Has your child ever been surrounded by toys, complaining that he is bored? Doesn’t it drive you crazy? But would you believe that being a toy minimalist could change things?

It’s true! Read on to learn how toy strews are fantastic for minimalist families!

Toy minimalism actually encourages play

Believe it or not, too many toys actually get in the way of your child playing. Minimalist living isn’t just good for you, it’s good for your kids too!

I’m sure you already know how too many toys make it so much harder to keep things tidy. But let’s talk about how they also keep your kids from playing.

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Imagine that you walked into your kitchen and all of your tools were sitting out on the counter. Your blender, your mixer, the Instant Pot and the Crock Pot. On top of that, imagine a bunch of utensils and pots and pans were sitting out everywhere.

You couldn’t cook like that! Not only is there not enough counter space, all the stuff you don’t need is just distracting!

A shelf like this is fantastic for storing your kids after you declutter.
When you’re distracted by everything around you, it’s hard to be mindful. And without mindfulness, responding appropriately to your children’s needs becomes much more difficult. Sign up for the Mindful Mamas and Connected Kids toolkit! You’ll get eight pages of strategies you can implement immediately, including printable Mama Mantras (to place around the house!), the six step Tantrum Tamer process, and Playful Prompts for Cooperative Kids. Join here to get your toolkit today!

Best practices for toy minimalism

Does toy minimalism mean you should only own five toys? Probably not.

Instead, read these step-by-step instructions on how to declutter and organize your kids’ toys!

Step 1: Do a toy declutter

First, you’re probably going to need to get rid of a bunch of toys. This is probably the hardest step. But you can do get this declutter done!

Try to do this without the kids around. Often, there are toys that they’ve simple forgotten exist. They won’t miss these if you declutter when they don’t see.

First, gather up all the toys.  That way, nothing escapes. Go through them and do a thorough job picking the toys that actually serve your child.

Pull out broken toys, puzzles that are missing pieces, or other toys that have just outlive their usefulness. These can just be trashed.

Next, pull out toys that you just dislike. Perhaps you have toys that represent characters who teach values you don’t want in your home. If you have a toy of a character who doesn’t demonstrate kindness and respect, ditch it.

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Or maybe you have noisy toys that are just obnoxious. For whatever reason, if there’s a toy you don’t enjoy, get rid of it. Or if there are any that your kids just don’t play with and you don’t see them ever showing interest in them, let those go too. These all can be donated.

(NOTE: Research has actually shown that electronic toys that make noise, “teach” your kids letters and numbers, and so forth, are actually not good for your kids. They’re much better off with open-ended toys. For more details, check out this post.)

RELATED: Toys that encourage free play for kids

Finally, check for toys that are “too young” for your child. If you’re not sure that your family is complete, put them away in storage; otherwise, these can also be donated.

Step 2: Organize the remaining toys

With any luck, you’ve gotten rid of a lot of toys! Some people report donating nearly half of their toys (if you’ve gone through this process before, you’ll likely get rid of fewer toys).

But you still probably don’t need to have all the toys out at once! Get a few big plastic storage bins, preferably clear ones, and sort toys into the bins.

During this step, I tend to sort not by type (blocks, dolls, stuffed animals), but by a theme (jungle, kitchen, farm). So I might have one type of blocks and some stuffed animals in the jungle set, and other stuffed animals, a few dolls, and a barn playset in another storage bin.

Step 3: Pull out one set of toys from a storage tub for play!

You’ll only pull out a small fraction of your toys for play at one time. You’ll arrange these attractively. Check out all the open space left and be proud of yourself!

That’s not to say that you’ll never have a mess again; it just means that it’ll be a lot easier to clean up with toys get all over the house.

While it’s nice to have toys set up in a strew whenever possible (keep reading for more info), sometimes you just need to do a quick clean-up. Get a few nice baskets to hold toys so you and the kids can whisk them away really quickly when the need arises. I love these because they come in several simple, neutral colors and are really pretty!

storage basket for quick toy sweep

Step 4: Set up the remaining toys

While you don’t want a lot of toy storage out (that’s how you start getting clutter, it is nice to have a simple shelf. You want something that is child-level, so your kids can use the top of the shelf for play while they’re standing up.

I really like this one for a few reasons. It’s the right height for little ones to set up play on the top, plus you can put a few bins in it (if you want to). So that way you have somewhere to put that basket after you do a quick toy sweep!

But you don’t want to keep toys perfectly clean on the shelf all the time! Toys strews make your kids’ toys much more attractive. Read below all about toy strews and how to create them.

What is a toy strew and how will it relieve boredom?

After you’ve decluttered toys that no longer serve your family and you’ll probably have a lot more open space to play in! Just having all this clean space will already allow your children room to imagine and create.

To jump-start your child’s imaginative play even more (and get to do a little imaginative play yourself!), try a few toy strews!

A toy strew is simply leaving some toys set-up, ready for play. The idea is that your children can walk into a play space and already see “invitations for play” set up.

Since kids are no longer overwhelmed by random toys scattered everywhere, they have a better place to start playing and will likely come up with something really fun! Plus, they are much less likely to come to you complaining that they’re bored.

The great thing is, play strews don’t have to be complicated!  Check out my short video below:

I need some example toy strews!

Making strews doesn’t have to be hard! In fact, making play strews really isn’t any more difficult than putting everything away for a clean, more sterile-looking space. Here’s a few pictures of strews I did today.

In this first one, I just arranged these little people (that I painted myself after ordering this set!) into groups. Aren’t you dying to know what these little guys are talking about? When your kids walk in to play, they can come up with a whole world for them!

peg people play strew

Next, I simply set up one of our storage cubes and set a little stuffed doggie and baby doll in there.

Is the boy visiting the dog? Are they about to share a tasty dog bone? Or are they putting together their plans to travel to outer space? Give your kids the opportunity to decide!

And finally, you can build little structures with blocks, or even only build them half way. Here, I’ve used a rainbow stacker (which I love!) to build my own version of Spaghetti Junction, but you can use Legos, Duplos, plain wooden blocks, or heck, food cans and cereal boxes to build whatever comes to mind.

Why should I make a play strew?

If I take the time to create a strew in the evening, the kids are much more likely to get engrossed in play when they wander into their play room the next morning than if everything was put away nice and neat (or worse, still a wreck from the day before).

Little boy playing with toy strew

So while the kids are more excited to play when there are toy strews, I’m the real winner. I get to do what I want while they’re engaged in independent play. If I’m really lucky, they’ll let me sleep a little extra while they’re busy!

Which toys are best for these play strews?

As you can see, these arrangements work best for open-ended toys, rather than toys that have a specific function or toys that have a lot of bells and whistles. Want to know which toys are winners in our home? Check out this post for ideas!

RELATED: Toys that promote free play for kids