Confiscating Nursery Toys

February 17, 2017

I’ve confiscated some toys and books from the church nursery.

Last summer, I got a calling to work in the nursery. We had more books and toys than we could store neatly in the cabinets, so I thinned out our holdings.

[Photo by Nick Amoscato via Creative Commons]

The first books that went were the ones with more than ten words on a page.  Kids 18 months to 3 years old primarily look at the pictures, so I saved the picture books and sparsely narrated board books.  But I took the rest to Goodwill.

I also got rid of any book that had licensed characters.  I don’t feel as though church should encourage kids to ask their parents for licensed clothes, lunch boxes, cups, etc.  I’m not spending my energy teaching them how to be consumers of licensed products.

And I threw away all the toy guns.

I don’t feel it’s inappropriate to give children the opportunity to pretend maim and injure each other, especially at church.  I spend enough time asking them, “Keep your hands to yourself.” It seems to work against the principle of personal space and kindness to give them toy guns.

I also removed a big red hammer and its affiliated plastic workbench with oversized plastic nails. The kids were hammering each other more than they were hammering the plastic nails into the bench.

At this point, I haven’t had the nursery leader of the other ward ask me, “What’s going on?”   I do have a few of the confiscated toys stored in my home. I figure if no one asks me about them in a year, I can safely donate them to Goodwill.

Current and former nursery leaders: What are your criteria for appropriate and inappropriate nursery toys?



  1. anita

    February 17, 2017

    Love it! Our nursery regularly gets cleaned out by the YW as they disinfect the toys and donate things to DI. I’ve never heard what their criteria are, but as a parent I applaud your deeper thinking.

  2. TopHat

    February 17, 2017

    I’d also remove toys that aren’t easily disinfected. I know that means getting rid of a lot of stuffed animals/dolls, but unless people are throwing them in the wash regularly, they aren’t great. A lot of places refuse to accept old stuffed animals as donations and I think the Church nursery should follow suit.

  3. Helen R.

    February 17, 2017

    Toddlers aren’t good at sharing, so when I was asked to shop for toys for the nursery, I bought at least two of each toy. Nursery leaders spend so much of their time stopping fights between toddlers over a single toy. Most children that age are incapable of understanding the concept of “sharing” or “turns”. So, I solved the problem.

    Sadly, when our ward split the nursery in two, instead of buying new toys, the bishop (who I’m sure hasn’t spent 10 seconds in nursery) simply divided up the toys. I was really sad about it. I do appreciate the idea of removing branded toys, guns, and toys with lots of ity-bity parts.

  4. Marivene

    February 17, 2017

    What I find interesting about our church nursery toys is how few of them have anything to do with the gospel. I have been a nursery leader 5 times, & as an older teen, prior to my conversion, served in a nursery position in a Protestant, church, where the nursery occupants ranged in age from newborn to 5-6 years, or when they could “sit quietly in the service”. In that Protestant nursery, there were multiple variations of Noah’s Ark, multiple wooden & plastic nativity sets, & all sorts of Bible story books. Without exception, the only “religious” toys in the LDS nurseries were those I brought with me.

    Unless there is a set budget for nursery toys, we will continue to have whatever people donate. I realize that is supposed to be part of the Primary budget, but it usually gets spent on treats, if it is spent on the nursery at all. That was the case, even over my objections, when I served as a Primary Counselor.

    As far as books, I have a 16 month granddaughter who loves the books, “The little mouse, the red ripe strawberry & the big hungry bear” & “But not the hippopotamus”. I have found great variation in children that are nursery age, regarding the books they like. Those who are read to at home like longer, more involved books than those who are not.

    One of the problems with having people donate toys to the nursery, is it creates hard feelings when a new leader disposes of something that a family donated. If the toys are reviewed & authorized for purchase, not as many feelings are hurt.

    I also do not care for licensed toys, but often the parents who donate them do so to try to get their child to go happily to nursery, & for a child who plays with them all the time, that sometimes works for that family.

  5. Rozy

    February 17, 2017

    Good job on clearing out and trying to make things better. The only time I was ever in nursery was for a few months with a woman who was wealthy enough to take everything out and replace it with all new stuff. She brought in a little tykes kitchen, a wooden train set, and things like that (I can’t remember everything, but it was top of the line and wonderful) Before church she would go into the nursery and set it all up according to what she wanted to emphasize in her little lesson. Parents were assigned treats and told what the lesson was about and given suggestions to coordinate with the lesson. For example: I brought the treats on the day they talked about temples and she suggested I bring “white” foods. So I gathered saltines, banana chunks, apple slices (peeled), marshmallows and string cheese. She reported that the children were amazed at how all the foods were white and reminded them of the temple. Anyway, this sister’s own child was in the nursery and she did it mostly for her own daughter because she wanted her daughter to have an enriching experience.

    I agree that we need more gospel oriented toys, books and puzzles to reinforce the lesson concepts and well as a lot of discipline to help children become accustomed to what happens in church and how to feel and be reverent.

  6. Ender2k

    February 17, 2017

    When my wife and I were called as Nursery leaders, we also thinned the toys. Since each ward has their own cabinet and toys, we didn’t have any issues. We got rid of weapons, anything that was broken or missing pieces, anything that couldn’t easily be disinfected, and plenty of choking hazards. All stuffed animals and dress up clothes went, as well as dolls without clothes. And if they did have clothes, they had to be washable or they went too.

    We also got rid of the old sippy cups (We found out that they weren’t being washed between uses and some had mold growing inside of them!!) and paper plates/giant coffee filters and bought new cups and plates (Re-play divided plates–they’re on Amazon. We have them at home too. They are amazing.) that we could take home each week and put through the dishwasher.

  7. JP

    February 17, 2017

    I was the nursery leader in our ward for the past five years, until a few weeks ago when my husband and I were called as Public Affairs Missionaries.

    I also got rid of books that were not age appropriate or torn, but I must say, we have a good supply of LDS board books too, especially those that deal with Christmas and Easter. We do not have any religious toys, however. If we could find some that were good quality, that might have been a good addition. The most important thing is good quality toys and not just cast- offs. The toys are played with long and hard so quality is important.

    While we used disinfectant on the tables and washed the kid’s hands with baby wipes before snack, toys did not get bleached very often and even though it was not very good environmentally, we used napkins for placemats/dishes. If water was served it was in little paper cups.

    The best thing I ever did was have the nursery closet door re-keyed, so that only myself, my assistant and the Bishop had the key. It was amazing to me how many items disappeared from that closet before that happened!

  8. Ahna

    February 17, 2017

    Nursery is the best kept secret going. Glad you thinned out the toys. Seems like the kids are always happier with fewer toys. But, I am terribly sad about the books. One of our favorite things to do in nursery is reading. Yes, many nursery age tots love story time with books that have more than 10 words per page. I’ve been in nursery for a few years now, and if these kinds of books suddenly disappeared, quite a few kids would be sad, and I would have to gather or buy replacements.

  9. Karen

    February 18, 2017

    Thanks for the comments, all. There are some great ideas above.

    Anita: It’s wonderful to read that youth are helping keep the toys clean and organized.

    Tophat: Oh, I should consider which toys are too difficult to disinfect.

    Helen R: I’m sorry that your system of 2 toys was disrupted. I should consider getting a twin for a couple of the most coveted toys.

    Marivene: Yes, gospel-themed toys would be a great way to introduce the youngest saints to some key Bible stories.

    Rozy: That was kind of the sister in your ward to stock the nursery and to plan ahead enough for snacks to dovetail with the lesson.

    Ender2K: Those moldy sippy cups. Ewww!

    JP: Great idea to have that cabinet rekeyed. And religious board books for the win!

    ANNA: I would LOVE to read to the kids, but we have between 11 and 24 kids in our nursery, and I can’t sit down and have kids lean on me / climb on my lap to read. So the books have to be ones that kids can engage the content without an adult. I have to be mobile to break up wrestling matches over toys. We have about 60 books as it is. We had closer to 100. I’m constantly scanning the room to make sure everyone is playing nicely–except during singing time. Most of the kids focus on that task because singing is fun, and we have a lot of visual aids for that. But I do agree with you that reading to small children is VITAL on several levels.

  10. KR

    February 19, 2017

    When I was a nursery worker about five years ago, we had a nursery leader who could be frustrating. She was incredibly talented and dedicated to her calling, above and beyond the norm. She would take a picture from the Friend and mod podge it to wood and cut it out as a jigsaw puzzle. She created a lot of unique, high quality material with religious themes, like puppet theaters with BoM characters. However, she was really down on letting the kids play with normal toys. We had some sort of connecting blocks (not Lego Duplo, but similar idea), and kids could play with them ONLY to make temples. So when a 3 year old would say, “look at my spaceship,” she would correct the child, “you mean temple, right?” It was awkward for the kids and the workers.

    I think it is great to clean out and organize the toys. Someone needs to pay attention and make things nice for the kids and easier for the workers. As long as kids are allowed to still play like kids (and not religious robots), I say rock on.

  11. Daniel

    February 21, 2017

    Felt play. Nothing but felt play, and even then they still manage to do all sorts of evil things with them.

  12. Andrea

    March 5, 2017

    Haha, spaceship temples! I’m sure the spaceships were on their way to Kolob or something… 🙂

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