Want to cut down on the chaos and clutter that comes with Christmas? Get your kids to take part in a pre-Christmas toy purge!
But how do you get your kids to clean out their existing stuff before the new stuff comes in? We're not going to go all Marie Kondo on your kids, but we do have five fun ideas on how to get your tiny pack rats on board with an "out with the old, in with the new" philosophy:
1. Leave gifts FOR Santa
I have a friend who has children leave toys FOR Santa on Christmas Eve. She gets her kids excited about the annual tradition by telling them they're helping Santa by giving him toys he can give to other kids. ("Santa" then stores the gently-used toys in the car trunk until the first opportunity to donate them).
Want to get rid of toys before Christmas Eve? You could also leave a bag of toys for your Elf to take back to the North Pole on any night!
2. Reverse the Advent calendar
Rather than a traditional Advent calendar, Mary Monahan, the publisher of Macaroni KID in Lincoln, Neb., works with her kids to find an item to give away every day between Dec. 1 and 24. She calls it a "Reverse Advent Basket" and likes it because it shows her children how important it is to give to others. Along with toys, her kids give new items like gloves and food. Then she and her children take their basket of goodies to a charity on Christmas Eve to donate.
Feeling ambitious? This is a project the whole family can participate in!
3. Pass it on
Laura Miller, the publisher of Macaroni KID in Appleton, Wisc., has her daughter go "shopping" for friends and younger family members in her own room. Her daughter enjoys finding treasures to give as gifts, and Laura gets to clear the clutter before the holidays. They also donate some toys to the school's annual "Kids Only Store," so her daughter's schoolmates can shop for gifts for their loved ones too, while helping to raise money for their school.
4. Organize a toy swap
Organize a toy swap with friends, your playgroup, or even with the PTA at your child's school! Your kids will want to clean out their toys because they know it means they'll get new toys that they can give as gifts to friends, siblings, and other family members.
Set rules: You don't want puzzles without all of the pieces, for instance, or toys that are broken. If it's going to be a larger event, have people bring their toys in advance so you can set them all out so they're easy to see. You can either do a true "swap" (bring a toy, take a toy!) or set "amounts" for the types of toys people bring in (puzzles are worth 3 tickets, stuffed animals are worth 1 ticket, electronics with working batteries are worth 5 tickets, a bicycle is worth 10 tickets, etc.). Then they can use their tickets to "pay" for whatever items they choose to take home.
Have older kids? Help them organize their own toy swaps with their friends!
5. Talk about it!
Jen Hill, the Macaroni KID publisher in Fremont Calif., recently talked with her youngest children, ages 8 and 10, about how many of their toys they actually play with and truly enjoy. The discussion led to her kids looking at their stuff in a new way, she said. Her daughter was quick to understand there wasn't any point in holding onto toys she no longer uses, choosing to keep only her favorite dolls and Barbies, along with some stuffed animals and games. Her son, meanwhile, agreed to put stuffed animals he wasn't sure about getting rid of into a box. Now, nearly six weeks later, he hasn't touched any of them and is ready to give them away.
See? Clearing the clutter doesn't have to be painful! Find a way to engage your kids in the process and pretty soon you'll be able to see the bottom of the toy bin ... just in time for Christmas, when you can start filling it all over again.
Kara Murphy is the publisher of Macaroni Kid Erie, Pa.