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How to Teach Your Child Sustainability Through Toys


How to Teach Your Child Sustainability Through Toys

Debra Jacobs

I’m trying to tread lightly on the earth.

It’s not easy. We live in a throw-away culture that craves excess. Why have one (fill in the blank) when we can have five, or ten? Advertisements for the latest and greatest bauble bombard us moment by moment. When we tire of those baubles or they break, we dump them in landfills.

Intentionally choosing to live with less does not mean deprivation. Instead, it means fostering clarity and focus, deciding to buy only what we really need - or really love - and valuing quality over quantity.


We can start early to instill these values in our children. Take a look at your child’s toy collection. Does it fill a room? Do they pull so many things from the toy chest or shelf that cleaning up seems overwhelming? Are so many choices available to them that they never play with many of the items taking up space in their room?

I recently came across a brilliant way to reduce toy clutter, help children focus and play more creatively, and as a side benefit, set them on a path of sustainability.

Jillian Johnsrud, a writer with six children who blogs and hosts a podcast dedicated to helping people achieve financial independence, came up with the “3 by 3” method. 


She took all of her children’s toys and put them on a storage shelf (I would put this shelf somewhere out of site, like in the basement if you have one). Each child can choose three toys to play with for three days. LEGO’s, blocks, and other toys that include more than one piece count as one toy. 

Jillian makes the children responsible for picking up their toys. With only three toys each, they do not become overwhelmed with the clean-up. If they don’t clean up, the toy goes back on the shelf, as two will be easier to manage.

In her blog, she lists many benefits that this method has had for her family. Her children play longer with each toy, show more creativity, have more space in which to play, and fight less. She never cleans up toys and her house is less cluttered. 

While she doesn’t talk about the longer-term impact of teaching her children to live intentionally for the benefit of the environment, her “3 by 3” method promotes sustainability. Her children learn to live - happily, peacefully, and with greater creativity - with less. You can pair this method with conversations about how having fewer toys helps the earth.

For all the details of how Jillian implemented this method, read her blog post, here:

You’ll be glad you did!