Making the Most of the Toys You Have

Too often today we find ourselves subject to children’s desires for more and more toys.  You walk into a room and you can see toys everywhere and yet children sometimes feel they have “nothing to play with”.  As a parent, it’s infuriating because you can clearly see tons to play with.  However, what if we looked at the problem differently?  What if we realized there were ways to make sure the toys we have were the ones that were always interesting?  Here are 3 ways to make the most of the toys you already have...

Cycle the Toys

Instead of having all the toys out at once, split them into two or three groups of toys and cycle through them over a specified period or when your kids seem bored with the toys they have.  When you pack up the toys they have been playing with and pull out a new box or two of toys, it’s like new toys all over again, but without the added cost of actual new toys.  This also helps keep the clutter to a miminum as you’ve drastically reduced the number of toys that are out and available at any given moment, making cleaning up far easier and less stressful for everyone.

How to do it... As mentioned, split the toys into 2-3 equal groups.  Put one group out in the playroom/bedroom/wherever toys go in your house and then pack up the rest in storage containers.  If you have more than two groups of toys, mark the containers so you know which go together (if possible, a good mix should be in each group).  This makes it easy to know which containers to pull out when it’s time.  If you’re switching on a timeline (e.g., every two months), make sure to note in the calendar when switches are to occur so you don’t forget.  A bonus is that you can turn the switch time into clean-the-toys time, making sure toys get a good clean once or twice a year.

Organize and Display Toys Logically

Having a logic and flow to where toys are can help kids maximize their use of toys.  Even to many adults, a lack of structure and everything being cluttered together makes it hard for us to see what we want to do and actually do it.  Imagine if your desk wasn’t organized at all, but just everything you were supposed to work on – all papers, documents, etc. – were all mixed together.  It’s similar for kids and their toys (which is, in a way, their work).  If you can organize the play room (whichever room it is) in a logical manner for them, you can make it easier for them to self-direct their play without assistance and also to visualize better what they can do in that space.

How to do it... The first step is to visualize how the room itself will be organized.  If you don’t have a dedicated playroom (we sure as heck don’t), then look at the room(s) where the toys go and figure out a layout that has a nice flow (what goes together?) and map it out.  Then move toys into the area in small, workable areas (crates, storage boxes, stands with pull outs for toys) and make sure there’s enough room between the areas that they become clear self-contained areas.  For example, you may have one section of a room for stuffed animals, puppets, dolls, and the accessories that go with them; in another, arts and crafts; in another, building toys (lego, blocks, etc.).  This allows a child to look at a room and see broad things to do and then have the various tools to engage in an activity and then move on to another or even combine if they want, but it’s clear to them and makes it easier for them to do their job of play.

Upcycle the Toys Into Something New

When you truly do seem done with a toy, try to see if instead of throwing it out you can turn it into something new.  There are wonderful craft books on using mixed media for things like doll houses or kitchen toys.  Or turn them into wall art.  A friend recently did this with the toys her son was no longer using; she took box frames and had him fill them with the toys he wasn’t using then put them up on his wall.  It looks beautiful.

How to do this... Well, that’s up to you isn’t it?  :)

By Tracy Cassels

April 07, 2014