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I hear the same statement over and over from so many parents (and my husband)...We Have Too Many TOYS! Regardless of whether it was a gift given to my kids, a pricier toy, or a toy that we picked up at the thrift store (or even hand-me-downs from family), I have a hard time getting rid of any toy. This is a problem on so many levels. My house becomes a disorganized mess with my daughter and son fleeting from basket to basket, dumping toys, and leaving a sea of toys in their wake. I felt like I was constantly nagging my daughter to clean up and spending the rest of the day on my hands and knees, breaking my back reorganizing piles and baskets. Let me share with you what changed all that and how it can keep your house a bit more organized and improve communication at the same time.
1. Create Jobs
-Find some toys that your child may not notice you sneaking out of the toy box. I picked toys like puzzles with many pieces, playdough, crafts, and a magnetic doll set with small pieces. These toys are ones that I found to be messy or have too many pieces for my daughter to manage independently. If you have little, little ones (as my son is), this is the perfect opportunity to keep track of your older children’s toys that can be a choking hazard. Messy toys or crafts also make great jobs because I can watch over her as she plays where I can see her (we do this at our kitchen table). When my daughter says she’s “Bored” or I want to redirect her attention, I have her pick a “job”. She loves getting to choose a special toy and has learned to initiate asking for them, as well.
Benefits: Your kids will be excited to see their “new” (old) toys again, the less toys out and about for your kids to access will immediately cut down on the messiness, new target language can be focused on each time.
3. Donate, Swapping, and Selling
- Your kids may get to the point whether their toys are no longer interesting to them no matter how you present them or even are a little babyish (as SLPs say “not developmentally-appropriate”). Don’t be afraid to let them go. Your children may be old enough to understand this concept and you can explain it to them and talk through the why/how you will do this. Or if they don’t understand, you can do this on your own. I suggest “rotating” these unused toys to storage first and when you are sure they are forgotten, begin the process. Find these toys that you are ready to part with and decide whether to Trade (donate to a local store to help a good cause and select a new one for cheap), Swap (with a friend, family member, or on a local mom group for some of their unused toys), or Sell them (to a secondhand store or online).
Benefits: You will cut down on the number of unused toys in your house (or even cut down on the total number of toys), your kids may have new toys or at least increase their attention span with the toys they have, again messiness is cut down, this will give you child new things to talk about and may even help them develop new play skills (which is so important-see my previous posts on play).
As we speak, I have boxes of toys above my china cabinet which contain “jobs” that my daughter asks for or is directed to play with at designated times. I have baskets of toys for my 1 year old to keep him focused on one task at a times, even if his attention span is only about 1-2 minutes. We have “rotated” some toys to the basement storage for the time being. I also have a bag full of stuffed in my car, which I plan to drop off at a local Foster Agency. And overall my house is slightly less messy at the end of each day, my kids have had less “boredom” and chaotic flitting around from toy to toy lately, and I have a little more piece of mind. But most importantly, it gives my kids a reason to communicate with me to request a toy that they can't reach or find; gives them a chance to focus, instead of being overstimulated from the chaos; and builds their focused attention.
These tips are meant to helpful to all parents. But if your child is having trouble communicating with you, doesn't seem to follow directions, doesn't show typical play skills for their age, or you have other concerns relating to their development, contact Black Oak Therapy for more information on how to help your child.