Where Are All Of the T-O-Y-S!?

There is one question–maybe even a concern–that we have been getting a lot of lately: Where are all of Greta’s toys?! Sometimes it is out of genuine curiosity and sometimes it is a little condescending, but either way it shows up in some form (my inbox, facebook, a comment, instgram, etc.) at least once a week.  Yesterday we received the question in comment form and I figured it was time to address is once and for all.  Here’s an excerpt from the comment posted on yesterday’s post:

…I have noticed though as I look through the pictures that there are no signs of a three year old girl living in your house. You have mentioned blocks, books and a train set, but no kitchen play set, no baby dolls, no baby doll crib, no barbies, no doll house, no playhouse, no swingset in the backyard. This makes me wonder since Greta has no siblings to play with, maybe she is bored. All 3 years olds are high energy, active and easily bored maybe she just needs more to entertain herself with….


Anonymous–and all you other curious minds–yes, it is true, Greta doesn’t have a playhouse, play kitchen, dollhouse, doll crib (she does have dolls–more on that in a moment), swing set, or a ton of barbies.  In fact, she just has one barbie.  It is a boy and she calls him, “Daddy doll.”  She does have quite the collection of other dolls and stuffed animals but she doesn’t love them or play with them frequently, with the exception of her stuffed puppy we got her for Christmas when she turned one. While there are certainly a lot of things our just-turned-three year old doesn’t have, we are aware of her needs, wants and really wants and love to supply her with as many options to learn, entertain herself and increase her creativity without splurging on things we know she won’t care for in a week–like a play kitchen. Here’s what she does do all day:
Although I don’t think a play kitchen is in order with Greta (who knows a future child might seem very interested in the idea–and we’ll happily oblige), Greta really enjoys helping out in the actual kitchen. Around the time she turned two, we started letting Greta help prepare meals. We would let her help us stir, pour, measure, press the button on the blender every morning–anything that she could do (and we felt comfortable letting her)–she did.  For Christmas, my sister and her wife upgraded Greta’s little chef’s hat, to an entire ensemble to help develop her passion–and it’s adorable.

The imaginary version of a kitchen just wouldn’t cut it for her. She has friends that have them – she just isn’t interested.  Another activity that Greta spends her days exploring takes place in the studio.  When we designed the studio, we knew it would be a place for both Greta and I–and it really is.  Not only does Greta have her very own chalkboard table in there, but she frequently takes over my easel to paint.

The studio is the only room upstairs that we do activities or have toys.  Greta has always been a dynamite sleeper and I think it is due to the fact that we reserve our bedrooms for relaxation and sleep. She is definitely a doer, she likes to be involved in activities–even if the activity is folding laundry–but we do keep toys stored all over the first floor for her.  Two out of three sections of the fauxdenza are dedicated to Greta.
Her new keyboard she got for her birthday (huge hit!), a bucket of playdoh, books and coloring books, stacking cups, a big pink car, her stacking penguin and hammer toy all sit in plain sight on the shelves and we used baskets to corral smaller, like items.  Baskets are a life-saver when it comes to storing toys!  Here’s a peek at what is in those baskets:
Her wheely cow–the most popular toy during play dates–also hangs out in the living room next to the couch.
In the family room, we have more toys stored away.  Her train set that we got her from Christmas is tucked in a narrow, large basket with a lid next to the couch and she plays with it almost every day.
Her building blocks are another almost-daily toy and they’re stored in a large basket on the built-ins.
On the bottom shelf in the smaller section of the built-ins, we keep a rotating collection of twenty or so books that we might be asked to read to her, or frequently she will “read” to herself or her audience of stuffed animals that also found a home in a basket in this little nook.
The family room is also the place to be on weekends, when we bust out Greta’s ladybug tent.  Maybe it isn’t as trendy as those cool teepees flying around the internet, but it makes Saturdays feel really special when we all squeeze in and pretend like we’re pirates…or whatever Greta has planned.  Plus, it folds down into a tiny round case that gets shoved into the coat closet until the special day–or whenever we need a break during the week.  Keeping something not readily accessible automatically makes it special and more fun.
When it gets warmer, Greta cruises around on her scooter or big wheel around our cul-de-sac, or we walk around the corner to the playground at the school, but we are really itching to get a playset in the backyard.  In fact, that is on the agenda for this spring/summer (SO excited to work more in the yard this year and bring you all with us!).
So, even though Greta doesn’t have every toy that maybe most typical toddlers have (??), rest assured her happiness and growth is definitely our priority. Every child is different, and Greta has never been content with being entertained by toys or things kids are supposed to enjoy. She is wild and active and curious and just wants to be with us, doing whatever we’re doing. And we are doing our best to provide her with an environment where she can be herself.
Ps.  Today is the last day to enter to win an eco-friendly throw from Happy Habitat.  Enter here.


  • Reply February 20, 2013


    It’s so nice to see a house that ISN’T overrun by toys. Where children clean up after themselves! I myself am childless, but am always amazed at when I visit those with little ones those children have a million toys strewn about! I just don’t understand why they need so many things. What happened to kids being creative, AND picking up after themselves. You seem to have this figured out very well, and it’s nice to see a mom who is teaching her little one manners and life skills.

  • Reply February 20, 2013


    And just a post script: If I were taking pictures of my house for a blog and I DID have toys all over the place, I’d certainly move them out of the shot for the photo. Not everything needs to be on display for the entire world!

  • Reply February 20, 2013


    You have done yourself a favor by not giving Greta an excessive amount of toys. I have four daughters, and I feel like I am drowning in toys much of the time. It sucks up a lot of our time and money with all the storing, organizing and picking up. While my husband and I buy them minimal toys and only for birthdays/Christmas, their grandparents buy them tons of toys (despite our protests). We are moving soon, and I am using that as an opportunity to get rid of a lot of toys.

  • Reply February 20, 2013


    It looks like she has plenty of toys and I don’t understand why having a kid means you have to have toys everywhere! To me, it seems like a hazard to have toys scattered all over the house.

    I love your blog and your organization tips from this post. Don’t let the negative people get you down – there will always be people who feel like they have to judge and rain on your parade.

  • Reply February 20, 2013


    Hi! This is my first time commenting- on any blog actually. I just feel that strongly about this post :) LOVE IT! I love seeing how other people tackle toy storage, which I think a lot of families always struggle with. Also, I applaud you for having less, but more quality toys. This actually ENSURES little ones don’t get bored. It seems counter-intuitive, but less toys= equal more play. Kids will actually play and love each toy, instead of being overwhelmed by all the choices. And it encourages kids creativity and imagination, which I think is SO important, and many kids nowaday lack that. Love your blog, keep doing what is right for YOUR family :)

  • Reply February 22, 2013


    Too bad you had to demonstrate your child’s playthings. Kudos to you for letting her work in the _real_ kitchen preparing _real_ food. Even small children can help there, and they feel included if they are really involved in making the household work. Children want to imitate adults in everything: cooking, cleaning, tidying. Better to use the real things than pale imitations.

  • Reply February 24, 2013


    I just stumbled upon your lovely blog and had to add a comment… As the mother of a 7-year-old, I have frequently felt disgusted by all of the junky plastic toys that we have accumulated over the years. I now realize that what seemed to be a crucial purchase at the time was actually completely unnecessary since she only regularly played with a few favorites. Another point: A house being overrun with toys is a fairly modern phenomenon. Children used to receive one treasured toy for Christmas, or save up for a special handmade item rather than a ton of cheap plastic from Walmart. Kudos to you for keeping things simple.

  • Reply February 27, 2013


    I have a one year old who I thought had to many toys ( a ride toy, a push toy and two baskets of toys (one in the living room one in the bedroom,along with many books). My husband and think this is plenty! It hasn’t been until more recently when I’ve gone to a few other peoples houses with kids that I realized just how many toys most kids have. It’s insane. They probably think our son is neglected.

  • Reply March 1, 2013


    I have to admire you for your very organized house, but also your very diplomatic response to what I would feel to be a very offensive post. I would never dream of questioning someone elses choices regarding their child. I think it reflects on the person making the comment. It seems the more toys a child has, the less time the parent will interact with them. Obviously, you have a wonderful daughter who is being well raised.

  • Reply September 22, 2013


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  • […] And from there, we tackled our tool junk drawer (it’s normal to have one of those, right?) and most recently the credenza, err fauxdenza (see how we made ours here), which holds most of the girls’ toys. We first introduced our toy storage system back in this pretty controversial post. […]

  • Reply February 3, 2015

    Claire Cilip

    Just read this post (not sure how I missed it??) but I completely agree with your parenting philosophy! We ALSO get this question a lot, even by grandparents, as if we are doing our son a dis-service. Yes, it’s true that we like to keep our house free of neon plastic toys of the week, which helps serve our aesthetic but it is also because our son also likes to just be with us, doing real life things. He wants real keys, not fake ones, real phones, not fake ones, REAL kitchen utensils, not fake ones. He can spot the difference as well. I also think that spending time coloring, doing art projects, or playing outside are just as valuable if not more so that having a ton of toys around. I don’t want him to have a million toys, I want him to grow up not spoiled and understanding that a gift is a special thing.

  • Reply February 4, 2015

    Alison G

    Wow, I had not seen this post until you linked to it in today’s post. This is very well written. I did not have very many toys at all growing up. We played outside most of the time, it takes very little to occupy and entertain a child. Greta has way more than I ever did. And cuddo’s to you for being so candid and polite at the same time.

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