Toy Control

in Henry

TOYS. TOYS. TOYS!  ‘Tis the season, huh?  I’ve been thinking a lot about toy control as – of course – some new toys will find their way into our home on the 25th.  When I think of “toy control,” it’s really a two-pronged approach: First, how do encourage Henry to actually play with his toys?  And second, how do we keep toys from taking over our house and budget? 


Here are my six Toy Control tips:


1) HIDE AND SEEK. Before Henry was born, a few friends told me, “Don’t ever leave out ALL of his toys. You’ve got to hide half in the attic and rotate his toys every now and then.”  This is genius because 1) it keeps the toys fun and fresh for Henry, and 2) it keeps my living room from looking like a constant disaster!  So, about half of the stuff that Henry has is usually hidden away in the attic, tucked in a closet, or loaned out to friends (my friends and I do a lot of toy swapping, which is great).  As Henry got older, I noticed something else – when all the toys were out, Henry didn’t know what to do.  He’d wander around the living room, passing by toys and then whining because he felt like there was nothing to do. When his toys are always out, he feels like they’re part of the background noise – not something to pay attention to.   But when his ride-on truck comes out of the closet, he gets SO excited.


For example, Henry loved his homemade ball pit – at first.  But after six months or so, it was totally old news.  I packed it up for about three months and recently brought it back out.  And now it’s the coolest thing EVER!  Again.  Smile 


2) THE COUCH TRICK. If your living room is big enough, you can move the couch off the wall a few feet and hide toys behind the sofa when you want the room to look more adult.  It works like a charm!




All clean. Smile


3)  DAILY TOY STORAGE.  For the things that do stay out all the time, it’s nice to be able to sort them into storage bins. Toy storage is an necessity – especially for the little stuff like blocks, balls, and trucks. I like bins and baskets that are multi-purpose and can be moved around (and used for other things as Henry gets older!).


Farmers’ baskets are a pretty way to display blocks, which we usually keep out all the time.


And I love these Zig-Zag baskets from Land of Nod.  I thought they were pricey when I originally purchased them (and I still do!) but they’ve held up really well, despite Henry sitting in them fairly regularly. Smile 



We use the littlest basket to hold shoes and socks.


4) SURPRISE SPACES.  Another big part of toy control is putting toys in handy and unusual places.  For example, a ‘handy’ spot that I put toys is the kitchen cupboards.  On the bottom shelf are magnet letters, magnet animals, and Play-Doh, all of which I *only* bust out when I need Henry to entertain himself while I cook.  They are ‘special’ toys AKA momma needs a moment toys.


Here’s an example of a surprise spot… I move around his trucks a lot.   Recently, I moved them to an empty drawer in his bedroom. 


He was getting tired of playing with them in the living room, but now that they’re in the bedroom, it’s like they’re brand new trucks! 


5) MORE SWAPPING.  Again, swap swap swap.  Especially for books – I bet a lot of toddlers have books in multiple areas, like the car, the living room/playroom, and the bedroom. The bedroom ones get read over and over again, so I move them upstairs and downstairs for variety.


6) DON’T OVERBUY.  I’m sure some non-parents (or even some minimalist parents) are looking at Henry’s toy stash and thinking, “Seriously? You don’t overbuy?”  Hah.  I swear that he actually has a moderate amount of stuff.  It’s tempting to buy him a ton of toys, but as I said, I’ve observed that he gets overwhelmed when there’s too much stuff.  Less is more.


Libraries are amazing… rent instead of purchasing!

photo 1

Before we make toy purchases, I try to do a ‘test run’ with a friend’s toy/at childcare to see if Henry would actually be into it.  When we do buy toys, I’m big on consignment shopping or Craigslisting to save money.   

photo 5

I think a lot of this is old news to veteran moms, but when I was a new mom, my friends taught me a lot of these ‘tricks,’ and it’s all really made a difference in Henry’s playtime.  Toys are interesting, fresh, and fun.  And the best part of toy control is that it helps keep my house looking like two adults live there, too. Smile


What toy control tips do you have?



  • Jenn L @ Peas and Crayons December 19, 2013, 1:24 pm

    I’ve heard the rotation and special toy stash work wonders and can’t wait to employ those as well! Especially that ball pit! I wonder if I could fit inside the pack and play too…. 😉

    • Caitlin December 19, 2013, 1:26 pm

      “mommy in” all the time in this house 🙂

  • Carolyn December 19, 2013, 1:59 pm

    I’ve been meaning to hide some toys and start rotating. He’s getting quite a stash for Christmas so it’s the perfect time.

  • Suzy December 19, 2013, 2:13 pm

    The book Simplicity Parenting has a great section on dealing with toys. (and a lot of other great information!) It actually causes kids to become overwhelmed and agitated when there’s too many around, kind of like you mentioned.

    We keep our toys in bins too. If we leave the room, we put everything away. Granted I don’t have a toddler yet, but I’ll try to keep that up as long as we can.

    • Caitlin December 19, 2013, 2:15 pm

      Great book suggestion – thanks!!!

      We sing a clean up song everytime we pick up the toys 🙂

  • Ashley @ Saving Money in your Twenties December 19, 2013, 2:14 pm

    So smart! My nieces have all their toys spread out in my brother’s basement. They never seem to want to play with any of them, probably because they’re so used to always seeing them. Swapping every once in awhile is a great idea!

  • Ashley M. December 19, 2013, 2:55 pm

    Great article! We have this big kitchen cabinet that is actually almost entirely full of toys on the top. I’ve been meaning to take a photo of my awesome kitchen cart art supplies thing for Ada — it’s pretty awesome. You just reminded me! And I love your couch trick. Our house isn’t big enough — but it’s noted for the future!

  • Elizabeth December 19, 2013, 3:53 pm

    When I nannyed, we would wait until the kids were in bed or at school to go through toys. Some, that I know they hadn’t played with in forever or had completely outgrown, got taken to Goodwill, some just hidden or rotated. But if I tried to do it when they were around, it turned into “but that’s my FAVORITE THING IN THE UNIVERSE” and general tantrum throwing about keeping it all on the floor. I always felt like there was a lot of stuff they didn’t play with, but seeing you remove it makes it a thing. My mother still does this when she comes to visit – she puts things in the Goodwill pile when I take the dog out. I have never once figured out a single thing she’s tossed.

  • Verna December 19, 2013, 5:27 pm

    We have a toy rotation. A stack of 6 totes in the garage and they get a new one every month. I can’t stand clutter and we don’t have a lot of space. They definitely play with their toys more when there aren’t as many.

    • Verna December 19, 2013, 5:29 pm

      I love toy bins too. We have a big bookshelf and toys and books go there.

  • Areej December 20, 2013, 7:09 am

    Thanks so much for the couch suggestion! I don’t know why I never thought of that. Will try putting stuff behind it asap.

  • Sara December 20, 2013, 9:23 am

    Luke is still a little young but we keep his toys and teethers and things in boxes with lids (like little storage boxes) so the cats don’t mess with his toys, ha ha! 🙂 We will soon need to have a few bigger boxes with lids instead of so many small ones! I have a hard time remembering (sometimes) to switch out his toys for his diaper bag (so he has different ones when he goes to my mother-in-law’s house) and different ones up and downstairs.

  • Miriam December 20, 2013, 10:33 am

    The homemade ball pit is SO COOL!! I’m totally keeping that in mind!! 🙂

  • Rebecca December 20, 2013, 12:49 pm

    The couch one reminds me of the kids I recently babysat. They’re living in a smaller house while they save up for a new house and there isn’t very much space for the toys, so they’re tucked into a corner behind the couch, which is at an angle to be able to get to the toys. It works. The kids seem organized — not that they weren’t before, but now they *have* to put stuff away to have space to sit and stuff. The mom was telling me that they have books stashed everywhere–in cabinets, in ottomans, and of course on bookshelves. So many books.

    We have toys in a room in our basement so that if little cousins or kids from church come over we can pull out games or whatever for them to play with. My sister and I are too old for most of the toys, but I think my mom is saving them for if grandkids come along. 😛

  • Jen Carres December 20, 2013, 2:03 pm

    One fun kids product that is fun and educational is the TickleMe Plant Greenhouse. In it you can grow a real house plant that moves and closes its leaves when you Tickle It!
    Amazing and fun…google Pet TickleMe Plant to see it in action .

  • Kelly December 21, 2013, 11:34 am

    Awesome advice!!! As a new mom to an 8 week old little boy I am going to be bookmarking this for sure!!!

  • Sharon December 21, 2013, 3:06 pm

    We’ve been reading the book “Simplicity Parenting” – which suggests ideas similar to what you explain. We took all toys and clothes out, downsized, then only put out current sized clothes and a handful of toys at a time. All the others are in our “toy library” in storage. It works great! Clean, easy to on the eyes and senses, AND my 10 month old doesn’t notice a bit of difference! :0)

  • Lekki December 21, 2013, 7:57 pm

    These tips are so awesome. Our munchkin is just turned one – I have trouble engaging him in his toys (but my work stuff? No problem. 😉 ). I am totally going to try these! Thanks.

  • Kath December 23, 2013, 9:10 am

    I definitely need to rotate Mazen’s toys. He totally does that wandering thing!!

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