4 Moms manage toys the Mean Mom way

How do the other 3 moms do it?  Find out: Read Smockity’s, Kimberly’s, and the Headmistress’s posts about toy management.

Maybe I shouldn’t speak for all 4 of us, but let’s just say I manage toys the Mean Mom way.  Years ago, when our house was proportionately bigger and our children were smaller in both size and count, we actually had far more toys.

I know this sounds counter-intuitive, but I was an official Toy Lady, so I’m sure that affected things a bit.  I had to have a good collection of toys, and so I did.

As the ages of our children expanded and our house shrunk, we had 2 options: we could either be overrun by an ever-increasing assortment of toys, or learn to make do with less.  We chose sanity.

Over the years, the number of toys in our home has shrunk.  Toys have come and gone, and very few have been missed.  We have come to regard most toys as very nearly consumable.  Now that I think about it, that’s true in a very literal sense.  The dog has consumed quite a few of them. This may not be the best of stewardship, but allowing our house to overflow with toys wouldn’t be good stewardship either.

Aside from a few classics, we find that our babies are just as happy with pots and pans, measuring cups and spoons, and other safe items.  They’re happy with unsafe items too, but that’s hardly the point here.  The older ones spend more time with pens and paper, books, computers, playing cards, etc.

Those classic toys I mentioned?  Legos and Duplos are at the top of the list, and we never seem to have enough of these.  We also have wooden blocks, dollhouses, and 1 doll for each young child.  Of course there is more, but the rest of the toys are less permanent.  Dress-up, swords, guns, cars, various balls, doll accessories, various bits of cheap colorful plastic that disappear as soon as the novelty wears off.  We have a wooden train set, but quite honestly that has not been the big hit I hoped it would.

Individually owned toys like dolls usually live on the bed of the owner.  A flat toy might be stashed under the mattress.  We have a small laundry basket for toys as well, but it rarely holds much.

Communally owned toys are kept in a corner of the dining room: a bin of legos/duplos, and a bin of wooden blocks under a small table, and 3 dollhouses atop.

Our board games are sadly neglected, as we tend to enjoy games that call for less equipment and more creativity: a deck of cards, a few dice, and some pens and paper are far easier to stow and provide plenty of entertainment for agile minds.  Ask my children: maybe they’ll post about some of their favorite games!

Upcoming topics to be tackled by the 4 Moms:

  • Dec. 16 – Feeding company: Because it’s rude to eat in front of them
  • Dec. 23 – Questions for the Four Moms: Got a question?  Get it in now!
  • Dec. 30 –  Teaching children to do their chores:  If you’re doing it all yourself, then you missed your promotion.


  1. I am interested to hear more about the games that you play with dice and cards. We have these things, but rarely use them. I would LOVE to learn more games! Thank you

  2. Thanks for sharing – I agree wholeheartedly about toys. When we had only 2 children we had a much larger collection of toys – the bigger our family, the less toys we have (never mind that most broke & never got replaced:) )
    Although I do think we still have a few more than you by the sound of it, but since it’s summer holidays I’ll be going through the toyroom again & downsizing!

    Looking forward to your posts on teaching children to do their chores!
    Have a wonderful weekend

  3. Kim, love your take on toys! Don’t forget you can donate or give a friend the toys you no longer want. I have been fortunate enough to have friends that cull toys often. My 6 month old now has a playroom full of toys, at no cost to me. (Indeed I have only bought her two small toys to date.)

    I am a talker so I’d rather spend my time talking to my girl, and my husband would rather spend his time teaching her sports.

  4. My Boaz's Ruth says:

    I wonder if having so many children in some way causes them to “need” fewer toys.

    Toys as props to replace playmates, so to say…

    • My Boaz’s Ruth,
      I think you may be onto something. It sure sounds like a good theory! When we had only 1 or 2 children, they used toys to entertain themselves. Now they use each other, with or without toys. 🙂

  5. @ Diana Bless you for considering the deeper issues of birth control and family planning. I think a better term for followers of Christ for the latter would be family blocking–the intentional blocking of God’s blessings. To me that doesn’t seem right, but I’ve disciplined myself to not judge others who disagree. And many who disagree are servants making a difference for Christ’s kingdom in other ways that I am not. Although they are a rare exception because people generally live for themselves to a large degree unless they have children to serve….

    I tell people the difference between having 2 or 3 children versus allowing God to bless you with 5, 7 or more depending on God’s sovereignty is like the difference between being a millionaire and a billionaire. both are great, but there is NO COMPARISON in how much worth the latter has over the former. It is the same with the # of children one has.

    A couple quick links for you to explore further:



    And my wif’e and mine story at http://arrowcollectors.com/who-we-are

  6. I’m a mean mom too. We just moved to Dallas where we are serving with Wycliffe at their Linguistics Center. One ministry there is a shop where missionaries can get needed household items (including toys) for free! Boy, has this been a God-send as I unpack and settle into our new house!!! Every day my husband goes to work with another box full of things to donate to this little shop and, as a mean mom, much of it is toys!!!

    It’s amazing how little our kids truly need. Plus, the more they have, the less content they are. It seems to work that way for grown-ups too! 🙂

    Like you said – Legos are a classic and we’re keeping those. Everything else is fair game for donating. 🙂

  7. That’s kind of what happened with us. We had more toys when we had less children. At some point you just look at all that and figure it’s either the toys or the kids, but something has to go. If your lucky that thought hits you on a good day. 😀
    We finally reduced birthday parties to just a couple of close family members and a friend or two with a stipulation to the friends that gifts are not expected; their presence for the special day is enough of a gift. For Christmas with extended family we put everyone’s name into a drawing (and there’s a spending cap that just went up to $25 this year) so each child only gets one gift. It really helps to reduce the amount of stuff coming into the house.
    When my oldest children were young it always amazed me that they could have a room full of expensive toys and they kept wanting to play with pots, pans, and wooden spoons, and that the very best way to keep them occupied for hours was to give them a really big cardboard box. My younger children have had lots of cardboard boxes.

  8. Sounds really good-I’m always struggling with toys and especially toys with bits-playmobile, shape sorters etc. Sure that having fewer toys helps.
    Couple of questions-
    How do your children spend their spare time? We try, not always successfully, to limit computer time. I can hear some chasing up and down on a tricycle as I type-it shouldn’t really be indoors but it is too cold to have outside. I struggle with making sure that spare time is spent usefully and worry, a bit, that getting rid of toys would lead to more computer games.
    What do you ask relatives to give children, especially younger children, for Christmas and birthdays? We really don’t need toys for our little one but it is difficult to know what to say when asked.
    Thank you

  9. I love your method! You’ve given me inspiration!! =)

  10. yeah, what do you do at Christmas when extended family seems to give an abundance of toys?

    • It’s hard to avoid an influx of toys around Christmas time and birthdays. We tend to cull heavily before and after Christmas. If friends or relatives ask for suggestions, we let them know that our kids truly enjoy receiving clothes or gift cards (they do!) And when all else fails, remember what I said about toys being semi-consumable? They are fun while they’re new; once the novelty wears off all but the classics tend to turn up broken or just go missing, and we don’t let that bother us.
      In addition to using the few toys we keep, our children spend their free time drawing, writing stories, reading, playing cards, exploring the woods, jumping on the trampoline, building forts and swings, and playing endless games of “Let’s Pretend.”

  11. Roxie Meiske says:

    I grew up in a tiny home with a mother who was a cleaning nut. I mean nothing was out of place EVER. The home was a travel trailer just 8 ft wide by 30 ft. long. There were 6 of us living there. There was no space for toys other than on our bed. My mother gave 99% of our things away to ‘needy’ families….I was given a Smokey the Bear teddy bear for my first Christmas. (I was born Christmas Eve, so the next day) I am going to be 59 this month…I still have Smokey. I do not remember playing with toys as a child. We had bikes, a swing set, and we had a play house with a sand box near by. We were blessed too with ‘real’ dishes from my grand mother who lived close by.

  12. Hello!
    You mentioned that one of your next posts would be answers to some questions. Could I add a question to your list?

    My husband and I just recently realized we have prayed hard about most decisions in our life, except how many children to have. Our eyes have recently been opened to the fact that the way the world decides and directs might not be God’s plan and we are in the middle of a five month span dedicated to praying about this area of our lives. Most people really don’t understand why we would even consider giving up control of this area of our lives, but it has laid heavy on our hearts for several months now.

    Maybe you ladies have already addressed this question elsewhere, and if so I would love to be directed there, but if not, could you tell us what influenced your decisions to have large families and how much control you allow yourselves over this area of your life. Also any thing that influenced your decision in this area would be helpful.

  13. We recently moved overseas for two years to a smaller apartment and in the move I drastically pared down the toys. Right now all my kids have are a bag (literally, we ended up using their carry on luggage bags as toy storage) of misc. plastic stuff (that’s mostly the items the grandparents stashed in their luggage here), a bag of wooden trains and train tracks (that has been a big hit with us) and a bag with everyday children’s books (mostly board books and early reader type stuff). That’s it for all four kids and it has been wonderful!

    I feel kind of bad about this, but I’m actually somewhat dreading getting Christmas gifts from the relatives this year because it will start to build up the clutter again.

Don't just think it: say it!

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