Here's What Happened When We Took Our Kids' Toys Away for a Month

by ParentCo. March 16, 2017

Playful boy between plastic blocks

A month ago, my wife and I decided to sell our house. To make our house marketable, we had to make sure each room had a clear and distinct purpose, according to our realtor.
That meant that our kids’ playroom went from this:
bradshaw, messy play room
To this:
bradshaw dining room And it all happened overnight. One evening, my two littles went to sleep with a fully-intact, colorful, and inviting playroom. The next morning, they woke up to a bare, wooden, wrinkly-old-person dining room. We literally took away all of their toys, save two or three kept in a small bin in the closet. When my kids came downstairs the next morning, I was expecting them to immediately begin wailing and gnashing their teeth at the sight of their tragically transformed room (or, if not that, then at least to be somewhat downtrodden). But no. THEY LITERALLY SAID NOTHING. I CAN’T HELP BUT WRITE THIS IN ALL CAPS BECAUSE IT IS SO UNEXPECTED AND RIDICULOUS. This would be like living in a white-marbled mansion, and then driving home one day to an old rusted-out RV in place of your mansion and being like, “Oh. Cool.” Again, we took away almost all of our kids’ toys, and they literally said nothing. I still can’t believe it. But that’s not the end of the story. Not only did they not care that their toys had vanished, but their playtime this past month has transformed completely. Here’s what my kids did tonight during their play time:
  • played with a string
  • played hide-and-seek
  • chased each other
  • threw my daughter’s lovey back and forth.
That’s what they did. I’m still mind-blown. And this is what they’ve been doing now for about a month since the makeover. This whole experience has made me realize that our kids can be just as happy with a string as they can be with a room full of toys. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not anti-toy. But I do think our kids benefit when we occasionally purge their toy collection (or take all of them away for a time). If you’re considering getting rid of some, or all, of your kids’ toys, here are some of the major benefits of doing so:

Unstructured play time is good for their brain

Social scientists say that unstructured, “free” playtime is “critical for becoming socially adept, coping with stress, and building cognitive skills such as problem solving.” According to Kenneth Ginsburg, a pediatrician who also does a lot of work with homeless children, unstructured playtime helps build resilience in children. In addition, the boredom that sometimes goes along with unstructured play time helps children develop creativity, according to Dr. Teresa Belton, a psychologist who studied the impact of screen time on children’s imagination.

You can donate your toys to children who don’t have any

While we took away most of our kids’ toys, we didn’t take away all of them. They love playing with their wooden train set and Magna-Tiles. We wanted other, less fortunate kids to enjoy toys, too, which is why we donated some of our kids’ toys when we did our initial purge. According to Second Chance Toys, 14 million children in the U.S. live in families with incomes below the poverty line. Donating some of your toys to these kinds of organizations can make a big difference in other kids’ lives.

They’ll get outside more

I don’t exactly know why, but my kids absolutely love going outside. We don’t have a playground. They just love running around out there. Considering that 81 percent of two- to eight-year-old children do not get enough vitamin D, according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, I’m glad we don’t have as many toys inside to distract them from wanting to be outside more.

They’ll read more

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Children who are read to during infancy and preschool years have better language skills when they start school and are more interested in reading.”

It teaches them to be thankful for what they have

If there is one thing that bothers me about American culture, it is our propensity to take things for granted. One life lesson I hope to instill in my children is the ability to be thankful – to not take even basic things, like toys, for granted. Purging our kids’ toy collection has helped them to be thankful.

There’s less clean up at the end of the day

’Nuff said.

You can have your space back

My wife and I love having our friends over for dinner at our place. Now that we actually have our dining room back, we don’t have to warn our guests to look out for chewed up Cheerios, loose Legos, and other feet-destroying toys.

You’ll spend less money (on toys)

Give it a try. Go find a closet with some space in it and stuff your kids’ toys in there for a day, a week, or a month. You’ll be amazed how they fill the open space with their imaginations.



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