Over the last few weeks in my series on simple living, I have been sharing thoughts on some of the big ideas, or principles behind my version of simple living. Things like breaking down tasks into smaller steps, looking for quality not quantity, and limiting our choices. These big ideas (and several others) are important because they set a framework for simplifying life, but today I thought I would get a little more specific.
I’ve struggled with our kids toys for a while now. By some standards they don’t have many, but there are still things there that don’t seem to fit, and they find it hard to keep their toys ordered and easy to find.
I was talking to my sister about this and she told me how she kept on top of her kids toys. Her 3 kids are a little younger than mine (2 boys and a girl), and they usually know where their toys are, and have toys out to play with, but the toys are not covering the whole house. Talking it through with her, I came to the conclusion that while we limited the toys, we struggled with the organisation of them.
So here are some ideas about how we can tame the toys with our kids. I’m trying them out myself. In particular, point two is getting some attention from me over the coming weeks!
Limit the number of toys you have
Too many toys just overwhelm kids. They find it harder to play with them because of the sheer quantity, and keeping the toys ordered and tidy takes a lot of time and effort. So it makes sense to limit the number of toys that kids have.
The easiest way to do this is to pick several types of toys and stick to that type. For example, my sister has chosen wooden train set, hot wheels track/cars, duplo, lego, wooden puzzles, and board/card games. In the kids bedrooms they then have a few toys that are specifically theirs according to their interests. Her daughter has a Sylvanian family, dress ups, and house play stuff (dolls/ tea set). The boys share a room and have play tools, binoculars, and torches and colouring in stuff. Of course the kids share the toys in the rooms between them. She also has play dough, and craft gear, put away for her to pull out when needed.
Have a home for every toy
The second aspect to taming the toys is to store them appropriately. Some people advocate storing them all in one place, but this is not always possible. Personally I think it is more important to have a place for every toy, rather than to have them all together. Toy storage is our biggest struggle. It’s not that our kids have so many toys, but more that the storage we have no longer meets our needs. We bought a bookshelf back when Hannah was still very little, and have plastic boxes to put different toys into, but the boxes don’t fit the shelf very well. Recently I have come to the conclusion that having lids on the boxes discourages kids from putting the toys away because it becomes another step in the process.
My sister has nice deep boxes which hold all the different items, and they get put back in the same place each time. That way the kids know where their toys are.What system you choose really depends on your home and set up. What does matter is that it works for you and your kids. You can tell if your system is working if:
– every toy has a set place where it is kept when it’s not being used.
– the kids can find the toys they want quickly.
– the toys are easy to keep separated rather than a random pile.
– the kids can easily pick up the toys and put them away with little or no help.
– the boxes/containers hold all the toy easily with room to spare (they are not over flowing).
When you are trying to work out the best way to store the toys, avoid the temptation to just run out and buy a new storage system, without considering what will work in your space, and with your kids. I’ve been pinning ideas here, if you’re also looking for inspiration.
It really is amazing how stuff accumulates despite our best efforts to eliminate it. Add this to the fact that kids grow out of toys, and it is important to regularly assess what toys your kids use.
Culling is my forte. I have no sentimental attachment to toys etc, though my kids do. Just these holidays I went through all the toys again, and pulled out any that were broken or no longer used. We still had a whole lot of plastic cars suitable for a one year old, which I pulled out to give to my nephew.A good time to cull is around October before the Christmas season gets underway.When Hannah was born she was the first grand daughter on both sides of the family. In addition, we were the first in our friendship circle to have a baby. As a result we were given a lot of gifts for her, and I mean LOTS. In among the dozens of cute outfits, she was given 16 stuffed toys. In hindsight, I wish that I had donated some of them. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the thought behind them, but 16 is ridiculous. A few have moved on, but we still have way too many stuffed toys which she has become attached to. It really is a lot easier to not have too much to start with, rather than cull later. Having said that, still cull!
Teach your children that stuff doesn’t equal happiness
The television would have us believe that the more toys a kid has, the happier they are, and that the more we buy our kids, the more we love them. Of course this is a lie, but we need to actively teach our kids to be content with what they have.
How do you tame your kids toys? Got any good storage ideas for me??