My son is 5 soon 6 and going to kindergarten with childcare up till 5pm weekdays.

We have small lots of duplo that my son will never play with- he has lego and generic chinese block and a block slider- the later he plays with a lot? He prefers drawing or craft.

We have an enormous number of vehicles which many are duplicates he hasn't played with for years. He has young child puzzles and considerable size jigsaws also lots of English and a few Japanese books- we live in Japan. He has a small bag of balls, big bag of fluffy dolls (he loves his Pikachu) and another big bag of assorted items. We have no space- how to choose and remove toy items?

2 Answers 2


Speaking not from the parents' but from the child's perspective from memories of having toys thrown out... There is no good way if the child has a strong emotional attachment to the "personalities" of the toys. But the loss can be minimized and the lesson gradually introduced. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Spend time observing the child's play with the toys. Be really sure which ones are essential and which are interchangeable and generic. Duplicates can almost always go. For example, go by the roles they're usually given in a game. Are they main characters or do they leave the action early?...

  2. For the same reason, prefer throwing out impersonal toys over ones onto whom the child can project emotions, thoughts, personhood. Blocks < tools < vehicles < animals < people (though the order may vary by kid). If you can say "he loves", don't throw it away. Toys can teach some social and emotional development, theory of mind, and so on. If he loses too many things he loves, he might well learn to love something you can't throw out, like a computer.

  3. Leave representations of a category. One truck, not five. Two animals (one needs to have a friend, after all!). A few blocks. These can both carry nostalgia without being as burdensome, and concentrate some of the kid's feelings. He might realize he loves the one more than the five. And that might also serve as a lesson for future purchases :)

  4. Don't associate throwing out with punishment in any way. If the child feels not only that the creature is gone forever, but that it's their fault, that guilt will not be good.

  5. Focus on the destination, and be intentional. Like when we have to explain death to a child, you can tell them about where it's going. A Salvation Army to be loved by another boy and make friends on your son's behalf? A relative or a friend from school so it can be visited and played with? A toy drive for Christmas? An Operation Shoebox? (You could even start any of the above and invite your friends to have their children donate toys too... They'll probably be grateful.) P.S. It goes without saying that you have to be honest about this. Don't just toss it in the trash behind his back. If you can, involve him in the physical act of giving as much as you can.

  6. Give the child some agency in the choice of which and how many toys to give away. Also, give some time to say goodbye or have a party with them a last time. (Hey, what about a party where the guests each get to take home a toy? Again, no surprises for your son — there can't be any on the table that would make him think twice if someone picked it.) Once, my grandma decided I didn't need a particular toy and spontaneously took it to give to the children she taught in Pakistan. Today I'm glad she did, of course, but at the time I was outraged that I had no say in it.

  7. Where possible, if it's really an impersonal, interchangeable toy like blocks, reinforce the object-ness and the right people have to keep some things and let others go with a shrug. At five he doesn't yet need to learn this, but by ten he should be able to say, "These things are just possessions. I keep them as long as they do me some good or hold wonderful memories. If I don't need them, I don't keep them." Keep in mind that many people do keep a soft spot for one or two childhood artefacts and not everything needs to have this objective attitude. Don't throw out for the sake of throwing out — throw out because you need space or the toy no longer has any emotional significance.

Good luck!


In an ideal world, the child will be able to choose

If someone suddenly decided that a portion of your possessions will be taken away, you probably won't like it, and your child is the same. Even adults have to go through something similar, for example when an email service provider puts a limit on the number of gigabytes of total emails you can have in your inbox: but you get to choose which ones to delete.

At the age of 6, children can sometimes be surprisingly mature, and you may want to discuss the issue with them. For the majority of your lives, you and your son will both be adults and will have to make decisions together, and the transition from dictator-like parenting to collaborative decision-making will have to start sooner or later.

Age 6 is indeed quite young, but it's worth discussing the issue with them, and if they say "no I don't want to throw any toys away", only then do you have to worry about the next steps:

Consider first how severe the need is to "get rid" of the toys

The only reason you have given for getting rid of the toys is:

"We have no space"

Consider all options: furniture or compartments that make extremely efficient use of space, storage options under the bed, better use of vertical space, use of other storage areas at your residence (if available), etc. I also lived in Japan (Kyoto) for years and had extremely limited space, but it's amazing how much people can store in a small amount of space with a little creativity.

If there's absolutely no way to keep the toys in the house:

First, the space issue is most likely not just because of your children's toys, but sometimes we as adults are also guilty of hoarding some things that others would say we really don't need to keep, so if there's enough for the household as a whole to benefit from an external storage option (monthly fees for this are not too bad, but they do add up over time).

Second, as suggested in the other answer, consider lending or giving some of the toys to a friend who has kids at a similar age. Here's a quote from only 16 days ago from a friend who needed to throw out a lawnmower, but that lawnmower had been in the family for over 25 years and he didn't have the strength to part with it:

"Regarding the lawnmower, that's fantastic if you could use it. I still have it as I don't have the strength to throw it away so if you can use it then that's great."

If you do decide to permanently "get rid" of some of their toys:

As Luke's answer said, there's no easy solution here, and it would be best if the child can have some say in which ones to keep. If you can wait just a couple more years, your child will be that much more mature, and can better collaborate with you in the endeavor to do "spring cleaning".

Your future relationship with your child is probably more significant to you than the inconvenience of going a little longer with the toys

I still remember my mom gave away my first soccer jersey from when I was on a team as a child, and that was decades ago when I was not much older than your son. Not only did it create friction in our relationship but perhaps my present-day obsession with not throwing things away (including digital data and emails!) might be due to losing some things that were sentimental to me when I was a kid.

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