It starts innocently enough. You love your kids. You want to make them happy. But before you know it, you find yourself standing knee-deep in discarded blocks and broken cars. The kids are bored; the house is a mess, and no one is happy.
Sound familiar? You’re not alone. Most families have too many toys. But what many well-meaning parents don’t understand is, in reality, more toys equals less play.
Kids are easily overwhelmed with choice, and a child who is unsure of what to play with often ends up playing with nothing at all. But the problem is even more fundamental than that. Our culture’s obsession with flashy plastic junk has taught our children to be passive participants in play. Instead of playing with their toys, they expect to be amused by their toys. And they are… for about five seconds. Then it’s back to the toy box, or more aptly, the floor.
Parents: There’s a better way.
If you’re going to take control of your toy situation, you’re going to have to get rid of some toys.
Start by digging out and boxing up any toys that your kids have outgrown. If your child is already reading, it may be time to pass those alphabet and phonics toys on to someone else. Still holding on to those rattles and teethers? Time to let go. If it’s no longer developmentally appropriate for your child, it no longer deserves a place in your home.Multiples are another obvious offender. If you have three versions of Memory featuring three different characters, pick a favourite and move on.
Finally, toss the junk. Broken toys, puzzles, and games with missing pieces, Happy Meal prizes, party favors—Just trash it!
When kids can’t see their toys, they don’t play with them. Sick of your kids pulling out every last toy just to leave them lying all over the floor? Why not leave them out in the first place.
Instead of stuffing toys into baskets and bins, try organising your little one’s things into several themed play stations where toys remain largely on display. For instance, you might have a costume station with a hanging rack of dress-up clothes and a mirror, or a domestic play station with a toy kitchen and a basket of toy food. Set up a table with art supplies and building toys and a reading corner with a comfy chair and some books.
Playing with the same toys over and over again can get tiring after a while. Wondering how to keep your kiddos engaged? Try mixing things up a little.
A well-organised toy rotation helps to eliminate clutter while allowing children to play with a wider selection of toys. Since the available toys change on a regular basis, there is always something new and exciting to play with, ensuring your child will never get bored.
The best way to keep toys under control is to not buy so many in the first place! Set up a strict “no-gift” policy for birthday parties, and try not to go overboard at the holidays. Need a simplified approach? Put a little old wisdom to work, and buy your little one, “something they want; something they need; something to play with, and something to read.
Toys are meant to be tools, not entertainment centres. Instead of buying your kids flashy plastic junk, look for toys that encourage creative thinking, teamwork, and imaginative play.
Bricks, blocks and other building toys are excellent creative fodder for growing minds, and games are perfect for teaching children teamwork and good sportsmanship. Role-playing toys, such as costumes and dollhouses, fire up the imagination and help children to enhance their social and emotional skills.
If you have the space, consider investing in a couple of large toys that set the stage for pretend play. A simple tent or toy kitchen with just a few accessories can provide hours of entertainment, transporting your little one to that development-rich land of make-believe on a daily basis.