Toys have this incredible ability to somehow multiply before your very eyes, and before you know it, the place is filled to the brim with toys – most of which are rarely touched, and few of which seem to hold a little one’s attention for longer than it takes mum/dad to make a cup of tea! The truth is, the quality of play has little to do with the number of toys around, and a lot more to do with how they are organised, and how play in general is nurtured and encouraged. In fact, some families choose to do away with toys altogether!
Nevertheless, here are 15 of my favourite toy organisation tips…
1. It’s OK to gather up some toys (or have kids gather them if they are a bit older) – stick them in a box/ pillow slip/ bag, and store them away for a few weeks. Less ‘stuff’ around means kids can more easily make play choices and focus in on some quality playtime. I’ve heard of toy rotations working in different ways – daily, weekly, monthly, each season… we tend to be a bit more random about it.
2. It’s fun to pop a book or two amongst toys of the same theme to spark imaginative play and nurture a love of books. Eg. farm books amongst animal figurines, or car/truck books around the cars and trucks etc…
3. I have nothing much against plastic toys … ethically made… low in chemicals… in moderation… BUT – I do have a limited tolerance of the ‘plastic fantastic’, and sometimes find myself scooping it all up out of the way in a box for the day/week, or even just tucked away somewhere boring (the washing machine?!!) or a cupboard. The result? An invitation to a much richer tactile play experience. *Ahhh*
4. Similarly, how about gathering up the battery operated toys and storing them (or the batteries themselves) out of reach/sight- saving them for short burst of time on “a rainy day” (ie. when stuck indoors, unwell, exhausted …)? Although a lot of battery operated toys are good for cause and effect, they usually have a very limited range of what they can do and as predictability sets in, so does a more passive, less imaginative play experience.
6. Recycled materials – un touched – just cleaned; no paint, glitter, feathers, bells or whistles required, make lovely loose parts for play! Our Tea Time Building Blocks are colourful and ready to go, as is the amazing, humble tissue box – (one of the best ready made posting boxes), and the super versatile cardboard tube – vacuum, pirate telescope, drum baton, magic wand, hockey stick …
7. Being an active member of your local toy library (if your community is lucky enough to have them) is a great way to avoid unnecessary storage of toys.
8. And like toy rotations, what about arranging the occasional simple toy swap or play date with friends?
9. Taking unused toys to the charity store or giving them away to other kids is another great toy storage space saver! I have been known more than once, (read: often), to ask young B: “Do you still want this, or would you like to give it to another child to play with?” … he often tells me to “give it to another child to play with”! Perhaps it has been an easier exercise having practised borrowing toys from the toy library, where we frequently need to return toys “for other kids to play with”.
10. Leaving puzzles half finished can be a great provocation for play…especially when they are just a bit too difficult for independent play, and could be at risk of just taking up storage space – being untouched and unused. Then, once puzzles have been mastered for a while, maybe it’s time for them to ‘move on’! I just don’t see much value in keeping the puzzles that are too easy, taking up valuable storage space.
11. Make sure every toy has a place to live; and to live comfortably! If there are more toys than storage space for them – it’s time to cull! Cleaning and packing toys away after playing is so much easier and quicker if the shelves, drawers, cupboards and containers are un cramped.
12. Toys don’t need fancy, expensive storage solutions. Nappy boxes, shoe boxes, cookie tins, yoghurt tubs, pillow cases, mesh laundry (wash) bags, take away containers, pencil cases…
13. Spread the toys out a bit! Consider dividing them into those just for inside, outdoors, the bath, car, grandparents/ other family homes… No need to have 5 of everything (1 in each place) – having different things to look forward to exploring in different locations is fun! (Do away with duplicates!) If you still don’t have room for everything – some things need to go!
14. Don’t forget the beauty of exploring nature in play – just get outside, go to the park, beach, even take a walk down the street, and see what little treasures you find to bring home for a nature display/ basket…
15. Try to focus in on whatever the latest interest is – our major ‘phases’ have included: posting things, cooking, trains/planes/things that go/pirates/football (soccer) and Aussie footy! I’ve found that in the heat of each little ‘obsession’, no other toy really stands a chance, so why clutter the visual space? This makes it easier for kids to launch into play which they are really motivated and excited about …whilst storing the rest out of sight for a bit!
So it looks like many of my toy organisation tips are actually about how to have and store less toys at home! Don’t get me wrong, I love toys! I just try to be selective with which toys we purchase, borrow, gather and store!
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