Updating Book and Toy Collections for the Big Kids

Eliza Clark
November 16, 2010

It's hard to believe now, but in just a few short years, many of the books and toys you've so carefully chosen for your little ones will seem hopelessly babyish. Your "big kids" will be reading and playing and building in new ways, and they'll want new books and toys to go along with their new skills and interests.

Sounds simple, but this is a tricky business. Although the stuffed animals languish in a corner, your child may profess deep, undying attachment to a whole raft of teddies and stuffed creatures. And although the knobby wooden puzzles have been gathering dust for ages, your first grader may suddenly "need" them at the mere mention of giving them away.  Still, it's important to involve your child in the discussion. After all, that's one of the great things about big kids: it's not impossible to have a reasonable conversation with them. Tell them that you need to give away a few toys and books to make room for new ones, and you'll soon have them pitching in to cull outdated toys -- and the process is a lot easier with their help.

So when the moment comes that you look into your kid's room and think: "these toys are all wrong," it's time to make a few changes.  And with the holidays bearing down on us with record speed (it's a record this year, right?), the perfect opportunity presents itself.

Choosing what to keep, what to give away, and what to update can seem like an overwhelming task. The key, we think, is to break it up into categories. Here are a few places to start.

Building toys

Wooden building blocks are one toy we would never give away, but other early building toys can be swapped out for big kid versions. Legos are a good example. Pass the Duplos on to a friend with toddlers, and put a set of basic Lego blocks and perhaps a few building kits on the wish list. (See the company's developmental guide for details.) And then, keep those forever -- because you're never too old to play with Legos.


This is an easy one. You can cull based on size. Hooray for clear-cut, objective measures! And it's very satisfying.


Here is another category where you should be able to make headway. The chunky wooden puzzles and shape-sorters can go, making room for some high quality jigsaw puzzles. The Ravensburger company web site has a useful guide to jigsaw puzzles by size and difficulty.

Pretend Play

This category gets a bit tricky, we'll be the first to admit. And although we're all for ruthless editing of children's toys, this is one area where we tread with caution. After all, pretty much any object can play a role in imaginative play, and the line between babyish and big kid toys gets very blurry. The only way to know what's important in your child's imaginative life is to watch her play and to talk it through together. You may be surprised at what she's willing to give up and what must stay. As for updates, big girl dolls and doll houses are exciting new additions, and Playmobil offers a truly amazing range of play scenes that will satisfy pretty much any elementary-age kid's imaginative interests.


Giving up books is not easy for us, Savvy bookworms that we are. But sometimes it has to be done. Board books make an easy target for those attempting to clear a few shelves. Books based on popular preschool characters are also great ones to pass on to friends: bye-bye Elmo, Dora, Barney, and Little Ponies! We'll see you around, just not on our bookshelves. Another way to make space is to ask yourself the somewhat scary question, "Do I want to read this book to my grandchildren?" If the answer is yes, hang on to it for the next 20-30 years. If it's no, and the book isn't your kid's favorite, then think about letting it go. All this will make space for the early reader and chapter books that will soon be taking over our kids' reading lives.

So that's just a start, but a good start, we think. There are also trikes, bikes and scooters to deal with, sports equipment, arts & craft supplies.... We're not even close to done, and won't be for years to come.

From the Parents

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