A couple of months ago, my oldest daughter Anne asked if I could take a day to help her get her playroom under control. She felt like it was always a mess and she could never get the mess under control. I told her I was glad to help.
I arrived one morning to help her tackle the job. We waded carefully through a minefield of toys. She told me that she wanted the room to be a “self-service” room for her kids, where they could use their imagination and enjoy books, toys, puzzles, duplo blocks, and dress ups.
As we walked through the room I knew immediately what the problem was: the kids had access to too many toys.
When it comes to kids and toys, less is more.
The kids had many wonderful toys to play with, but they couldn’t play with them all at once. Because they could put their hands on all of their toys, they usually did that everyday and the toys went everywhere.
Anne needed to do the three “R’s:” Recycle, Rotate, and Request!
In order to get the room back in order, we launched into clean up mode during nap time. Trying to clean up a toyroom with kids in the mix is like shoveling snow in a snowstorm. Once they awoke from their nap, we asked dad to keep them busy in another part of the house.
We gathered our tools: garbage bags, boxes, laundry baskets (for toys that belonged in a bedroom or another room of the house), and organizing baskets and buckets.
We worked quickly to pick up and evaluate every toy into one of three categories: Keep, Recycle, or Trash. By the end of our evaluation process, we had filled two trash bags to throw away, two boxes to donate (recycle), and every toy that was being kept had a “home” in a container of some sort.
Now it was time to pare down access. The kids had well over 100 books. We filled a medium size basket with 10-15 books and then filled 5 more baskets with about the same number of books. Only one basket stayed in the toyroom. The other five found a home on some upper (non-accessible to kids) shelves in the laundry room.
Because Anne runs a daycare in her home, she had a wide variety of toys for a wide variety of ages. There were three baskets of baby toys. One basket stayed in the playroom and the other two baskets were moved to shelves in the laundry room.
All puzzles and games were assembled and placed on a shelf in the laundry room. These either need to be requested by the kids or offered by mom and dad…one at a time. No more open access to things with pieces.
Anne also made a list of every game, pop up tent, activity books, flash cards, and things like playdoh, craft supplies, and other activities that she could pull out to diversify their play. This list became her memory file of everything available but not accessible.
It’s now been two months and, according to Anne, the toy room has been so easy to keep under control! There is now a manageable number of toys the kids have access to and many toys they no longer have direct access to, but can still enjoy on occasion.
In those moments where it feels like the kids are bouncing off the walls, she uses her list to pull out something new or rarely played with to change things up a bit. At the end of the evening, that toy/game/puzzle is tucked back away where the kids don’t have direct access.
Pick up is much easier now. There are simply fewer toys to pick up, however there is still plenty of toys to keep them busy.
What about you? What changes have you made in managing toys that has made a world of difference?
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