TOYS. TOYS. TOYS! ‘Tis the season, huh? I’ve been thinking a lot about toy control as – of course – some new toys will find their way into our home on the 25th. When I think of “toy control,” it’s really a two-pronged approach: First, how do encourage Henry to actually play with his toys? And second, how do we keep toys from taking over our house and budget?
Here are my six Toy Control tips:
1) HIDE AND SEEK. Before Henry was born, a few friends told me, “Don’t ever leave out ALL of his toys. You’ve got to hide half in the attic and rotate his toys every now and then.” This is genius because 1) it keeps the toys fun and fresh for Henry, and 2) it keeps my living room from looking like a constant disaster! So, about half of the stuff that Henry has is usually hidden away in the attic, tucked in a closet, or loaned out to friends (my friends and I do a lot of toy swapping, which is great). As Henry got older, I noticed something else – when all the toys were out, Henry didn’t know what to do. He’d wander around the living room, passing by toys and then whining because he felt like there was nothing to do. When his toys are always out, he feels like they’re part of the background noise – not something to pay attention to. But when his ride-on truck comes out of the closet, he gets SO excited.
For example, Henry loved his homemade ball pit – at first. But after six months or so, it was totally old news. I packed it up for about three months and recently brought it back out. And now it’s the coolest thing EVER! Again.
2) THE COUCH TRICK. If your living room is big enough, you can move the couch off the wall a few feet and hide toys behind the sofa when you want the room to look more adult. It works like a charm!
3) DAILY TOY STORAGE. For the things that do stay out all the time, it’s nice to be able to sort them into storage bins. Toy storage is an necessity – especially for the little stuff like blocks, balls, and trucks. I like bins and baskets that are multi-purpose and can be moved around (and used for other things as Henry gets older!).
Farmers’ baskets are a pretty way to display blocks, which we usually keep out all the time.
And I love these Zig-Zag baskets from Land of Nod. I thought they were pricey when I originally purchased them (and I still do!) but they’ve held up really well, despite Henry sitting in them fairly regularly.
We use the littlest basket to hold shoes and socks.
4) SURPRISE SPACES. Another big part of toy control is putting toys in handy and unusual places. For example, a ‘handy’ spot that I put toys is the kitchen cupboards. On the bottom shelf are magnet letters, magnet animals, and Play-Doh, all of which I *only* bust out when I need Henry to entertain himself while I cook. They are ‘special’ toys AKA momma needs a moment toys.
Here’s an example of a surprise spot… I move around his trucks a lot. Recently, I moved them to an empty drawer in his bedroom.
He was getting tired of playing with them in the living room, but now that they’re in the bedroom, it’s like they’re brand new trucks!
5) MORE SWAPPING. Again, swap swap swap. Especially for books – I bet a lot of toddlers have books in multiple areas, like the car, the living room/playroom, and the bedroom. The bedroom ones get read over and over again, so I move them upstairs and downstairs for variety.
6) DON’T OVERBUY. I’m sure some non-parents (or even some minimalist parents) are looking at Henry’s toy stash and thinking, “Seriously? You don’t overbuy?” Hah. I swear that he actually has a moderate amount of stuff. It’s tempting to buy him a ton of toys, but as I said, I’ve observed that he gets overwhelmed when there’s too much stuff. Less is more.
Libraries are amazing… rent instead of purchasing!
Before we make toy purchases, I try to do a ‘test run’ with a friend’s toy/at childcare to see if Henry would actually be into it. When we do buy toys, I’m big on consignment shopping or Craigslisting to save money.
I think a lot of this is old news to veteran moms, but when I was a new mom, my friends taught me a lot of these ‘tricks,’ and it’s all really made a difference in Henry’s playtime. Toys are interesting, fresh, and fun. And the best part of toy control is that it helps keep my house looking like two adults live there, too.
What toy control tips do you have?
I’ve heard the rotation and special toy stash work wonders and can’t wait to employ those as well! Especially that ball pit! I wonder if I could fit inside the pack and play too…. 😉