Sunday, January 20, 2008

Toy management

Christmas has come and gone and things are starting to settle down, so I thought I would do another of the ‘how do you do it?’ blogs. This one is on ‘Toy Management’

We all know the picture. The lounge room started out tidy, now you can’t see the colour of the carpet for the lego blocks, dolls hold tea parties on every chair, you’re afraid to walk through the door for fear of suffering a case of “rapid sit down” after standing on a toy car. The truth is, once you have a few children you need to plan a way to manage the onslaught of toys!

Step one:

Set the standards and audit.

What toys do you actually want for your kids? Not all toys are fun to play with or beneficial for your kids! Many toys are actually pitched as much toward appealing to the eye of the adult buying it if not more. Some toys are just boring and/or down right annoying! Flashing lights and car alarm noises are only amusing for so long! I’ve found that these types of toys most often get misused, taught how to swim, thrown across the room etc. They have very little value, even if they are very expensive to buy! Some toys are just unethical and/or immoral. Call me an old prude, but there are some dolls that just give me the heebie geebies! You need to know where you stand on toy guns, bratz dolls, barbies, make up for kids etc. For me, I like the kids toys to be fun, encourage creativity, good quality and have some educational or developmental benefit. If it is going to drive me mad, break easily or if I find them unethical, they need to go.

So look at what your kids actually have. Are there toys that never get touched? Is it because there are so many toys that your kids can’t get around to them all? How many stuffed toys do you actually NEED? Are the toys age appropriate for your kids? If they are too hard your kids will get frustrated and if they are too young they need to be put away for the next baby! Are there broken toys laying around? I have found that broken toys breed broken toys! If all their toys are in good repair, kids will learn to take care of them better. If there are broken toys lying around your kids will learn that it doesn’t matter if they break their toys or treat them carelessly. This lays a poor foundation for them learning to take good care of their things as they get older! Are there toys you just plain don’t like? You are the adult and YOU are responsible for deciding what comes into your home and into the lives of your kids.

Step two:

Pass the blessing on or bin it!

In our house we have a regular toy audit before birthdays and Christmas. I have Erin help and we go through and choose toys to give away. I find I actually have to check and put some things BACK! I also have a bit of a look when she isn’t around, but I won’t throw out her favourite behind her back. That just isn’t fair! Toys that are broken need to hit the bin, those that aren’t need to go to charity or there is always e-bay!

Step three:

Store it and develop a system

A place for everything and everything in it’s place. Most of the toys are actually in my kids reach, but very few of them are in sight when stowed. I store a lot under the bed in boxes or old baby baths. I store in categories. I find this makes the toys easier to play with because all the ‘bits’ are together and the kids don’t have to dig through other toys to find all of one toy to play with. All the Mega Blocks are together (all 150 of them!), all the soft toys, all the cars etc. The kids get out one ‘category’ and usually a blanket to go with. Why a blanket? We spread out the blanket on the floor, tip out the toys, the toys get played with then when they are finished they grab the blanket, tip the toys back in the box and we stash the box again. Easy!

Step 4:

Maintain and filter.

You are the adult, it is you who decides what comes into the home. Some of my favourites are: lego and other construction type toys, art materials, chalk board, blankets (otherwise known as caves, tents, forts, robes etc.) sand pit, balls, trampoline, toy cars, puzzles….oh the list could go on! Why waste the space on other stuff? It is worth paying for quality too. A sack full of gifts may be impressive initially at Christmas but if half of them have broken by boxing day, what’s the point?! Crayons that don’t write are just frustrating, toy cars without wheels aren’t much fun and dolls without eyes are just creepy! Before getting something that needs batteries, ask if it is really worth the bother? Erin’s current favourite is a little doll that is over 24 years old! I have a photo of ME carrying it when I was her age! No batteries, just a simple, good quality, dolly! Repair or turf broken toys immediately (or at least put then out of reach until repaired) and measure any new purchases against your standards carefully. Encourage your kids to have a giving spirit by having regular audits.

A word on gifts.

My kids are blessed to have an extended family who love and adore them. Although I am VERY grateful for this, sometimes the gifts the kids receive are not up to my standards. It is always a judgement call on how to handle it. Things that I have a moral objection to are quietly regifted or binned. At the end of the day, I am responsible for what my kids are exposed to and I take that very seriously. Toys of a lesser quality are only brought out when I can supervise the play to make sure it doesn’t get broken – especially if broken bits can injure kids. Toys that aren’t age appropriate are stored for later use or only used with adult supervision. I try and prevent the situation by talking enthusiastically about the type of toys I DO like and giving specific gift ideas if I am asked. At the end of the day though, the relationship is more important than the gifts and it IS the thought that counts.

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