I accidentally-on-purpose took my kid’s toys away, and this is what happened…

Every evening, before Claire’s bath, she helps me pick up and put her toys away. If I give her a bit of direction, asking her to put the puzzle away, or pick up the Legos, she is usually quite happy to help. Of course, she’s almost 3 years old, so sometimes she isn’t so helpful.

messy room

Occasionally, I’ll ask her to put something away, and she’ll refuse. Or, worse, she’ll say, “No, Mommy, YOU put it away!” When she gets like this, I usually reply, “Okay, but if I put it away, I’m TAKING it away and you won’t be able to play with it for a week.” If she calls my bluff, I take the toy in question and put it on top of our bookshelf. But usually she capitulates and puts her toy away, so as not to risk losing it.

One evening, a few weeks ago, she didn’t capitulate. In fact, she got even snarkier. And our bookshelf was already cluttered with a dozen confiscated toys. Here’s how it went down:

Me: Claire, can you help me put all these toys away?
Claire: No, Mommy, YOU put them away!
Me: Okay, but if I put them away, I’m taking them away.
Claire: Fine. Take them away.
Me: Oooookayyyy.  Then I’m going to take ALL of them away. You’ll have no toys.
Claire: You take them away Mommy.
Me: …….

I didn’t think she would call my bluff on such a big thing. But I wanted her to know that when I say something, I mean it. So. I took them away. I went through the house, picked up every toy, and put them all in a high cupboard. Even though I hadn’t planned to actually take all her toys away, I thought it would be a good lesson for her. I thought after a couple of days of being bored with no toys, we’d have a talk about it, and about how she needs to help tidy up, and I’d give her the toys back. Again, things didn’t turn out how I expected…

Over the next few days, Claire hardly seemed to notice that the toys were gone. The corner where her toy baskets usually live was EMPTY. But she didn’t mention it. She never said, “Mommy, where are my toys?” Instead, she found other things to play with. She would draw with a pencil and paper. She would sit and pretend to read books. She would find a broom in the closet and pretend to sweep. She played outside.

It was like the toys never existed.

So, while I never really planned to take Claire’s toys away, I found myself really happy that things had gone that way. Claire was content, using her imagination more, and misbehaving less. My house was looking rather tidy, without a corner full of overflowing toy baskets. And I had less to do at the end of each day, with no toys to tidy up. I’d call that a big win.

The corner where Claire's toys USED to live. I kind of need a plant or something now, don't I?

The corner where Claire’s toys USED to live. I kind of need a plant or something now, don’t I?

It’s been a few weeks now, and occasionally Claire will ask what happened to a certain toy, and I remind her that she chose to have them taken away instead of tidying up. She says, “Oh, right!” and moves on. Jesse thinks I might have gone too far, but I have yet to see Claire be upset about the new state of affairs, so I’m running with it.

Then a funny thing happened the other day. A friend of mine shared this article about another woman who had done the very same thing – in an unplanned scenario that went a bit haywire, a mom had taken all of her kids’ toys away too. She, too, noticed that the kids were more content post-toy expulsion. My first thought was, “Hey, I just did the same thing!” My second thought was, “Dang, I wanted to blog about this, and it turns out it wasn’t even an original idea.” But it’s so interesting, I’m posting about it anyway.

Have you ever had a life lesson for your kids go different than you had planned? Have you ever taken your kids’ toys away? How did it work for you?

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7 Responses to I accidentally-on-purpose took my kid’s toys away, and this is what happened…

  1. kimuta1 says:

    Guess that toy the child MUST have is not so important.

  2. Liz says:

    Awesome! Must try this. As soon as my son gets off the Wii he’s like can i watch TV? And if i say no he’s like ok can i play with my toys? i have to force him to go outside!

  3. Timea says:

    Hello dear! Very interesting indeed. It reminds me of the article i read couple of months back (in Slovak language) how toys are the reason why kids argue so often, and it curbs their creativity. It was a very thought-provoking article where it mentioned the same exact thing that happened to Claire’s situation, how kids start to invent complete new things to do, imagine fairy-tale like situations in the nature, and grow up active and close to nature. I think, even though unintentionally, you did her a favor, and you can also test it out how far it goes. I wish we would do the same sometimes at my nephews place, who do become quite stubborn about the toy they WANT to play with at that certain moment. Lets see if the toys even need to be re-exposed, or Sweepea will find her way around a whole new world of games and toys that nobody else can see 🙂

  4. Hanneke says:

    Great post! I am a firm believer in less is better. This is awesome 🙂 My parents are here and I asked my mom to help me organize the (rather few lol) toys we do have. Maybe we will just make with even less 😉

  5. Natasha says:

    Love this! It reminds of the book Simplicity Parenting. It’s all about less toys, less clutter, more space, and I try to keep it mind with our little guy. It makes so much sense!

  6. MamaMgeni says:

    Thanks for all the positive feedback, you guys! I have to admit, I was kind of worried about posting this, wondering if everyone would think I was a big meanie of a mom. But it really worked out so great for us, and I’m glad you guys like it!

  7. Pingback: Sweetpea’s incentive chart | Mama Mgeni

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