Minimal Toys: How Many Toys do My Children Need?

These are the only plastic toys we have, other than LEGOs. Titus has the moose & turtles and Naomi has the horses.

Many people want to know about minimal toys. Whether they are minimalists or not, people want to know what their children should own. That is going to look different for each family. But I ask:

Wooden blocks with dollhouse people

Do they need 50 different colorful, plastic, electronic, flashy, Disney, toys? A matching bedroom set? Decor that needs to be updated every couple years?
I’m here to tell you no. They don’t. They can be content with very little in fact.
Remember reading the Laura Ingalls Wilder books? Laura and Mary each had a doll. That was their only toy. In the summer they played house under trees and watched animals on the prairie. In the winter they played “find the thimble” and sewed a quilt.
Were they poor?
I don’t think so. I think they were an average American family at that point.

Desk/child sized table

That makes me think of my own life, my own children. Aren’t they capable of being content with less?
We have a smaller house. The 7 of us live in 1100 square feet, 3 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, with a small garage and an unfinished basement. This is by choice.We do not wish to have a huge house. The only convenience I ever find myself wishing for… is another bathroom.
But, many large families have lived with only one bathroom and survived… or so I tell myself…

Dolls/stuffed animals

Since our house is small, we really can’t have an excess amount of toys. Where would we put them?? They would take over the entire house! Oh the chaos!
I would go insane.
Thinking back to Laura Ingalls Wilder… My kids do have an abundance. Perhaps not compared to other children in America, but really, is it healthy to compare?
I know families with quite a lot more toys, which works for them. Some people rotate, some people have play rooms, dedicated to toys.

Large Lego Blocks

And my children have a great time when they play at their house. 
And yes, sometimes come home wanting Barbie and Transformers. But I just tell them, we don’t have toys like that in our family, and that’s okay, we enjoy our friend’s toys. They are satisfied with that.
I am not a fan of plastic. So we avoid plastic toys, though not religiously: we do have Legos and some high quality animals from the farm & ranch store.
We have found, pleasantly, that the kids are more content with less toys. There aren’t so many that it overwhelms them. And in the case of the cooking supplies- once all the fake food and unnecessary utensils were removed, their imaginations took over and they played with it all day.

Kitchen and minimal cooking toys

All our toys are pictured in this post, except for craft/drawing supplies and the older boys’ toys:

  • Stack of Kids Books
  • Wooden blocks with dollhouse people
  • Coloring, paints, homemade playdough
  • Dolls/stuffed animals

    A Cajon Box Drum

  • Desk/child sized table
    Naomi will sit for hours coloring in her room.
  • Horses, moose, turtles (Other than LEGOs, these are the only plastic toys we have.)
  • Large Lego Blocks
    These we store in the basement and bring out when friends are visiting.
  • Kitchen and minimal cooking toys
    Plates, bowls, cups, silverware, 1 pot, 1 wooden spoon.
    This is stored in the basement and played with if I am working there. My sewing machine is set up in the basement and if I go downstairs to use it the kids always want to go with. This is wonderful for keeping them busy while I work.
  • A Cajon Box DrumMade by a friend. The kids put on concerts- one sings and dances, the other drums.The older boys have a large bin of regular LEGOs and a large bin of Hero Factory (Lego). Both stored in the basement until they feel the urge to build.

What does your child’s toy collection look like? Do you limit it?
Related posts:
Limiting Toys Gives Children More Ways To Play
What Toys Should My Baby and Toddler Have?
How To Get The Kids On Board With Decluttering the Toys

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. Jennilyn on 10/26/2012 at 3:50 pm

    I have been storing 4 bags of toys/books/puzzles in the garage. One to rotate for each season of the year. It’s like Christmas again four times a year, only with their own old toys instead of new stuff. Now to keep my family from bring new stuff each time they come over… It takes a lot of time to go through and sort what to keep and what to get rid of. Working on it though.

  2. Anonymous on 06/15/2013 at 9:52 pm

    We also a family of 7 living in a small home with 3 bedrooms and 1 bath but no basement. Our biggest problem right now is that we have our two oldest boys 15 and 13 sharing the smallest room and our other boys(11and 7) sharing with their sister who is 5. I really think it is time for her to have her own room because she is getting older but I am afraid the boys with have a hard time being all in the same room. Who shares rooms in your house and how does it work out?

    • Rachel on 06/16/2013 at 1:32 am

      The 4 boys share a room- it’s a larger bedroom (14×14), we have a 3-tiered bunk bed and then the 4 year old has a “cave” made from pallets, big enough for his bed and tiny chest of drawers. Our daughter has her own room, but it is pretty tiny.

  3. Anonymous on 01/13/2014 at 8:38 pm

    This is way later, in case you see this, you might consider keeping the 5 year and 7 year olds in the smallest room and let the 3 oldest share a room when the 11 year old starts growing up and needing big guy privacy from little sis. By the time she needs her own room, oldest will be a man and might be off at college, making room for the youngest boy to join the boys’ room.

  4. Suzanne on 11/03/2014 at 12:14 am

    We have a big house with 4 bedrooms, but our 5 kids ages 13-3 all share ones large room. They have the master, we took a smaller room. They and we like it that way, and they miss each other without it. They only sleep in there, so we don’t have a boy/ girl issue. Our children are modest, and appropriate with each other, so we don’t have any issues there. They get dressed in the walk in closet/clothing room that is attached. It’s like a slumber party every night.

    • Suzanne on 11/03/2014 at 12:19 am

      Hmm… I actually have 6 kids in that room. I forgot one! Lol!

      • Rachel on 11/03/2014 at 12:56 am

        LOL! I love it. That’s what happens when we have a lot of kids. 🙂
        That idea is great, sounds like it would work really well!

  5. Milla, Live Oxfordshire on 08/11/2015 at 1:45 pm

    A friend directed me to your post and I’m interested as I am trying to move more towards minimal toys, but I have a couple of questions which I’d appreciate your thoughts on, if you get the chance?
    – Where do you stand on dressing up clothes? This was probably my number 1 favourite game to play as a little girl, so I do hoard interesting clothing for my children to play with, but it’s getting a little mad up there
    – Even more key – how do you deal with gifts? I specify no gifts when we throw a birthday party: they come anyway. I get family asking what they want, I suggest things and they either disregard it entirely or buy it *and* some hideous electronic plastic tat. I don’t want to upset my child by getting rid of it (not immediately anyway) nor do I wish to offend someone who has put time, thought, money and effort into a gift for my child. What can I do that doesn’t make me seem rude, ungrateful and ungracious?

  6. Laura on 05/31/2017 at 10:03 pm

    That’s funny you should mention Laura Ingalls bc I was just referencing her life the other day. It was more in relation to how we eat but same idea, that they had what we perceive as a much more simple life, yet I’d much rather my kids grew up with less and develop their character than be buried by possessions and lose sight of what’s important.

  7. Mollie on 08/21/2018 at 2:07 am

    Coming in a few years late to this post haha! I’m in the process of getting rid of some of my 2.5 yr olds toys and have already noticed him using his imagination more and being more engaged in his play. I can’t wait to finish de-cluttering and give him a nice space to play in. My only issue is my husband loves to buy him new toys when I’m at work. He thinks it’s fun to go to the store and pick something out to play together….he’s gotten a few good ones and a few not so good ones and I’m having a really hard time explaining to him that our son doesn’t NEED new stuff and will actually thrive with less 😕 anybody have any suggestions??

    • Rachel Jones on 08/21/2018 at 5:43 pm

      Think of it as starting a conversation, instead of convincing him or getting him to stop. Change takes time, and you’ll both have to be creative in other ways they can spend time together.
      Here’s a place to start- share an article with him:
      Then ask if he would be open to experimenting. Figure out for how long and put all the toys except a few favorites, then observe your child and how they play/how long they play. Ask your husband to figure out other activities that don’t involve buying- maybe cooking together, building a blanket fort, going to the park or zoo, etc. Have a time limit so your husband doesn’t feel like you’re doing anything permanent, then talk about what the experiences were like, how your son did with the change, etc.

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