How to Live With Kids: Toys & Entertainment

Living with kids is sometimes hard. I mean, living with kids is a hilarious, magical, rewarding experience full of funfun happiness and Raffi and sunshine, but also it’s exhausting and hard. And weird.

Living with kids is weird.

If most of your friends don’t have kids — which means housecleaning takes them under an hour and nobody wakes them before 6am on Saturdays, which is fine you’re not jealous — then you’re acquainted with the underlying weirdness of living with these minors who oftentimes can’t even make their own grilled cheeses. For example, I have two kids and most of my friends don’t have kids.

Sometimes really late at night or early in the morning, when your subconscious is creeping into the periphery, you find yourself thinking, “Who the hell are these people I’m living with? They could be anyone. They’ll be old one day, with pants they paid for themselves. Jesus what is happening. How did I get here.” And you’ll think those things because honestly, living with kids is weird.

There are workarounds to these potential frustrations and jarring moments of clarity. We’ll go over a few of them and hopefully you’ll share some of your own and everyone will feel much better about the smears all over the glass doors.

Toys & Entertainment

Kids like to be entertained, obviously. They apparently also really like plastic things — with or without hinging mechanisms or wheels– and a wide variety of paper products and broken items. If you liked plastic things and paper products and broken items, that’d be ok because it’s your house and you’re cool with you. But what is this, really. What are these loose Legos in the dining room floor and 70lbs of video games and more Thomas the Tank Engine paraphernalia than you and thirty other people could shake a stick at?


It’s life! Glorious plastic consumerist parental life in America womp womp!

But actually, I really like Legos and video games, and I like that they’re here whenever someone decides to utilize them. I just don’t want to have to look at them in the meantime. That’s reasonable, I think, but also surprisingly difficult to maintain! It doesn’t help that other adults think the only way to properly observe a national holiday is to send more plastic things to my house.

So here’s how you live with toys without going insane: 7-Day Toy CureApartment Therapy’s cures are life-changing and this one is no exception.

Don’t Underestimate:


Controlled Substances

it's made of play-doh. get it?

You’re going to need to make something off-limits — Play-Doh, for example. Even if you’re the most lax parent ever and you really don’t care if there’s Play-Doh in the carpet, you have to act like you do. Make Play-Doh (or anything, really) something that’s only permissible on ‘special occasions.’ This tricks your kids into believing that Play-Doh is special, which means they’ll do anything to play with it, including cleaning their rooms, taking out all the garbage, wiping down the baseboards, detailing the car, alphabetizing the coupons, etc.




If you have some storage space, periodically go into your child’s room and gather up entire sets of things — army men, some books, whatever. Bag it up and hide it in storage. Ideally you’re going to want to steal the things that aren’t ranked in your kid’s top 10.

Then, in a few months, when they’ve forgotten all about Lincoln Logs or how to play There’s a Moose in the House, BAM! You bring the bag out of hiding and present it, much like Santa Claus himself, to a suddenly nostalgic, super grateful child. Obviously you’ll need to steal something else now to restore the balance of the universe.


Safe Spaces

In a perfect world, toys would exist only in the bedroom of the kid who owns them. But this isn’t a perfect world, is it? You’ll have to sign a treaty regarding the family room, and those terms are up to you, but under no circumstances should there be a plastic cheeseburger in your bedroom. Or the bathroom, or the kitchen. Those territories are safe spaces where adults can roam freely without fear of stepping on puzzle pieces or action figures or those tiny brushes that come with My Little Ponies.

Things That Entertain Kids And Aren’t Toys

Board games

You may argue that board games are toys, but you’re thinking of Operation or Mousetrap. I’m talking about Scrabble or Scattegories or other things that involve the grey matter stuck inside your skull.

Magazine subscriptions

These will come directly to your house and magically turn the day into The Day My Magazine Came, which we all know is the best day.

Dry-erase boards

Hours. Of. Entertainment. Things that aren’t dry-erase boards: refrigerators, surprisingly.

Closets / forts / tents / large boxes

Kids like to hide in dark places, like bats. If you really want to be a hero, give them some flashlights and a bag of snacks. You probably won’t hear from them for a couple of hours.

Do you have tips for living with toys without losing your mind or going on a donation rampage (personal favorite!)? You should definitely share those in the comments!

Next week we’ll discuss how kids need food and what you can do about it.

Laneia is the Executive Editor and founding member of Autostraddle, and you're the reason she's here.

Laneia has written 929 articles for us.


  1. Neighbors/friends with kids! Send your kid to a neighbor/friend’s home (preferably one with a kid of their own who won’t try to kill your offspring) BAM. You get to pretend that you’re 22 and childless again (like me!) Just make sure the child-watcher isn’t a lester (molester that is) and occasionally feeds them. Offer to do the same for said non-lester next time.

  2. My girlfriend has two boys (6 and 9) and the older one is pretty much addicted to video games. I recently “forced” him to play outside with his brother, and they sat on the back porch… and sat… and whined/complained/claimed they were dying of heatstroke.

    We did the whole Stealing Toys thing, but actually donated several boxes of them to kids in need. That was almost a year ago, and neither of the boys have gone looking for any of those toys. Win!

    Kids are weird. So weird. But also kind of fascinating. Very much anticipating the “How I get my Kids to do Everything” post.

  3. The most important rule to instate from day 1 is if a new toy comes out, then one has to go away. Eg, Lego comes out, cars go into the cars box. It saves time and hassle.

    Also, insist on a walkway, nothing hurts more than lego in your arches in the dark.

  4. “These will come directly to your house and magically turn the day into The Day My Magazine Came, which we all know is the best day.”

    This is so true! I lived for the day when American Girl, Muse and/or New Moon would come in the mailbox.

  5. One time my five year old cousin locked his eight year old sister in the downstairs closet and forgot about her.
    We found her about fifteen minutes later when we asked him where she was and he just grinned. And then we heard her crying.
    His reasoning: “But it’s nice and dark in there. I liked it.”

    Bats, indeed.

    Great post Laneia!

  6. i don’t have kids but our little cousins come over a lot, they practically live here. so about every time they came over we would organize outdoor games to play. mostly we had kickball, soccer, and baseball matches or sometimes go swimming in the summer. then if they spend the night (which they always did) we would have a scary movie night, which im hoping didn’t scar them for life (im pretty sure they liked it since they would always ask if we would have one).

    when we were younger we also played house, but it was more like community. like my brother would always be the mayor of the town and would assign jobs for us and everyone had to figure out how to make the most money out of their job/s and how to buy properties as investments (forts,closets, desks, etc.) we would stop playing after a while because i would cut some sort of deal with all the businesses and try to overthrow the mayor lol.

    yeah we only did playdoh on special occasions in the classroom because it would get EVERYWHERE. also we did sidewalk chalk a lot, sword fights with paper towel rolls and pillows… was epic damn…i miss childhood

        • BUBBLES. I’ve worked with kids for about 5 years now and bubbles are always a huge hit/ bargaining tool.

          For older kids (6 and up) refrigerator boxes are the best time-killers. We’ve had kids decorate boxes like a castle, and then they play in it all day.

          Also, not really a toy, but hills are pretty much the best if you have access to a really big one. When it’s nice out let them run/ roll up and down the hill. They always get worn out and have a great time. Fun fact: calling anything a “Challenge”, “Mission”, or “Quest” will get kids excited about almost anything.

          • bahahaha we always do this with them! we set up a backyard puzzle challenge where we put each other in teams and someone set up the whole thing. the whole thing being we had coded notecards that were hidden in different places and each one gives you a clue to where the next one is. first one there gets bragging rights. it’s fun! also scavenger hunts, about the same thing.

            i used to work in kindergarten and we had friday fundays like once or twice a month where we allowed playdoh and finger paint projects inside, bubbles and chalk outside as stations. yeah my 11 year old cousin still loves making things out of boxes. last time she made Goddard (jimmy nuetron’s dog) and she did a great job, but her real dog totally tore it up ):

            another thing that i noticed they like a lot is making their own videos. like if you have an old phone with a camera and don’t mind if they play with it, you can let them make their own movies. said 11 year old cousin does this every other time she comes over and she’s actually getting pretty good at making several and cropping them all together (i think this inspired her to want to become a director and an actress, maybe i’ll get a shout out in an award speach). pretty much anything that lets them create and problem solve is always fun for them.

  7. Oh, man. I am torn between fist-pumping and crying over the fact that my thirteen-year-old is beyond the toy age. Because, you know, FEELINGS.

    She has kept her fancy Pottery Barn Kids toy cash register, though, and I’ve been known to burst into tears when I hear her pull it out and mash the buttons. My baby! We pretend not to notice!

    Now she wears a bigger bra than I do, reads Rookie and Shameless, and makes me download Cobra Starship music on iTunes!

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