5 Ways to Inspire Kids to Play With the Toys They Have

5 Ways to Inspire Kids to Play With the Toys They Have
Are you finding that your children have plenty of toys, but don’t actually do anything with them?
Before I took on my minimalist mindset, we had a big toy box. The kids would dump it out in the morning, scatter the toys all over the entire house and then step on them throughout the day. They never actually played with any of them.
Randomly scattered untouched toys can be the most annoying part of being a parent. Which is most likely the reason my post on non-toy gifts for children got over 200,000 shares. Parents everywhere are tired of hearing “I want”, done with tripping over, picking up and throwing away plastic junky toys and longing for ways to help children be content and play happily with items that are already in the home.
So, together, let’s encourage contentment in our children, share experiences instead of stuff and get back to fostering imaginations and creativity. Here are five ways to get started:

How to Inspire Kids to Play with Toys they Already Own:


  1. Limit the Toys. The easiest way to get kids to play is to remove everything they don’t play with. Some people rotate toys every 3 months, others, (like me) just get rid of the majority of the toys. Keep the toys that use imagination- blocks, craft supplies, one coloring book and crayons.  Have you ever noticed that it’s easier to decide on something when the choices are limited? If we only have a small capsule wardrobe, picking out our clothes for the day is simple. If we want to paint our house tan and only have 4 tan swatches to pick from, it’s so much easier than picking from 50 swatches. Kids are the same way- remove the excess and they’re imagination will fill in where it needs.
  2. Turn off the Entertainment. That’s right, if you want kids to play you have to have a screen time detox (TV, Kindle, phones, Video games). Prepare yourself before you start- when entertainment is removed, kids will whine, complain and be bored out-of-their-mind. Which in turn, drives parents crazy. If I catch us having too much screen time (which often happens after we’ve been sick and TV was the way I took their minds off their illness), it takes my kids 2 full days to remember how to play. But then, it’s all good and they play so nicely!
  3. Make Them go Outside. Give them an hour outside. Don’t tell them what to do, don’t give suggestions (they’ll just shoot them down anyway), just say “You can come back in at __ o’clock”. Sitting outside with nothing to do means they have to come up with something on their own. Resist the urge to give suggestions when you see them sitting on the steps looking bored. It won’t take long before they start thinking and find something to occupy themselves.
  4. Give Them a Quiet Time. Similar to playing outside, but when I send my children outside, they go out there together and often play together. With a quiet time, they go into separate rooms, so they are only focused on themselves and their immediate surroundings. Having time to oneself revitalizes our creativity. Early afternoons are a great time for this. We transition our children from naps to quiet times. This helps them calm down and rest, which means happier children and reduced chaos for mama! Having a
  5. Visit with Friends. Getting in a rut happens in every area of life, if we realize we’re only eating spaghetti and tacos for dinner and then visit a friend who’s making stir-fry, it inspires us to branch out. When friends come to our house, they’re excited to play with our building blocks and come up with new games. When we go to friend’s houses, my kids will be excited to play legos with them and suddenly legos are fun and exciting again. It helps our contentment when we see things through the eyes of others.


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About Rachel Jones

Hi there! I’m Rachel Jones, and I founded Nourishing Minimalism in 2012 at the beginning of my minimalist journey. If you're looking for encouragement in your journey, I go live in my FREE Facebook Groups every weekday- feel free to join me there: Nourishing Minimalism Facebook Group


  1. Stephanie @ Life, Unexpectedly on September 4, 2014 at 5:12 pm

    We sorted all the toys in individual boxes and removed them from the bedrooms. The girls can come and get boxes as they want to but must return the box before getting another one. This reduces the mess and makes them more focussed on the toy on hand I believe. Thank you very much for sharing your tips!!

  2. Lauren Smith on November 2, 2015 at 3:10 am

    Here’s a question:
    My kids do fine when I limit their toys. They find ways to play. The down side is they play with all of my household items instead. The dig out dishes (which I then have to re-wash), dig out clothes (which makes more laundry), or other random things that aren’t “toys” and then they sometimes get broken. Or they start taking things apart (taking the toilet lid off and playing in the tank and figuring out how to the toilet works.
    Sometimes, I can’t decide if I’d rather trip over the toys (which they do enjoy playing with) or have the extra household chores to deal with. Do others who have taken the toys away have this problem?

    • Rachel on November 4, 2015 at 11:39 am

      I’m sure you are not the only one with this issue. At this point, with one 2 year old, he’s the only one that does that. And, thankfully, he’s not a climber, so it’s pretty limited what he gets into. Can you rotate the toys, so there are always some out, just a manageable amount?

  3. Sylvie on December 19, 2016 at 9:44 am

    Reducing TV hours has another benefit: that of not subjecting children to endless targeted advertising designed to make them feel unhappy with what they have.

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