The Day I Took My Son’s Toys Away

It was a typical Sunday afternoon. The sun was shining, the TV was blasting Disney tunes, the house smelled of Pine Sol as I cleaned the house, and my boys were playing contently in their rooms. Or so I thought.


I walked into my 3 year old’s room to instruct him to pick up his toys so I could vacuum his room. Upon entering, I could see his stout little body standing amidst his toys (the millions of toys) doing something inexplicably horrible. I won’t go into detail, but it involved a bodily function. On his toys.  And on the carpet. And wherever else it may have sprayed in his startled state of mind when I shrieked. I asked him why he would do such a thing (keep in mind this 3 year old of mine has been potty trained for well over a year now), and his reasoning was not nearly good enough. His explanation set me off. It sent my emotions into a frenzy, and I did the unthinkable. I did what 98.5% of moms threaten at least twice during their children’s lives…I took all of his toys away. ALL. OF. THEM. Every last, little, tiny Lego and train track piece.

photo 2Two whole black Hefty garbage bags contained all of his toys within 10 minutes of the incident. The black bags quickly made their way out of said 3 year old’s view and a stern momma talk followed. Lecturing toddlers is like nothing else in this world. It is like having a serious conversation with a puppy. In their mind everything is all happy and theirs and Disney Jr and theirs and chicken nuggets and did I mention everything is theirs…. Get my point? He understood why his toys were taken away when I asked. He understood what he did was wrong. I had threatened numerous times to take away his toys before when he mistreated them, was ungrateful, or even when he wouldn’t clean his room when I demanded. But my momma guilt, like always, let him win. Not this time buddy. Oh no, I was DONE! He was going to know who was boss. He was going to know what it was like to go a whole week (which in toddler time is like a year) without any toys. NONE, NADA, ZERO!!! And I was going to sit back and enjoy watching him mope around without anything to play with being bored to tears. Well, he showed me.

Within an hour, I could hear him in his room singing a sweet little song while twirling under his ceiling fan. Later I found him playing with a paper towel roll he got out of the garbage can (albeit nasty). The next morning, I awoke to him using the shoes by the backdoor as boats with rolled socks as its passengers. A few days later I videoed him counting rocks in the driveway. My plan wasn’t going as planned. I just knew that he was going to be grief stricken by not having any of his toys. But what I quickly realized is that toys are meaningless. They are nothing. They are not needed to have a good time or to even PLAY. Why have I spent countless hours searching for the perfect toys for him and his brothers for Christmas and birthdays? Why have I put so much value into these toys that are ubiquitous in my house? It looks like that nasty, horrible, no good incident taught ME a lesson instead of my three year old. Toys are not needed to make a happy child. They are not needed to help encourage their imaginations or even help them learn. Toys are something that make ME as a parent feel complete. When I hand over a brand new toy to my child and I see that instant smile it makes ME happy. Sure, the kid will love that toy for a few days, maybe a few months, but it will get old.  They always do, which in turn leaves them hungry for more and more and more…  And the cycle continues.

photo 3To this day, almost two weeks after the incident, my son has yet to receive his toys back. Not because he is still punished, but simply because he hasn’t asked for them. Okay, wait, he did ask for his LSU helmet last Saturday night, to which I happily obliged, but that is all. He has forgotten the death grip hold his sacred toys once had on him and now he finds happiness in simple, everyday things like bubble wrap that comes with his brother’s monthly shipment of Pediasure. But who can blame him, who doesn’t love bubble wrap?!?!

What lessons have your children taught you?

Katie, a self proclaimed "momma bear", enjoys living her busy, country life with her husband of 10 years and 3 sons just outside of Baton Rouge in Tangipahoa Parish. Katie attended Southeastern Louisiana University where she obtained a degree in Elementary and Special Education. Little did she know how her love of children with special needs would grow shortly after she graduated college. Her middle son, Connor, was born with a rare brain disorder called Schizencephaly-he is wheelchair bound, nonverbal, blind, battles retractable epilepsy, and is fed through a feeding tube. Katie and Connor endure the many trials they are put through with a smile and joy in their heart. Along with being an active member in her church and working for an online public school, Katie regularly advocates for those who experience developmental disabilities at the Louisiana State Capitol. She is the Region 9 leader for Louisiana Citizens for Action Now (LaCAN) and is a member at large for the Governor’s Advisory Council on Disability Affairs. When life's challenges seems too much to bear, Katie remembers this quote to keep forging ahead and being the voice for those who have none, “God often uses our deepest pain as the launching pad of our greatest calling.” -unknown


  1. That’s a great post. I know I spoil my kid more than I should and I am always worried what would happen if I didn’t have the means to. Honestly though, I didn’t have that many toys growing up and I always found a way to play and had (have) a wonderful imagination.

    Thanks for the reminder!

  2. When my daughter was six we had a similar incident. She would not pick up her room. After several “battles” I packed everything up but her clothes and some books. I told her that she had to keep these things picked up neatly or we would sell the toys in a garage sale.
    She was not able to hold up her end of the deal, but I WAS! I made her help me sort and mark the toys for the sale. She did not keep the money (It went in her bank account). She did not miss the toys, she did not cry.
    She is now 14, has far too much in her room, but she knows that when I say I am coming up tomorrow afternoon with a trash bag – I mean business!!!
    As a Special Education teacher, I see the value in doing exactly what you tell children you will do. My students understand that No means No and work means work. There’s plenty of time for play when you get your work done.
    As for toys, this was spot on. Toys do not make fun happen, children make fun happen. When the bells and whistles are gone, little minds bloom! I supply many low-tech toys in my classroom for just this reason.

  3. I did this with a bunch of hot wheels about a month ago. My 3 year old refused to pick them up, so I put them all in a trash can and hid them in the garage. His dad happened to find them and gave them back just last night, and my son acted like he won the lottery… they were all new toys.

    I actually get rid of some toys every 3 months or so. If he doesn’t play with it- it goes into a box and then I donate it to his school. Honestly, he has the most fun with the least expensive stuff- like a box of beans and a few measuring cups… He loves hot wheels, too… but that’s about it!

  4. SAME THING HAPPENED TO US! My kids- 6 & 3- have very few toys in their room. Although, with Christmas just past, they have more then I would like for them to have. I find less toys = less stressed kids and more actual playing!

  5. I love this post. My husband and I keep talking about cleaning out our boys’ play room. We really need to.
    My oldest son (6) lost ALL of his toys back at the end of October or beginning of November. He did something pretty terrible at school and one outcome of his grounding was losing all of his toy (excluding arts and crafts). He hasn’t asked to have them back, but instead focuses on his homework, books, and even asks to do chores.


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