Friday, February 25, 2011

Toys, Toys, Toys

Some things I've learned about toys along the way...

If a child seems to be jumping from one toy to the next, they're not trying to find something that holds their attention, they're trying to find something that holds MY attention.

Cleaning up and sorting too many toys can be overwhelming to a child.

Having too many interesting toys means a child never gets bored and comes to learn from me.

My three little ones are too little to be expected to play well together without me within arms reach.

I have struggled to find the balance between having interesting things for the girls to play with and being able to manage the chaos. Just in the last month, I have struck the perfect balance of just enough toys to stimulate their little minds and yet keep my sanity.

One of the toys that is within reach is a small box of cars and tracks. There are more tracks but, I put them away because this small little loop is about the length of my arm. That's the distance I can defend from the destructive toddlers.

They fit neatly into this little box that slides under Amanda and Christiana's dresser. The little cars often find their way into other containers and become new toys. I'm not sure what they were in this little dishwasher basket from the plasticware cupboard, but often they are a substitute for dog/pig/horse food.

The next two places to find toys are in the two drawers in the dresser that's in our living room. Board books go in the second to bottom (Again, destructive toddlers. There is a stack of regular books up high that we read at Amanda's bedtime) and various baby toys go in the bottom drawer. Amanda has many of these books memorized which means she can read them to her sisters. Christiana will copy her and pretend to read the books too. They all love me or Mike to read to them again and again. The Debbie Anderson books are their favorites. The Owl Babies are now named Amanda, Christiana, and Talitha and Amanda can recite The Our Father.

That is it for the toys that they have regular access to. When Amanda helps me clean up, there are only three easy types of toys to put away: cars and tracks, baby toys and books. They also have access to the plasticware cupboard and their drawer with cups, lids, and plastic bowls.

We have some special toys that are stored in our room under the nightstand that they can play with on occasion. Usually the door is closed so they can't get them, don't see them, and don't ask for them. I will bring them out when they seem to need something new. That rarely happens. They really seem to keep busy. They used to have access to all of these boxes but the contents would get dumped and then the would climb all over the boxes or ride in them like boats or ride on them like horseys. It was crazy and dangerous and to difficult to "police." Each of these toys are things I like and can be creative with. They are also have multiple pieces that take up a relatively small area for storage. This means they can be divided among lots of kids and tucked neatly away.

This little people house is such a favorite but the pieces are too small for Tali. The girls just couldn't be trusted to keep them away from her so I finally put it up high in Christiana's closet. The only time it comes out is when Tristen is here to play because he always asks for it. Amanda and Tristen play with it when the little girls are in bed.

There are all kinds of little people, tables, chairs, and vehicles in this set. The box also contains small animals, bugs and snakes.

The final place we have toys for the under-three-crowd stored is under the crib in Amanda's room. I use it for Ana's diaper changes right now. There are baby dolls, accessories and slings, the recorders (noisy!) and the Shape-O-Balls. I'd like to get these things divided into three distinct boxes. The next box contains pull toys and stuffed animals. These were too big and everyone was always tripping over them. It makes it challenging for little ones learning to walk.

I have felt bad every time I reduce the number of toys they have access to but they don't miss them. Especially with going to the rink or pool, they don't have time to get bored and they miss their toys. Plus, they play with the laundry and baskets when it comes upstairs, their hats, mittens and boots when we return from an outing, the exercize mats, boxes from food coop and the plastic kitchen items. They also help me unload and reload the dishwasher, cook, prepare foods, unpack groceries, do exercises, clean the bathroom, wash floors, etc. Soon, we will be spending lots of time outside too.

With a small house and lots of people, it's so nice to have more floor space and in general have less space dedicated to storing toys. Now if we could just convince the relatives that we really don't need any more toys...


Nena said...

Wow, impressive. We seem to have such a range of ages for toys I am finding it hard to get rid of stuff because Sofie is just getting into some of the things the older girls have outgrown.

Much sympathy with getting the relatives to stop buying stuff. How come putting money in a college fund isn't more fun for everyone than buying noisy expensive toys they really don't like to play with?

Mike and Katie said...

Actually, many of the toys belonged to the boys. I didn't get rid of everything. These have always been my favorites to have in the house for any visiting children. The girls have plenty of neat toys and activities to grow into. I may even allow them a small box of Legos. (I swore we never have anymore after the huge bins the boys had.)