Christmas is a time for family, worship and spreading cheer.

For parents of young children, Christmas also means your house is about to be hit with an avalanche of new toys and gadgets—more than you have room for, and more than the kids will play with. We live in strange, overindulged, and materialistic times.

A recent SpareFoot survey of more than 1,000 parents found that almost 50 percent spend at least an hour each week picking up and putting away their kids’ toys, and 7.5 percent said they spend 5 or more hours a week cleaning up toys!

And what’s more is that greater than 67 percent of parents said their children’s’ toys take up too much space in their home.

Some try to stave the flow by asking close family members to give “experience” gifts instead. But that doesn’t necessarily keep relatives from indulging our kids by buying them toys, as well. At least our kids are fortunate to have such loving and generous people in their lives.

Still, we don’t have to sit back and wait to be bowled over by the Christmas haul. Go through your children’s toys ahead of time to make room for what’s coming.

Deciding What Goes

Start with all the bits and pieces left over from toys that aren’t played with anymore, the broken crayons, used coloring books, puzzles with pieces missing, and the plastic junk they begged you to buy from the check-out line. Keep toys your kids actually interact with on a regular basis.

It’s easy to fill bags or boxes with toys that your child has outgrown and no longer uses. These toys, especially the bigger ones, sometimes “grow into place” – we get used to seeing them sitting on that shelf or in that corner. Look around with a fresh eye. What’s been there forever but would not be missed?

For children that have a hard time letting things go, consider putting away some toys they don’t play with. If your child asks for it, bring it back. If not, donate it after six months.

What to Do With Purged Toys

Are there younger children in your extended family that might play with the blocks, that dollhouse, those dinosaurs? Don’t just pass your whole “too many toys” problem on to another family, though. Be selective.

Consider asking your nearby preschool or children’s hospital if they could use some toys that are still in good shape.

Donate the rest to a secondhand shop. You can take a tax deduction and know that other kids will probably enjoy the toys, too.

Try not to fall into the trap of storing unused toys for sentimental reasons, or if you must, keep it to a single item. Often such toys deteriorate over time, and in retrospect, you might wish you’d passed that great toy along to someone who would enjoy it.

Should You Let Your Children Help?

There’s no one definitive answer here—you’ll need to consider your children and how they will react. Some kids resist getting rid of things (they often grow out of that, by the way). In that case let them know you’re just putting some toys away for a while.

Other children rise to the occasion and will happily help you sort through their toys. Have a box for toys you’re keeping, one for stuff you will throw away, and a box you explain is for donating to children who don’t have many toys.

And remember that children often do better with fewer playthings. With a sparser bedroom, they can see what’s there and focus on those toys more intently. A child with a hundred pieces of pretend food and dishes is less likely to play with all that, whereas a small set of eight or 10 items in a kitchen set lets them pick each piece up and use their creativity and imagination.

Leslie Lang