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Get Rid of Your Kids' Toys Without Them Freaking Out!

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Bethany Sanders: My old way of cleaning house and weeding out toys worked for me: I'd wait until the kids were at Grandma's, then grab a box marked "Goodwill" and head for their toy bin.

girl with teddy bear

But as they've gotten older, I've discovered something. When I weed, I like to keep the good-quality toys (with a leaning toward the educational stuff). My kids are more likely to have attached themselves to something less attractive (a ratty old green teddy bear; a fire truck missing its ladder; purses filled with all manner of detritus).

But who am I to judge? No one -- as long as their rooms are reasonably clean, that is.

Here are some of my favorite tricks for weeding out toys without tears -- and even with a little cooperation from my mini-hoarders:

• Appeal to their giving nature.Kids are naturally empathetic, so when they realize that thetoysthey've outgrown can be given to less fortunate kids, they're often more willing to part with them. (I've discovered that this works well with older kids -- and not so much with self-centered toddlers and preschoolers.) Give kids a box and let them sort toys on their own, then be sure to deliver the giveaways to the charity organization of your choice together.

• Have a garage sale.Maybe your kid is less of a Mother Teresa, and more of a Donald Trump. Teach your kids a lesson in economics by letting them host their own garage sale. They'll lose some of the nostalgia for their old toys when they realize that there's a payoff for parting with them. As a bonus, you might be able to get rid of some of your own clutter, too.

• Institute a one in/one out policy.Make this a family rule, and you might never need to do a major weeding again. Whenever a new toy comes into the house, an old one has to go out to make room for it. All those shiny new birthday presents take the sting out of this rule, and I've seriously considered using it on my kids' Grandmas -- as in, "If you send the kids home with a new toy, you need to take a toy home with you!"

• Make a "wait-and-see" box.Sometimes -- and this is especially true of my younger child -- kids think they're ready to get rid of a toy, but they worry that they might change their minds. That's what the wait-and-see box is for. Kids put their toys inside, and if the toys aren't missed for three months, the whole box goes to Goodwill -- quietly and without re-examining the contents.

• Organize a toy swap.A toy swap is like a garage sale, only instead of money changing hands, toys are the currency. Kids can bring their old and unwanted toys to trade for new versions. Set a limit before you go on how many new toys can be brought into the house, and donate any leftover toys to charity.

• When all else fails, there's bribery.Desperate times call for desperate measures, and when I get desperate I pull out my foolproof tool: bribery. I tell my kids I'll pay them a set amount (5 cents, 10 cents, etc.) per toy they give away. Then we head to the store to buy one new item with their profit. This is great for getting rid of that little junk that fills up their toy boxes.

Have you discovered an easy way to throw out your kids' toys without freaking them out? Share it with us in comments.

28 comments so far | Post a comment now
mamaspeak April 26, 2010, 12:05 AM

My girls (ages 3 & 6) wanted iPod Touch players. I told them I would pay for half, if they sold enough of their toys to pay for half. Worked. They are still bringing me toys to sell (on Craig’s list) and they’ve learned that if they take good care of things (keeping pieces together, playing w/them only indoors, etc..) they can make some money for them.

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