Minimalist Toys – are there such things?

Minimalism is a current buzz word – but what is it, and how do you become one? Probably the most important question I had is why would you want to become one?

As mentioned in our About page, we were happily married with everything – great kids, lovely house in a great area, good jobs, and enough money to do most things we wanted. Trouble was we weren’t that happy. We were in a downward spiral of stress, caused by a house full of clutter that had accumulated over the years, overwhelming demands on our time, and juggling financial interests. Our biggest concern was time. We’d wake in the morning and our first thoughts would be ‘what do we have to do today?’ We wanted to get to a situation where we could wake and think ‘what would we like to do today?’

I started reading about Minimalism, and the more I read the more I realised that the concept of ‘less is more’ is just what I was looking for, and needed to be applied to all aspects of our lives. I found that there is a lot of information on this subject, but it is widely spread amongst blog posts, web sites and news articles. This website aims to provide one source of information on all aspects of minimalism.

The question of minimalist toys can be quite different for every family. If your children are like mine, there are some toys I call 5 minute wonders. These are the toys they play with for a few minutes, and then toss aside. They  may go back to them again and again, but they don’t hold their interest.
When decluttering the question isn’t “Which toys should a minimalist family own?” But rather, “Which toys do my kids adore? Which toys do they get lost in? Which items make them come alive?” As holidays and birthdays approach people are always in search of the perfect minimalist toys.

Here are some of the toys that get the most love in our home. Keep in mind, this is not a list of must haves. It’s only the “perfect minimalist toy” if it’s perfect for your child.

1. MOD Wooden Blocks

By far, this is the most used toy in our home. They often get left out for days on end to act as a castle, water slide, hotel or zoo. Because there is no particular theme to these blocks, they spur the children’s imagination in so many ways.

2. Stem Toys

As a teacher, these types of toys are my favourites, and my kids love them also and engage with them every day. They too are perfect minimalist toys as they can be used over and over again in so many different ways. They also ‘grow’ with the kids.
With the focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) in schools, stem toys are a great way tochallenge young minds. Some that ours like, and are played with all the time, are:

BEEBOT programmable robot shaped like a bee (suitable for 4 – 8 year olds). Beebot is great for developing thinking, math, spatial awareness and language skills in children. Click to learn more.  Click the image to learn more.

LEGO BOOST CREATIVE TOOLBOX with the free app, your child can customize Vernie the robot in one of five different ways and use encoded monitors and tilt sensors to make him do special tricks (ages 8+). Click the image to learn more.

SPERO MINI, teaches kids coding in a really fun way, has facial recognition and can be driven (ages 8+)  Click the image to learn more.

3. Balls, Balls and more Balls

Any and all types of ball! My kids will play endlessly with balls of all description, often incorporating them into other games. I love to see the kids outside getting fresh air, exercise and having fun.

4. Paint, Crafts, Colored Pencils and Sharpie Marker

Be wary of Sharpie markers if you children are small – I’d say not under 3. If you don’t mind their art work all over your walls, floors, toys and whatever else they can find – including themselves and each other, then go for it! Also beware that babies and toddlers love to put things in their mouths, and these are no exception.

5. Board Games

Scrabble, Risk, Monopoly, Sneaky Squirrel, Princess Cupcake Game and IceCream Truck Jr. are some of our favorites.

6. Lego

minimalist toys

Occasionally it’s a new set, but usually it’s just building random creations from old sets. For younger children Duplo is great as the pieces are much bigger. My toddler is loving the Duplo Play house set, and happily plays alongside the older boys playing with the Star Wars Darth Vader set. Click the images to learn more.


7. Couch Cushions, Pillows and Rugs

 I have a love hate relationship with this one because it makes such a mess. But boy, do they love to build things with our couch cushions. Sometimes it’s one large fort, or a zoo involving all of our stuffed animals and animal figurines. They are the perfect minimalist toys though as once it’s cleared away you’d never know that castle was there!

8. Scooters, Bikes and Skateboards

These are another of my kids favourite toys. Weather permitting they would be on these at every opportunity. As toddlers they loved the three wheeled trikes, then progressed to scooters, and then bikes. They  also love skateboards now that they are older.

9. Cardboard boxes

Cardboard boxes are like couch cushions. There is no cost involved, and they are a favorite around here. They get used for craft projects and double as dog crates, doll beds, dollhouse classrooms, fairy homes and more. Currently, each of my daughters has a small cardboard box in their beds.

 

10. Stuffed Animals

When we went minimalist we were drowning in stuffed animals. It’s taken time, but we’ve pruned our collection down as much as possible for now. It’s an area we must monitor closely as stuffed animals seem to multiply overnight.

However, the ones we own are cherished. My son has just a handful because they are special to him, while my daughter has over a dozen because she plays with them literally every single day.

*For the record, I did cut my kids off from getting any new stuffed animals. Thankfully their grandparents have been supportive. My kids become attached to them and they become the single hardest thing for them to let go of. We’ve enacted a ban on any and all new stuffed animals until some are either donated, ruined or lost.

11. Nature

Nature is up there with cardboard boxes. There is no cost involved, but they trigger the imagination and get the kids to play outside. When I asked my daughter what her favorite toys are she asked me, “Does nature count?” She proceeded to explain how she loves using nature to build fairy houses. We regularly find sticks, stones and leaves they’ve smuggled into their beds for reasons unknown to me.

 

12. Dress Up Clothes

Dress up clothes can se as simple as Mum and Dad’s old clothes, or specially purchased outfits. Throw in some handbags, scarves, hats and gloves and the kids can have hours of developmentally appropriate play. I bought the Fireman, Police and Doctor set for my nephew and he has had so much fun with it. My niece loves the Fur Princess Cape.  Click the images to learn more.

 

Fewer Toys

While letting go of the excess is important, being more intentional with what you bring in from now on is even more important.

Try and choose items that will grow with your kids, encourage creativity, innovation and imaginative play. Remember, toys should be an avenue for the imagination, not entertainment.

Owning fewer toys has benefited my kids and changed the tone in my home all together. It’s ushered in peace and created more opportunities for connection. They play longer with one toy, whereas previously they would spend a few minutes and move on.

The toys your children love will vary as much as their personalities do. The only difference between minimalist toys and not-so-minimalist-toys is that one is cherished and regularly played with, while the other is not. 

What are some of your family’s favorite things to play with?