheap and cheerful for the children. Party bags are full of cheap and cheerful trinkets. Quality control is out of our hands!

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  • I love this article. I find that organisation is important.

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  • Great tips, we have already started a toy rotation and my son is only 7 months old lol and doesn’t have too many toys, I can’t stand the clutter! :-)

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  • i hate having to many toys, i hide some in a box and then switch them every couple of months

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  • I need to declutter badly! With over 10 years worth of toys between 3 kids, it’s ridiculous. They don’t play with most of them! I’ll be getting together with them and doing a cull, and donating to charity what they don’t need.


    • Good idea to work with them. It sometimes might take longer but they will learn this important life skill. Sometimes, it also takes some patience from us parents. At one stage, one of our sons wanted to keep absolutely everything. We let him and after a while he was ready to let go and did a massive purge (I would have thrown out less than he did …). Imagine my surprise!

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  • All great tips. Rotation is always good and I’m all about storage. Everything having its place and labelled. It’s worked well for a long time.

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