Toys are a lot of fun. But they can also be annoying and messy. For the first 27 months of Little Foxes life we had a pretty good handle on her toys. There was never more out than could be put away in five minutes. And if it did get to the point that it took longer than five minutes, we pared back what was out. Toy rotation was super effective for keeping her interested and engaged.
Then we moved. And Little Fox got her own room. Which is also the playroom. And set up so she would be able to share the space with Little Badger.
Toy Many Problems
Our toy situation was perfect for a living room set up. But I was not prepared for the challenges of keeping toys in the same area where Little Fox sleeps. Now, you are probably expecting me to say that my problem is her playing with toys while she should be sleeping. I’m not going to say that has never happened. But that is not the main struggle I have with the space. In fact, it is hardly an issue. Instead, we now have problems with cleaning up and with toy rotation.
Toy Rotation Related Problems
The toy rotation problem was a bit foreseeable. I used to rotate toys while Little Fox was napping. Which was super easy to do when Little Fox was not in her room. But now that sleeps there, if I went in to change the toys I would probably wake her up. And I would definitely rather have a bored toddler than an overtired one! But bored toddlers do tend to get messier with their toys.
And instead of leaving her to be bored and come up with new things to do with the same toys (what I should have done.), I kept handing her more toys from the stash of rotations toys. So when I brought in “fresh” toys, I added more toys to a space without rotating away something else. Basically, I ruined the whole idea of toy rotation. Whoops!
As for cleanup, the challenges differ from when the toys were in our living room space. When the toys were in the living room, I called 5-minute-tidy-time a lot more often. I needed to see a clean floor at least a few times each day for my sanity. Also toddlers enjoy working with an orderly space.
(The big mess overwhelms them even more than it overwhelms us. Observe your child playing in a clean minimalist space with a few toy options, then playing in a disaster zone with a million toys. I promise your child will be so much happier in the tidier space).
There are a few more challenges with cleanup now. Aside from the fact we cleaned up more often when the toys were in a shared adult-child space. We also weren’t using picture labels (something I have mentioned is great for children who can’t read yet). Since we had so few toys out at one time, my then 18 month old had no trouble putting toys away into a few baskets. Sure they weren’t sorted properly. But they didn’t need to be when the main “game” at that age is dumping things out and putting them back again.
Now that the toys are in her room, there always seems to be more toys. (Bedding and plush animals that would have been separated from day-time play space are now present). Little Fox also is doing more with the toys than dumping and playing and putting stuff back. And she is spreading the toys over a wider space – her whole room. She used to play mostly in the corner by her toy shelf. And then only a little bit in more contained spaces throughout the rest of our living space. Now the task of cleaning up overwhelms her. Even with me helping, she just sees that there is too much everywhere.
Little Fox even tells me the toys need to go away.
Toy Rotation Solutions
One thing I need to do is get used to the idea of rotating toys while Little Fox is awake. I’m going to start by doing this while Little Fox is spending time with her Tato. But once we get our new organizing system in place, I will do it with her help. She is old enough to decide she wants to play with “new” toys and which toys she is willing to trade in. This way we will have a one in and one out system.
(Tip for if you can toy rotate while your child is sleeping). Observe your child while they play. What is engaging them? What do they touch for a few seconds and then merely dump out before moving on? And what is ignored altogether? Keep the toys they are engaged with in rotation, and replace the ones they are bored with. You can always bring them back in later. Or rotate them out, permanently.
Toy Clean Up Solutions
I have had a lot of trouble in the past with containers for toys. Little Fox is already tall for her age. But she loves to stand on baskets and buckets. Or sit on them. And this either breaks them, or allows her to reach things she shouldn’t. I bought a couple fabric toy bins from the dollar tree to see if they would help this problem. And they have! But currently I do not have enough to use these for all her toys.
So step one is getting more of these fabric toy bins. Step two is going to be making picture labels for the toy bins. Once the bins are labeled with pictures, the orderly system for the toys is going to be clear to Little Fox. Right now when I ask her to put her toys away, she puts everything anywhere on the shelf. She understands things go on the shelf. But right now her brain is not working logically enough to realize all the books should go together, etc. So the picture labels are a great visual reminder of where things go. And one that does not require her to know how to read.
Finally we are going to introduce playmats. These have been used in Montessori schools and families with great success. The idea is you take time to teach your child where it is appropriate to play with toys.
Playmats Teaching Method
- Let your child pick a toy they want to play with
- Take them to a basket of rugs/playmats that are an appropriate play area size
- Have them pick a playmat to play on
- Teach them to roll it out and roll it up again
- Play with the toys on the mat while it is rolled up
- When “playtime” is done, teach them to clean up the toys, put them away, roll up the mat and put the mat away. Or they can just put the toys away and go pick a different toy.
- Start with the rule one basket of toys at a time. As they show that they can clean those up, it can become two baskets at a time.
A Change in Toys
In our Ultimate Guide to Toy Rotation, I talked about the different categories of toys. These are still really great. The only problem I have is in execution. We have been limited on the number of open ended toys, and I am working to change that. (Also my Mother-in-law is super against wood toys for babies so that has been holding me back). So I am getting rid of a lot of the plastic toys. And I am purging some of the leftover toys that are very rigid.
The other thing about toys that are actually good and beautiful, is that they can be expensive. (Although, they can last for generations, which makes them well worth the price). Now that we have a good budget and I can work within our finances, I am working to build up a good number of Montessori-waldorf style toys. This is what I have done so far.
- A cat tree/cat scratching post tower. This is a great base for treehouse play. It is taller than my toddler, and has several levels to it. Little Fox loves to play pretend family on it. So far it has been home to her plush animals, peg dolls, and a shopping centre. Getting a cat tree instead of a small world wood kids treehouse/dollhouse is a big money saver. And if I am being honest, I think it is even better than those wooden mini tree houses because it is bigger and even more open-ended for play. It is also easier on the budget. We got our “cathouse” for about $50 Canadian, and the tree houses I’ve seen retail for between $80 and $120 Canadian.
- Rainbow peg dolls. We got really simple ones. They are a set of 12 that are the same shape and size, just different colours. I only have about 9 out in rotation right now and that seems to be enough. That way my 9 month old and 30 month old can play with them at the same time. I would probably have 5 out if it were just for Little Fox.
- 12 piece wooden rainbow (has not arrived yet) along with the 11 flat pieces. Little Fox loves even just the flat pieces. She uses them to make play boats, a play landscape, and as an obstacle course to jump over. I am looking forward to seeing how she uses them with the 3D rainbow!
- Wood tree 3d puzzle, and brought out a fuzzy tree decoration from our Christmas stash. This works so well to add colour and landscape to our treehouse (cat tower).
Planning to Buy
- Balance Board. We are planning to buy an XXL rocker from https://wiwiurkatoys.com/. My plan is to budget enough to buy it by Little Fox’s 3rd birthday. We want the XXL one because it can fit several kids… and we are planning to have several kids. There are so many other cool montessori style indoor gross motor play toys from them too. This is going to go in a family space in our home due to the need for supervision. (Don’t want them climbing and jumping off).
- More wood trees and/or Grimms rainbow type toys. Just a tip, if you are going to go for the name brand Grimms, look at websites other than amazon. Amazon has Grimm’s products marked up – a lot. We are mixing it up. Some name brand products, some knock offs, and some similar to the name brand from Etsy shops.
- Play Silks. Sarah’s silks are super popular. However, we are going to go to our local fabric store and buy some nice end peices of soft or silky fabrics. That way it is on sale, and we can get a better variety.
Once this is in place, I will check out how these toys are used and loved. Then I can make some more decisions on what is working well.
The Byzantine Life
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