Controlling the Toy & Book Situation

Updated on May 16, 2011
J.G. asks from Minneapolis, MN
12 answers

I am in the midst of a deep spring cleaning and organizing spree. It's one of those "getting back to basics" type things where I'm tempted to get rid of everything but one towel, one set of dishes, and only as many clothes as will fit in a suitcase per person type thing.

My son has accumulated a lot of fairly expensive toys (leapfrog and v-tech type toys) and I hate them. I've always preferred the basic toys like blocks and legos and cars and trains and dolls (that don't talk) and play food and musical instruments, things of that nature. These electronic toys annoy me but on the other hand we don't have a lot of the kinds of toys I would prefer for him to play with since these toys come from relatives.

What I'm wondering is, while I'm on a roll, should I take the plunge and post the chatty toys on Craigslist and build a more suitable toy collection as I go or am I being unreasonable getting rid of these toys since they are the kinds of toys that many kids have he does play with them occasionally and I can't really replace them with alternatives right away...

Also, with books. We get a lot of fairly worthless books from family because they are cheap and easy to mail. I would like to limit the book collection to books we read over and over and books that are special to us. Examples: The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Runaway Bunny, books by Sandra Boynton, Dr. Seuss, and Golden Books (to name a few).

I'd like to hear how you select what stays and what goes, if you've taken the toys without batteries path, and how you tame the books in your house.

**UPDATED** VM, have you seen some of the books that Target sells at the One Spot? 3 pages of pictures and about 7 words total? The only value there is that someone got paid to work at the company that pumps them out.

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answers from Tulsa on

Take all the toys you are thinking of selling and hide them. Seriously, give it a few months. If you wait till Thanksgiving, you will earn more $ and you won't regret.
I am the queen of decluttering. I wish I had not gotten rid of so many toys.
When younger kids come over, I often wish I had some "babytoys" and my child still asks about toys from 3 years ago.

5 moms found this helpful

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answers from Phoenix on

I say cut the techy stuff loose on CL. I am in complete agreement with you, that I prefer my DD play with basic things that make her use her brain & imagination. I am fortunate in that she really takes to the more old school, basic toys, anyway. She loves her Legos, Tinkertoys, dress up clothes, stuffed animals, small figurine type stuff, playing pretend & arts & crafts.

I would also get rid of books that were crappy or not used.

You have my wheels spinning now... I may do this with DD's toys. I am always overwhelmed at the state of her playroom, and well, the whole house, and how it's always cluttered with toys on every surface. I adore the thought of going back to basics.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Lansing on has been a lifesaver when it comes to books. You trade the books you have for books you want. is one I use for trading toys. I post what toys I have and what ones I am willing to trade them for.

With my first two I did the whole electronic route. Didn't like it. Now for my last baby we are doing the whole electronic free route and I am loving it.

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answers from Albuquerque on

I get rid of anything that doesn't meet my toy standards. For example, I've just sold and/or donated about 50% of what was given to my girls for their 4th birthday. They simply did not need a battery powered plastic animal thingy that would chomp bubbles I blew using a regular bubble wand. Oh, and the animal counted and burped. No educational value or real play value. If my kids want to pop bubbles they have way more fun doing it with their hands. So those went on Craigslist and netted $10 for two. I also sold four Pinkalicious/Purpleicious books - can't stand the whiny tones and negative role models. Another $10 for the brand new books. I'll take the $20 and get my kids a few things they'll truly enjoy. We have no battery operated toys in our house. I'm not particularly opposed to them, just haven't found many that are worth the noise.

So yeah, I'd sell all the battery operated toys and crappy books that you don't want. Use that money to buy the stuff you're happy to have your son play with.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

We have taken the Toys Without Batteries path and I love it. I've been teaching kids for a long time and know A. how these toys do less to help our kids imaginations and play and B. my personal threshhold for the noise. This sort of play is less relaxing and is very restrictive in how they are used.

I cull through books and just donate what we don't want/need to Goodwill. Because of my work, I have a separate stash of Teacher Books my son can access when he likes, but they are kept apart from his books. I'm willing to have plenty of quality books, not junk.

The electronic toys: I'd say, keep the two he enjoys most, then do what suits you with the rest of them. Say, craigslist. Then, buy the toys you'd like to have. I'm a huge fan of blocks, and a simple block set (make sure they aren't too small) is great. You don't say how old your son is, but PLAN toys makes some nice wooden food sets, as does Melissa and Doug brand. My sister also says her older boys (4 and up) love the Kapla blocks, and you can get those at Target, I believe. If you are into construction, you can even save the cereal boxes and other things you might put in the recycling. Those are great for stacking, as well as cardboard tubes (two toilet paper tubes, tape, string-- instant 'binoculars'!) The PLAN toys Cone puzzle is also one of toys kids at my preschool play with daily. (We use mostly natural toys... nuts and rocks are included in our play, as are marbles....) A marble run (it doesn't need to be fancy, or wooden) is also great at teaching sequence and planning for building.

Oh, and I also rotate toys out of my son's room to another part of the house. He has been given a lot of good stuff, and only so much fits in. I notice what he's using most of the time, and put the other stuff away temporarily. Then, when he's needing some novelty, it comes back out and something else takes a break for a while.

I hope this gives you some ideas and PM me if you want more resources.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

About the books... Perhaps keep the "special" books at home, and use the "cheap" books for looking at in the car, at a restaurant, store, etc. so it doesn't matter if they get lost. Or if you really don't want them, donate them. Just a thought.

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answers from Erie on

I couldn't find the approx ages of your kids, but what you might want to consider is that they may grow into some of the electronic type toys, OR you may want to save them for a specific purpose ex. if you live far from family and will ever be making a trip back home, you may want to pull out a vtech or something like that to entertain for a while on the road (or on the plane) Is it something they would play with everyday at home, probably not, but after 6 hours in the car they might enjoy the novelty.

donate your books, i'm sure a school, or shelter would love you have your crappy books. Although, I have to say I am definately one to let my children choose their own favorites and I think exposing them to books I might not have picked can be a good experience, but you could just eliminate all the books and borrow from the library. I can't imangine calling any book worthless, having trouble with that one.

I'm not sure if you actually Are looking to build your toy collection, but if you do want blocks, legos, dolls, toy food etc yardsales can be great places to pick that up cheap.

I've tried to sell on craigs list and it was a huge hassle.

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answers from Rochester on

Had put my 2 cents in on this one. I felt the same as you did and never pushed the electronical toys. Now my son is in 1st grade. He is just now getting into the electronical toys that most kids have been into for a while. One thing he needs to do to pass the 1st grade is take a math test on the computer. He does great if its math with paper and pencel, but he just cant find the numbers on the keyboard. Its a timed test and that makes is even harder. All the other kids that grew up around computer and electronical toys all passed the test. But my son is still working on it. I wish I had not taken those toys away so he could the expierence he needed. Just my 2 cents. Maybe you have a better school district that doesnt expect there little kids to type at a adult level!

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answers from Minneapolis on

I have not tamed the books at our house, but when I do weed some out I donate them. Our local library collects books and has fundraising sales about 2-3x/year. I've also given them to my son's school. Even some of the simple books that don't seem to have a lot of value can be useful. This year my 5th grader's classroom had three kids who had recently immigrated and were just learning English. His teacher loved receiving some of those "cereal box" type books!

Updated to add: another place I've donated my kids' things is a homeless shelter for women and children. Since you're in Mpls Caring and Sharing Hands would probably welcome some donations, even the cheap books. It is located in downtown not far from Target Center and Target Field. They accept donations at the loading dock. Unless it's a really special or unique item, I've found it much easier to donate and take the tax deduction than to try to sell things on Craig's List or at a garage sale, but that might just be me.

As for the electronics, I would save at least some of them. In part, because they were gifts from relatives and in part to save them for unique situations--long waits, long car drives, etc. Maybe you could put them in a storage tub and put them away to be pulled out occassionally. I'm a firm believer in electronics in moderation and our kids were some of the last in the school and neighborhood to have hand held games and gaming systems at home, but there are some useful skills that can be gained with the appropriate games--hand and eye coordination, familiarity with current technology, and some educational content in certain games. We significantly limit the games our boys are allowed to purchase and receive. You don't say how old your son is, but at some point he's going to be exposed to electronics at other homes, school, etc. I found it much better to have some of it at home where I could at least control the type and amount of electronics. I was shocked by the stuff they were exposed to at other homes, but that's another topic!

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answers from Minneapolis on

Be ruthless. Your kids will not miss the toys or books. If you are really concerned, stick the stuff you are considering ditching into a box for a month & take out things when they specifically ask for them. Then donate whatever is left in the box at the end of the month.

To avoid the hassle of listing stuff on Craig's List, but still get a little bit of cash for the leap-frog type toys, you could take them to a re-seller. They are popping up all over my neck of the woods (Eagan).

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answers from Duluth on

Ok, this all sounds really awful, but what we do is...give the kids the cheapy toys to play with, even letting them take them outside. When they break, well, they're done for, and get thrown away. Our two oldest are boys, so we consider some cheapy toys that were gifts as disposable items. I hate the environmental implications of that one, but that's why *I* don't buy those toys for my kids. As far as books, I recently realized we had more than double the number of books than would fit on their four bookshelves and that many of them were going unread. So...I went through and kept everything that I either deemed Worthy or that my kids really enjoy. As an English teacher, I can be a bit of a snob regarding Good Literature for my children, but really, if they *like* it, far be it from me to tell me they can't read it (obviously assuming it's appropriate for them). So, we kept what I had read to them in the last 6 months, read what I hoped they'd grow into and put the rest in my closet. I had intended to give them to my mom to take to the used book store that's close to her, but I forgot, so they'll sit in my closet until the next visit, I suppose. But, my kids haven't missed them, and I haven't said, Oh man, I miss reading _____________. We have a number of quality duplicates (Pout Pout Fish, Little Engine That Could) that I'll keep (I culled them before they even got into my kids' collection) to regift or to replace an obviously loved book.

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answers from Houston on

Keep the educational electronics. Store them in a bin high above. Every once in a while, pull them out and see if your son plays w/them. My kid got an electronic letter writer at 2 yo. He is 5 now and is just now starting to use it since they are teaching him how to write in prek.

Weed out all his favorite baby books and store them somewhere (top or bottom shelf, or bin). I would separate the books into the different reading levels - beginner (short sentences and lots of sight words), intermediate (longer sentences but still short words), advanced (paragraphs and fewer pictures), etc. Most books/readers are labeled 1 (prek-1st grade level reading) - 6 and up.

I am just like you when it comes to toys. I keep all his building toys within his easy reach and anything w/batteries I either store away or get rid of. I have a toy storage system I bought at Ikea, the ones w/colored bins, and whatever doesn't fit in it, we don't keep. If he gets new toys, we have to get rid of something. I am not a huge fan of keeping his playroom fully stocked w/as many toys as possible, only b/c the more toys he has in the house, the less time he spends outdoors.

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