We have tried a lot of different toy management systems over the years including, weekly rotations, taking toys left out away, and of course the "I don't care if the toy room is messy, let's just shut the door and pretend it doesn't exist" method. All of them have their pros and cons, but being the type A, organized person that I am, I've still been trying to come up with a system that met all of our needs.
Here are a few of the leading theories on toy management and why they don't work 100% of the time for our family:
Have Less, Do More
- This one sounds brilliant in writing, but when you're trying to get dinner on the table and your kids are bored with the three toys they own it's not ideal.
- For us, living so far from family means that family likes to spoil the kids the only way they can, with Amazon boxes! Even if we never bought a single toy, our kids would still have plenty.
- Toys are just too fun, I'll confess, I love having a variety of fun stuff to do with the kids, I like having plenty of legos to build the worlds biggest tower!
- I do really like this idea, if kids have too many toys especially, put half of them in a closet and rotate which ones are available for play.
- The problem for us, however, is that Aurora always wants a specific toy to play with. I will have the chosen ones out for the week, but it's inevitably that the box of Polly Pockets is what she wants instead.
Toy Free For All
- Sometimes it's good to give kids a bit of freedom, and maybe a more laid back parent can pull this off, but it just bugs me when things aren't tidy!
- We also want to teach our children to take care of their things, how to put away their toys with all of the pieces included so this method really just doesn't work for us.
Instead of these methods, we've switched to a toy checkout system. We keep a dozen or so play items in their playroom at all times, mostly objects without any extra pieces to them so that way the kids can easily pick up after themselves. At the end of the day we've just built it in to our routine that they go tidy up the play room and it only takes a few minutes to do.
And, then there is our checkout system. All of our super fun toys with thousands of pieces go in to a neatly labeled bin. Thankfully we have a huge schrank (German word for closet) that we can use to store the boxes of toys.
We have a few rules that the kids need to follow with these toys:
- You have to have had good behavior earlier in the day in order to check out a toy.
- You must ask Mommy or Daddy before you take out one of these toys.
- You need to pick up all of the pieces when you are finished playing and then return the toy to the closet.
Thus far things have been working great with this system, if Aurora is in need of some motivation to change her attitude, I'll remind her that she won't be allowed to play with the "special" toys if she doesn't turn that frown around! This method also insures that our toys are kept together nicely and pieces aren't lost. I don't know about you, but I hate sorting through piles of lego/blocks/Mr. Potato Head/etc. to reorganize everything!
We've also noticed that this method has helped in building autonomy. Aurora knows the rules for playing with the toys, so she has the power to decide if she will act in a way that allows her the privilege of playing with them. Then when it's time to clean up, the mess isn't so big, it doesn't feel insurmountable in the eyes of a three year old; she responsibly picks up the toy and returns it to the closet!
As the kids get older, we may allow them to check out more than one box at a time, I mean how much fun would it be to build a Magnatile mansion for Polly Pocket and her friends! For now though, she's content with the system and so are we. :)
How do you keep your kids toys under control?