How To Control the Influx of Free Cheap Toys

There seems to always be an influx of toys coming into our home. Beyond birthdays and holidays, there is an abundance of free random gifts! There are party favor gifts. Free toy items to pick from the basket at the dentist’s office, the shoe store, and summer bookmobile reading program. It seems we can’t go anywhere these days without the opportunity for my kids to come home with some new free cheap toy!

And with this influx, the clutter builds! Mom goes crazy when she steps on the free sparkly ring her daughter picked out at the dentist’s office, but left lying on the floor in the hallway. She bites her tongue as a swear word may or may not escape her mouth. And she vows to throw the cheap ring in the garbage, until her daughter runs out of her room excited that you found her ring. (She had lost it earlier that day!)

That type of scenario may or may not have happened often in my home. HAHA

What is a mom to do! Why are places giving kids FREE cheap toys for no reason at all, ALL THE TIME!

Understand They Are Fickle

For a while, I tried to avoid the influx of new toys. It was hard and sometimes impossible. Other times I was able to avoid it - Thank you to the shoe lady who whispered to me - Oh, did your girls want to pick out a toy from the bin? And I was able to whisper back - Oh, no thank you. And I quickly ushered my girls out the door before they caught on to the secret conversation I had just had.

When I’m not asked in a whisper, it’s a lot harder to say NO. I’ve found that my kids love getting new stuff. They just absolutely adore it. The feeling doesn’t last forever though. My kids might have a favorite toy, but the rest is just stuff they play with. They are fickle little people. So when something new comes along, they move along too.

So with this new knowledge in my back pocket, I devised a plan to keep the toy clutter down!

The One In One Out Rule

Have you heard of this rule? I have heard of it before and tried to implement this rule in our house before as well. It didn’t always stick until now. Here is the step by step on how I use this rule for these free cheap toys (and other toy gifts/purchases as well):

  1. Tell your kids you are starting a one in one out rule for toys. That means when you bring a new toy into your home you get to decide - DO I WANT TO KEEP THIS NEW TOY AND GET RID OF A CURRENT TOY? OR NOT KEEP THE NEW TOY?
  2. Have a donation box at the ready. I have a cardboard box in our pantry (so it is out of sight and reach from my kids).
  3. When your child comes home with something new. They get to decide. They hand you the thing they are choosing not to keep. You put it in the donation box.

Here are two tricks I’ve learned:

  • Kids like rules. And they like reminding you of the rules. My kids have asked/reminded me several times in the car on the way home from some place they got a free toy - WE HAVE TO TRADE ONE OF OUR TOYS WHEN WE GET HOME, RIGHT?

    Answer: YES! ALWAYS SAY YES!

  • In the beginning one of my kids would look at all her toys and say - BUT I LIKE THEM ALL AND MY NEW TOY!

    Mom guilt kicks in. But then I look and see items that she NEVER plays with. So I said - If I were you I would pick THIS. And you know what?! She said - YEA, I PICK THAT TO GIVE AWAY!

    And the next time she had to pick a toy to trade she said - MOM, YOU PICK!
    And the time after that she had no problem making a decision on her own. She just needed a little guidance and a little practice!
    And the time after that, she actually looked at her toys and decided to not keep the free cheap toy, because she liked all her other toys better!


I love this rule! It has helped keep the toy clutter under control. It has also been a learning tool for my kids. They are practicing decluttering, decision making, learning what they value. And this is all happening with giving them the power to decide. I made the rule, but they get to decide what is important to them.

No longer am I tossing the cheap free toys in the garbage behind their backs. It was never a good thing, because later that day they would ask where their ring from the dentist’s office was. (I know it’s in the garbage) I would lie and say - I don’t know. And they would cry because they miss their favorite ring and it has ruined their day because they will never find it. Or I would dig it out of the garbage out of guilt and my child would be mad at me because how dare it throw her rare precious ring in the garbage!

Now they get to decide if the free cheap toys stay or go!

And, hey, if the shoe lady whispers a reminder to you about the free toy bin. Whisper back a no thank you and take the victory!