Thursday, May 26, 2011

What I've Learned About Toys

I just went on a toy rampage. My kids like to dump their toys out and scatter everything. Then, things are put away in a rush and all mixed up creating an overwhelming disaster of a mess. Games and flashcards are the worst offenders. The "urge to purge" hot when Curt was out of town (of course). I unsuccessfuly tried to do it by myself, but had to give up when the kids were "helping me". So, I waited for one of my babysitting days and got to work. Surprisingly (or not) it only took a few hours to go through everything. I got rid of broken toys and games with important missing pieces. There was a huge full bag of trash as a result. Then, I pulled out all of the baby toys since I do not have a baby in the house anymore (hate to admit that, but it is true). The kids still play with some of the baby toys, but since they have so many other options, I decided to reduce. Then, I bought plastic bins and labeled them so that there is a good place to be everything and everyone will know what should be in each bin. My friend suggested that I put laminated pictures on the outside of the bins so that the kids could see what goes in. I think that is a great idea and plan to do that eventually.

So this mess:

Became this:

Going through the toys got me thinking about toys in general. We are not big toy buyers. In fact, we did not buy most of the toys, but, at only 4 years into parenthood, we already have TOO MANY TOYS! So, here are some tips based on my experience:

1. Buy small amounts for birthdays and holidays for the first few years. The first few years, parents get really excited and go crazy buying way too much. When you add in what they will get from other people, you just get an overwhelming mess. I bought very few toys because I knew they'd get presents and even though I did this, we still ended up with too much. I wrapped up socks, underwear and clothes along with the toys so they'd have something to open. Ian will still say,"Wow, new socks!" Little ones get bored opening presents (and then they like to play with the box). You only need a few presents to open when they are small.

2. Stay out of the toy aisle. Parents, it is hard to resist cute toys and flashy toys even when you know you don't need anything. Plus, when kids get to be mobile, they will want to take toys home with them and not understand when you have to leave them.

3. Simple toys that do not require batteries and can be used in a variety of ways, last the longest, are best for independent play and are the best value. Toys like blocks, legos, wooden train tracks, etc.

4. Don't start a collection for the child before the child has a desire to collect. It can get out of hand quickly. Also, the very young child doesn't appreciate 10 dolls anymore than 1 doll. Same with dvds. Kids like repetition so, take advantage and just get a few dvds until they start to notice and want them. Then, you can add dvds at the holidays slowly, so they can appreciate them more.

5. Think small. Some of the most favored stuffed animals have been very small ones. Burger King toys like plastic animals and action figures are long lasting in this house. Why spend $5-10 on a Spiderman action figure at the store when the BK or MCD's kids meal version pleases them just as much? (Should kids be eating BK and MCD's? That's another post, but, if you do eat there (in moderation), the toys have a lot longer staying power than you'd think. On the small side, my favorite baby doll, the Corolle 12" doll has been a big hit in my house and in others as I've started to give this doll as a gift. It is small and soft-bodied, machine washable and does not require batteries. It is easy to carry and kids love it. Most of the dolls on the market have hard plastic bodies and require batteries. I don't think a doll should cry, eat, talk etc. I think the child should imagine that the doll does these things. Bells and whistles look fun in the store, but I think less is more when it comes to dolls.

6. Put games, flashcards and toys with multiple pieces out of reach so that your children cannot destroy the box and scatter the pieces. Better yet, don't buy flashcards. They can be fun, but so can books.

7. Have a list of toys/books/art supplies that you'd like people to give your children for birthdays and holidays. People will bring gifts even if you say not to and they want suggestions. Not everyone will listen, but most will.

8. Don't be afraid to return some toys or put away some toys after a big birthday or holiday. Again on the battery-powered, bells & whistles toys. Save the environment and your sanity and limit these! Don't get me wrong, one of my kids favorite toys was a ride-on toy with lights and music. My cousin got this for Ian for his first birthday and I JUST put it away. He is over 4. They still like it, but he has a bike and Eva has a tricycle and a balance bike so they don't really need it. I will bring it out if we have guests, especially younger ones. I am getting off-track here but you get the point. A few of these can be great, but a whole collection leads to swearing (because the batteries are dead again), bankruptcy (because of buying those darn batteries) and environmental ruin. OK, I'm exaggerating, but the truth is that it results in a lot of clutter. If a child gets too much for one particular event, putting some of it away for the next holiday or even rainy day can spread the impact.

9. Do a toy purge (including books, games and art supplies) at least once a year. Your house will thank you for it and your kids will enjoy what they have a lot more.

10. Along the same lines, when you bring a big item in, take a big item out. You are usually doing this because the kid needs an upgrade because of size or development, so make the switch.

Happy playing!


Connie said...

Good ideas! I would adjust your friend's recommendation about attaching laminated labels to the boxes though. Sticky notes and tape work just as well, you can do it right now (always better to just get it done) and you'll likely be changing and/or updating them in a few months anyway. I used the same to label all of Honor's drawers (PJ's, socks, etc. too) because she liked the labels so much, and she added her own labels too, with sketches! First thing she did when we moved into our newest place, when she was 6yo, was to get sticky notes and label all her new drawers herself! I'm not saying that she's perfectly organized (not even) but every little bit learned, helps!

Mama Seoul said...

That is a good idea about labeling the drawers as well. I need to be better about having them put their own things away where they can and labels do that the guess work out.

Lilly said...

This is great advice! We have the 12" baby doll you mentioned and it's a great size for little ones. Very easy to cuddle and carry. I'm thinking of getting Leni a bigger doll for her 2nd bday or Christmas (since all the doll clothes sewing patterns I have are for 15" dolls!) but for now she is happy with her 1 doll. I don't understand why people think their kids need 10 different dolls... now our Hello Kitty collection, on the other hand is out of CONTROL.

Mama Seoul said...

My kids still keep their dolls naked most of the time.

Maybe you can start sewing the 15" doll clothes and put them aside until she starts showing an interest in dressing and undressing and gets bigger where she'll be able to hold a bigger doll.

I think it is hard for parents when we see all the cute stuff to resist. Are you in Korea? Hello Kitty is everywhere! I got my daughter a Hello Kitty lunchbox and she is only 2, but I'm just keeping it for later.

Lilly said...

haha no, I'm in Pennsylvania but we still find a lot of HK stuff. My husband likes to buy her all the little Hello Kitty beanie babies... I mean a few are fine but he wants to buy them EVERY time he sees a new one. I finally said NO MORE beanie babies or stuffed animals.
And that's a good idea to start making some doll clothes now for when she is ready for a bigger doll. She is starting to dress her doll (more often UNdress though) she likes to try to put her diapers on the doll but they are way too big, I need to make her some doll diapers.