The Play/Space Ratio

This year my school district is in session until the 23rd, which means there won’t be much time after we get out to buy Christmas presents. My mom is using this as an excuse to buy ALL THE THINGS now, and it’s kind of driving me crazy. I hate the idea of getting things for my kids just to get them, or just to have something for them to open on the big day. I know my mother loves my children and wants to make them happy, but the reality is they don’t need a whole new set of toys every year.

Walking around a few different stores in the past few days I’ve been struck by how BIG toys are these days. The boxes are huge and the toys inside them can be as tall as the kids playing with them. If they aren’t massive in size they have a million parts. We live in 1200 square feet, and our garage doesn’t have much storage–we have to be conscious of how much space a toy requires, both for play and storage.

Recently I purged a bunch of my son’s toys. One of the things that went was this big fire department toy with a building and pieces to make roads. It was a big toy, and required a bunch of space both to set up and to store. My son definitely played with it on occasion, but in the end I just didn’t feel it had a good enough play/space ratio to keep it; the space required to store it was greater than the play value.

I asked my in-laws if they wanted it back and they said they’d take it. I could tell they didn’t understand why we were giving it away when our son sometimes plays with it. I don’t know why it’s so hard for me to explain, or for them to understand.

I’ve been thinking of that play/space ratio a lot as I consider presents for my kids (for their grandparents to get them–I’m still not buying Christmas presents yet). At this point in my life, a toy has to be very versatile, without needing a lot of space to store it, for it to be considered. I refuse to let our precious space be taken over by a bunch of toys the kids only sometimes play with.

I can tell my attitude is annoying both sets of grandparents, who honestly probably have more toys at either of their houses than we do. They don’t seem to understand why we want to limit what comes into the house. My parents have a much bigger house than we do; maybe they forget how much space all these things require? My in-laws are all about giant plastic containers filled with toys–they are stacked in closets, hidden under beds and lining the walls of the garage. I just can’t manage that amount of stuff.

I understand that gift giving is a way to show love; I just wish both sets of grandparents were more respectful of the play/space ratio and avoided giant toys with little space value. Maybe if I explain it in a memo they can finally get on board…

{Side note: I’m also increasingly annoyed by junky little stocking stuffers that require batteries. When they inevitably break, or just annoy me to the point of no return, I can’t just throw them away. I have a massive box of electronic shit that I’ve been trying to take to the electronics recycle for five months. Does nobody think about how time consuming it is to properly dispose of stuff that needs batteries or plug in?! It’s driving me crazy. I shall have to add that to my holiday gift giving memo. It probably won’t go over well either.}

Do you have an ideal play/space ratio? Are you overwhelmed by how many toys your kids get every year?


  1. Ugh, I cannot STAND big toys. Thankfully, the train set we have for Harvey fits in an under-bed bin so it’s out of sight, out of mind. The kitchen set we got for Stella years ago also stays in a closet under the stairs (the toy closet that they actually spend hours playing in). Our struggle is that 2 other little girs are often at our house (we nanny share) and they are 17 and 21 months, so it’s like a whole other set of toys that they play with which normally I’d have gotten rid of by now. Toys are the bane of my existence, especially big ones that require batteries!

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