Before I had my own child I would silently cringe after I entered homes where toys were scattered about and taking over the entire space. But then I had my own baby and experienced the sheer physical and mental exhaustion that comes along with parenting. I feared every corner of my home would soon become an amalgam of colored plastic toys once my little man was totting about.
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I know very well that living in clutter can negatively influence well-being. For many of us, the first time we experience this disruptive ambience is after we have kids.
I hope by reading this post you will join me to practice minimalism with kids and not sign up for the current culture of excess. I believe that being intentional about the toys we allow in our homes will not only make it easier to manage the mess, but ultimately lead to a deeply fulfiling childhood.
Our goal as parents should be to provide ample opportunity for play without needing to run to the store everyday for a new toy.
The simplest way to keep the amount of toys from getting out of hand is to develop a minimalist toy list that stimulate many variations of free play. We can then use everyday objects, nature, or our undivided attention to fill in the gaps instead of buying another toy.
In this post we will gather ideas for the best basic toys to keep at home, so your children can have fun but not become overwhelmed with clutter.
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Toys are important but less is more.
If you are wondering if children really need toys, the answer is yes. They just don’t need a lot of them.
Toys help children develop motor skills, experience the world with greater depth, and learn how to interact with peers through the safe simplicity of play. Before we had so many manufactured options for toys, children would make their own toys out of anything they could find.
Some of the oldest toys in the world were basically sticks, rocks, and structures formed from clay. Archeologists discovered a 4000 year old doll made from stone.
Isn’t it fascinating to acknowledge that for as long as we can date back, children used miniature versions of ourselves to pretend and experience the world through play?
I like to consider the history of toys because it is important to realize that they have been a part of human experience for a very long time. As trendy as minimalism is these days, we can’t take it too far or we will do more harm than good.
If you are considering raising your child on minimalist values it doesn’t mean you have to (or should) completely unload all the toys in your home.
We want to provide meaningful experiences for our children and thankfully, many of these don’t involve toys. During the younger years however, toys can inspire, maintain, and enrich play. (source)
What science has discovered and I have witnessed personally as a parent, is the less toys a child has in front of him, the deeper and more imaginative he will play with them.
In order to let children do more with less, we need to consider which toys will actually enhance learning, creativity, and overall happiness.
This minimalist toy list is based off the current research in early childhood development and will give you some ideas for different options of toys to incorporate into your home landscape.
It is ultimately up to you to decide how to contain the volume, but even if you chose to have a wide variety of toys, it is possible to keep half of them in storage and then rotate them in and out.
Related: How to explain a No Gift Christmas to your extended family
Things to consider when making a minimalist toy list
Parents are big influencers when it comes to encouraging gender specific toys. Studies show that by 2 years old, most boys prefer a truck over a doll.
It is crucial to keep gender in mind when developing a toy wish list because certain toys will likely captivate children of opposite genders differently.
If you are a household of multiple children but interested in minimalism, you may want to have one gender-specific toy for each child, and then fill the rest of the allotted space with gender neutral toys such as blocks and puppets.
Age is obviously an issue when it comes to minimalism because children outgrow toys.
One way to remedy this is to constantly donate outgrown toys and then look for new age-appropriate toys at second hand shops in order to reduce waste. It is also possible to borrow toys from friends once their kids have outgrown.
My favorite way to allow my son to play with age appropriate toys without buying them, is to take him to play places that have a variety of options. I can then limit his time being surrounded by so many toys and after an hour or so, we can leave.
It is true that every child is unique in their interests. Some boys are obsessed with dinosaurs and others love anything with wheels.
I personally didn’t like playing with barbies as a child. I preferred art supplies.
Once you discover what your child is interested in, you can direct family members to stick with that category of toy and build upon it. For any toy that goes unnoticed by your child, donate it to charity.
Minimalist Toy List
1. Building blocks
The most basic of all toys, building blocks help a child learn both fine motor skills and cooperative play if they are allowed to build with siblings or school mates.
Stimulate solitary play and problem solving skills.
Allow children to create endless scenarios with their imagination. Provide an opportunity for creativity and collaboration with others.
4. Duplo Blocks
Children can build Duplo blocks into buildings, structures, and everyday objects. This toy seems to withstand the test of time and is enjoyed by children for longer periods of different ages.
5. Wooden train set
I have personally seen both boys and girls become deeply entranced by moving wooden trains around a room and discovering new ways to play with them. Studies show that wooden trains promote high quality play that will be enjoyed again and again.
6. Play dough and molds
Provides a sensory experience, fine motor skills, and creativity.
7. Bouncing balls
Chasing balls are a great way to encourage a healthy level of activity in little kids as well as develop a foundation for hand-eye coordination. The more opportunity a child has to play with a ball, the greater the skill level and confidence will be. This will come in handy down the line when introducing team sports which can be a great way to teach children to work together.
8. Interactive Books
Reading to your children is one of the most beneficial ways to develop language, trust, and spend quality time together. We love the Usborne books for before bed because they are fun and educational. During the day, we love to go to the library to read new books without having to buy them.
9. Baby Doll
Baby dolls could be your child’s first friend. If you are introducing a new member of the family, a baby doll can be a great way to teach compassion, empathy, care for others, and help children learn social skills.
10. Stacking Cups
Stacking cups are such a versitle toy. They can be used for water play, hiding other toys, learning colors and sizes.
Limiting toys doesn’t mean you have to limit the fun of childhood. In fact, creating a minimalist toy list for birthdays or other events gives family members instructions to buy toys that will enrich your children’s playtime without driving your crazy from clutter.
Just because you are being more intentional about what toys stick around doesn’t mean you are restricted to only this list. Your children get the benefit of using their imagination through deep play by keeping only a limited number of toys within their reach. The rest can be kept in storage. I feel like we are constantly rotating and donating toys, especially after holidays and birthdays.
Minimalism is a core value we chose to implement in our home. We find that it brings us great peace and promotes a closer family bond.
Where are you on your journey towards minimalism with kids?
*All* toys are gender neutral.
This! This article lost me at the gender section 🙄
It was meant to mean depending which gender your child is, not anything to do with the gender propaganda being pushed these days
I can’t believe we actually live in a world where (correctly) implying that girls generally enjoy playing with dolls more than boys is controversial. What a mess.
Thanks, I thought this was a thoughtful and helpful post.
The world we live in gets stranger and stranger. It has honestly caused me to reevaluate where we are on the biblical timeline. I just keep to myself these days. I need to write more on my blog but I am still trying to collect my thoughts and figure out how to express myself in this upside-down world.
I love these ideas for the next birthdays and Christmas for my own Minimalist Kids 🙂
Nice blog, I like you tips on toys for kids. They were very helpful for me in choosing the write toys for my kids.
Glad they helped!