Having a toddler, I was not prepared for this…
Terrible twos, tantrums, sleep regressions—those things I was prepared for. The massive stockpile of toys scattered throughout every room in my house, I was/am not. Much prior to having Libby, I had a secret fear of primary colors taking over my house. Nobody told me to expect my house to look like an elf’s workshop: toys everywhere.
Growing up, I was not a “toy” kid. I didn’t care for dolls, stuffed animals, or the latest toys to hit the shelf. I simply was not interested.
On the contrary, I preferred to indulge in practical life skills, like playing office, creating artwork, or creating newsletters highlighting the increasing values of beanie babies. Even then, I didn’t like clutter.
Fast forward to life with kids, and oh boy, what chaos.
It’s no wonder so many moms are making the switch to a montessori approach, where they are saying goodbye to the flashy, loud toys, and transitioning to toys that encourage creative play, or active engagement in daily tasks, such as cooking and cleaning.
Managing Toy Clutter
There is no shortage of generosity when it comes to small children and gift giving. Let’s face it, it’s so fun to give young children gifts. They get so excited and happy and most toys are relatively inexpensive compared to what’s going to make the wish list in later years.
However, when it comes to toys, it’s really easy to get overwhelmed. After spending countless hours with my toddler, I noticed a few general things when it came to playing with toys:
- Toddlers Need Encouragement with Creative Play
- Toddlers can be overwhelmed with too many options
- Toddlers need age appropriate toys
These three things help to establish successful playtime (i.e. active engaging with toys versus dumping toys out and walking away). To encourage engaged playtime, I want to start by focusing on these three things.
Encouragement with Creative Play
With toddlers developing and learning so much from 12 months on, creative play is super important. However, toddlers need help and encouragement with creative play. As their imaginations’ grow, they will become more independent for longer periods of time.
In the meantime, it’s necessary to be actively engaged with toddlers.
For example, giving a young toddler a tea set, they may dump them out on the floor, scatter then around and pour a cup of tea. But by sitting down you can engage your toddler in creative play by saying things like, “Will you pass me the sugar for my tea?”
“Give momma the pink tea cup to drink my tea out of.”
“Does your doll want some more tea?”
Asking questions and using directive statements encourages cognitive learning, builds confidence in your child, and makes playing with toys fun.
Avoid Overwhelming Toddlers by Limiting Toys
I started noticing the more toys Libby has to play with, the less they get used. Simply put, she is as overwhelmed as I am.
Even when having her toys tucked away nicely, she inevitably would go through, scatter hundreds of pieces on the floor and move on to the next with no satisfaction. On the contrary, when she is in her crib she could spend over 20 minutes, engaged, flipping through her VTech sound book prior to nap time.
Age Appropriate Toys
It seems obvious, to have age appropriate toys for playtime. However, with multiple kids, or getting hand me down toys, or toys as gifts, it’s easy to open them up and just let children play.
This often just leads to broken parts, missing pieces and added clutter. When the child is finally of age to play with the toy, it’s often not in proper working order.
The Solution to Making Playtime Successful: A Toy Rotation.
To help encourage creative play, avoid being overwhelmed by too many toys, and having age appropriate toys, a toy rotation seems the most obvious fit.
Some toy rotations are as elaborate as a bin for each day of the week.
In attempt to keep life simple, I placed a majority of her toys in individual plastic bags. These then went into a master bin in the basement. When she starts to get bored I swap out for “new” toys.
Making a Toy Rotation Successful:
- Place toys in containers or gallon size plastic bags.
- Clean up toys while children are sleeping. Not while they are around to play with the toys. This just leads to messes and meltdowns.
- Bring new toys up after the child has gone to bed so they are there in the morning as a new discovery.
- When bringing up toys select a variety, such as an arts and crafts, imaginative play, learning, and dress-up. This will allow for a variety of activities throughout the day and week.
What are your successes or struggles with toddler toys? Leave a comment below!