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When It's Time to Toss Old Toys

Nathan Searle, 4, of Kaysville, UT, has a hard time when his mom wants to throw something away, whether it's the plastic car that topped his birthday cake last year or a grungy old twist tie.

In a kid's relatively small world, everyday objects are familiar friends. As your child starts to grasp the idea of loss, she can take it hard when a toy becomes trash. Plus, she won't always get the difference between the value of things and of people: "She might think, 'If you can throw this away, you can throw me away, too,'" says James Graham, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at the College of New Jersey in Ewing. To loosen her grip:

Explain that there needs to be room for new toys (or cereal boxes, or whatever). It'll appeal to her growing sense of logic. If something's dangerous or dirty, point that out, too.

Remind her she's here to stay. If she seems upset, add, "I would never give you away."

Get her involved. Start a scrapbook for her favorite artwork (the rest won't seem as special and you'll be able to throw it out). For old toys or gear, ask her to draw a picture for the younger kid they'll go to, even if you're donating to charity.

Be sneaky. Stray blocks, holey socks? It's okay to "mail them to Grandma" or toss them after bedtime.