Managing Kids’ Collections

Kids love to keep stuff. Here's how to keep those stashes in check, how to de-clutter kid's toys and store them in your family's home.

Some kids get a kick out of collecting stuff while growing up – especially the latest popular toy trends, whether that’s stickers, Hatchimals or Fingerlings. This can be a wonderful way for youth to explore and investigate their worlds – not to mention, foster some lifelong hobbies!

But at some point, collections can get out of control – or too expensive to maintain. Remember the Beanie Babies craze of the ’90s? Kids had to have ’em all – and collectors dreamed of one day getting rich off mint-condition plushies. But now, trade notwithstanding, they essentially have zero value – leaving collectors sitting on a pile of beans.

From plushies to pebbles, though, little stashes do show kids’ individuality. So what can parents do to help prevent them from getting out of hand?

Types of collectors

In general, there are two different sorts of collectors: Folks who collect items of future value, and people who collect random things. The latter, if unchecked, can in rare cases pave the path to hoarding, though for most Americans, clutter is probably a more common issue. Kids’ prized stashes frequently include fad toys, found objects (think rocks or buttons) and objects that capture memories – like pressed pennies or postcards from family travels.

Tara Lindsay, a full-time nanny in Oakland County, believes parents should set limits to what the children collect.

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“I think sometimes parents let it get out of control because they get excited, too,” says Lindsay. “Some might recognize their child’s passion for something and have a hard time saying ‘no’ because they felt the same passion for something as a child that they weren’t able to pursue.”

“They want their child to be able to have that joy of being able to pursue a passion.”

Striking a balance

It’s important to honor what’s important to a child, but sometimes, it can get pricey. Parents can also teach kids responsibility while collecting by having a child save up for the item they want. That way, it won’t hit parents’ pockets as heavily.

Mom and dad also could have the child earn what they want to collect when the child does a good deed – or goes above and beyond her usual gamut of chores.

Learning to say “no” is very essential, too. Supporting the child doesn’t have to mean going over your budget of what you want to spend.

“Some parents need to just understand to set limits or just say ‘no,'” Lindsay notes.

Storing collections

Lindsay says she’s cared for a child who held onto many things – and became a statistic of hoarding instead of collecting.

“There’s only so much space in a house, and this child didn’t want to let go any of her old toys and art work,” says Lindsay.

Looking for ways to display your kids’ stash of artwork? Check out our seven savvy ideas.

When children collect, things need to be stored properly. When a collection gets overwhelming and difficult to keep neat, putting it in a box, such as a clear plastic bin with a snap top, is a great idea for the child. Even decorating a shoebox – as Lindsay once helped a child do – is a clever (and crafty) way to store items and keep them out the way.

“When the box was full, she could choose to take things out to make room for something new things – or not,” she says. “But she only had that one box to put her things in making sure the collection didn’t become excessive.”

Filing cabinets with drawers can be a savvy way to stash paper collections. Show off prized action figures or dolls on a special shelf. Got smaller stuff? Empty glass jars are a nice way to put items on display. Or try compartmentalized bead containers; these clear plastic cases let kids peek in and instantly see what’s in their collection.

Lindsay says although it’s important to encourage and respect kids’ interest, remember the two key lessons: teaching them how to storing the excess – and how to save money for their own collections!

This post was originally published in 2010 and is updated regularly.