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:
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.