Simplicity in a Toy Library

Parenting from a place of simplicity is a wonderful philosophy in which to root ourselves and our family. Implementing simplicity into a life that at times feels anything but is a big goal.  To reach our big goals it is best to start with the smallest of steps. Enter the toy library.

What parent of young children doesn’t look around their home from time to time and think their children’s toys and books have taken over? A toy library is a simple organization system that can minimize those mountains of unused and unappreciated toys and books. 

Here are some toy library strategies and tips to get you started:

1) The best place to keep a toy library is in a large bin on a shelf in an out of the way place (closet, basement, garage, etc). It needs to be large enough that it can hold toys and books you have identified as currently unloved and/or neglected by your children. 

2) Types of toys the library will hold will be things such as a gift from grandparents, or a book you feel your child will come back to in time, or maybe a toy that isn’t age appropriate yet.  

3) Toy library items should be those that can quietly disappear without being missed, but are items that you aren’t quite ready to place in the donation pile.

Now, the identification of appropriate toys for the toy library requires a bit of focused attention from us parents. At my house I keep an eye out for what toys are currently fascinating my two children and which ones are collecting dust. Which story books are in rotation at bedtime and which ones are lost under the bed. At the end of each month I rotate those forgotten toys and books into the toy library. 

Attention and practice has honed my skill for identifying toys and books that won’t be missed, so be patient with yourself as you start out.  I feel I’ve been successful when I identify and store away items without my little ones wondering where they went. 

The other huge benefit of the toy library is you get to decide when those out of sight toys re-emerge back into your child’s life. I have pulled toys and books from my children’s library for:

-    long plane rides and car trips;
-    extended waits in doctor’s waiting rooms; and
-    when I need them to play independently so I can get things done. 

Toy library items are usually greeted like beloved old friends when they reappear. The trick to remember is once those library toys re-emerge, another toy that you have identified as falling out of favor with your child goes away. And so the cycle continues. 

Too many toys have potential to cause overwhelm in young children, and too many toy choices may result in them not learning to value what they own. A toy library can move you toward not only stimulating play spaces for your children, but inch you closer to the value of simplicity. A winning combination !

Julianne is the mother of a toddler and a preschooler, a Masters educated Social Worker, and a Certified Positive Parent Educator. Read more about her work at