Whether you are a parent on a small budget or maybe your trying to declutter and simplify your home, I am wanting to show you that your children do not need a lot of toys to really get the most out of play.
With 3 children my house has felt at times like one giant toy box, that I just so happen to live in. It can be overwhelming not only for the parent but for the children. I have found my children play less when they have more (crazy right!). I have found that I have seen more role/imaginative play when they have less. By having less not only does a purse become a phone and a table become a den, but your child have room to know where everything is and this means their play doesn’t have to stop.
Below is our family favourites, we have a 7, 3 and 2 year old so may slightly vary for you but a great starting point for any family. I would also like to say that they do have slightly more than this as they all have favourite characters so for example our three year old loves her small frozen castle and figures but see the tips are the bottom for how we limit these.
Table and chairs
By far my two youngest’s favourite item. This is the craft table, the office desk, the cafe, a baby bedroom, a dining table and so much more. I like this table in our kitchen but everyday at some point it is in our lounge being transformed.
This could also be any sheet or blanket. We use a double duvet cover (sewn at the bottom to ensure they don’t climb in it) so that it is big enough for everything they want to do but it is not as hot as a blanket if being used on themselves. This is a princess dress, a den (a favourite with my 7 year old), the baby’s blanket, a table cloth and a picnic blanket the ideas are endless. You don’t need to buy this, just give them one you don’t use and have been storing for years for the just encase that has never happened.
One of our dolls (we have 2) is my youngest’s comforter/best friend and her play 99% of the time involves the doll. Our dolls are usually the children when they are the parents or they are the patients at a hospital or the extra passengers on a bus. I personally love the dolls as you truly can see how they see you with them, I hear them say things that I would as I go round a supermarket or I watch them read to them for a bedtime story. They can learn a lot from looking after a doll.
This would be another of my two girls favourites, they usually play with all the other toys while dressed as something else. I have tried to have a few other outfits other than princess dresses but we do have a few of them two. My tip for dress up is to put it in a cupboard or box that can close as no matter how tidy you make it if you give it 5 minutes it will look like it exploded!
We have had many small world toys brought over the years, but the only one that has stuck is a train set. A basic train with a few bridges works great, we then have a few cars that have the same wheel so that the train track can be a road if they want it to be and a handful of people that they use with it.
Lego is popular in so many homes so maybe you have some or something similar already. My tip for Lego is to look more at the starter kits/packs rather than a model of any kind for the main reason that they are more open to imaginary play as there are no instructions but also the amount of times you will be brought lego as gifts means they will get all the models they need. Don’t become over run as lego as you can soon have too much, contain it to a bag or a box and donate some if you are getting too much for it to fit in.
Just the basics, pencils, paint, paper, glue and I usually save a few boxes and toilet rolls and you can make anything. From drawing pictures to building a castle there is so much fun to be had with a box full of crafts.
We are big family game fans. My sons favourite pastime is Uno he could honestly play it all day if someone wanted to play it with him. We play a game every night so a few of our favourites would be a simple deck of cards (so many games right there), Uno, dominoes (we currently have toddler friendly picture ones that everyone can play), Monopoly and a The Game of Life to name but a few. Just be care to not allow them to get out of control we have a cupboard for ours that has doors as they can look a mess but if we receive a new game and it can’t fit in we look for one we no longer play that we can donate.
My children do have both a bike and scooter but the reason I wrote outside is I would say the best toy is just to get out. If a bike or scooter is either not on the budget or you really have nowhere to store them don’t even think about it. A giant wood or the local park will give them so much fun and a small little stick can be a thousand things.
Presents – Birthdays and Christmas are when many, many, MANY toys can come in to the home. Firstly I would like to say enjoy the day. This tip is more to limit the number or be more intentional with what you buy. You may not be able to do this with other members of the family and that is fine just let the children enjoy it all. We go with the 4 present rule, something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read this limits the number we are personally bringing in but they get what they truly want or need. Have a wish list for each child, I have it stored on Amazon but this could be a list in a notepad or diary. I write it down every time they mention something they want, then when its time to buy presents we will buy the want that they never stop talking about and then when members of the family ask what to get I give them the other things off the list.
Declutter often – Children are forever growing and their interests are forever changing so don’t be afraid to declutter often. I personally will spend a week watching what they play with anything that hasn’t been played with then goes in to a box that I put away for a month. If they ask where something is in that month I go and get it back out (this has only ever been for 2 items) everything else gets donated.
What is your child’s favourite toy? Do they have anything they are attached to like our baby doll?