Organizing Your Baby's Toys
When too many toys lead to playroom panic
So what’s the solution? Dr. Kessler suggests an approach used by every great preschool teacher—rotation. “I would recommend no more than 10 toys at one time,” she says. Rotating toys every few days will prevent them from becoming stale.
Many moms employ this strategy. Sonia Fuller, an Atlanta mom of two boys, finds that rotating works well. “Once toys are opened for Christmas [or] birthdays, whatever toys get the least amount of attention right away get packed away in our toy closet and brought out one at a time a month or so down the road,” she says. Fuller finds this helps the kids maintain their interest in their toys longer.
Helen Polaski, a mother of three from Milan, Michigan, had a different method for deciding which toys weren’t as important to her children. “I started to notice that the toys that didn’t seem to mean much to them were the toys that invariably were not put away correctly,” she says. “Their favorite baby doll was always with them or on their pillow. [Other special toys] had a place and they were in it.”
“We have a real load of toys,” says Tricia Ballad, a mother of three from Bloomington, Illinois. “It’s tough to purge out the baby toys that my oldest is grown out of because the little one still plays with them,” she says. They tackle this problem by occasionally packing up a box or two of toys they haven’t played with in a while and stashing it in the attic. “A few months later, we rotate those boxes out and stash a new box or two.”
Dr. Panaccione agrees with rotating to keep toy stock fresh. “It’s almost like getting it for the first time all over again, since out of sight can be out of mind for many toddlers,” she says. She cautions, though, that all toys are not created equal when it comes to rotating. “Some toddlers become very attached to a certain possession,” she says. “This is not one of the toys I would rotate.” But she adds that leaving a few that are always available will provide a sense of stability and predictability, even as others are rotated and reintroduced.
More Toy-Overload Options
But what if that still doesn’t work? There are other options to tame the toy monster. Polaski went through her children’s rooms and removed and organized toys that seemed to be there, but not really cared for. “Not one of my three children noticed the absence of said toys,” she says. If a month went by without her kids asking for any of the missing toys, she would ask if they cared if the toy was donated to a local shelter or play center. “A couple of times they chose to keep one or two toys, but normally the toys were given up without any distraction,” she says.
Donations can be made to the Salvation Army or Goodwill. Fuller and her boys pack up toys to donate at least twice a year. “This also helps us discuss regularly how lucky we are as a family to be able to give toys to boys [and] girls who do not have as much as we do,” she says.
Or how about setting up a way not to get so many toys in the first place? That’s what Lisa Phillips’ family did. “My brother has two kids, aged 2 and 4, whose birthdays happen to be in December,” says Phillips of San Francisco, California. “Instead of giving them multiple gifts, we buy them something relatively small and then write a check for their college account.”
According to Phillips, the girls never even miss the toys. “I bought them the time-old gag gift of a can of nuts which holds the surprise pop-up ‘snake’ and it wowed them over,” she says. “And it was only $2.99! Kids don’t know how much toys are, they only know if they like them or not.”
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