If you are reading this blog, than you most likely have kids. If you have kids, than you most likely have experienced an overwhelmed and chaotic feeling when thinking about your kids’ toys. Been there, done that! But today I am going to share my tips on how to keep the toy chaos in your home under control.
The goal we are shooting for today:
- To keep a regular source of new, fun toys and educational activities coming in without clutter building up or chaos enveloping your home.
Sound good? Let’s do it!
Accept the Truth:
Have you ever gotten nervous around your child’s birthday or Christmas?
How many more toys could they possibly get?!
Where are we going to put them all??
They don’t play with 75% of the toys they ALREADY have!!
Maybe you are like me and have even tried to put a “gift cap” on the number that the grandparents could give to try to help contain the chaos. Trust me, that is not a great solution! The grandparents loving giving unlimited gifts to their grandkids and, of course, the grandkids are rather enthusiastic about it as well.
So, when I sat down and thought about it, I realized how ridiculous the situation was. Basically, I was making my kids play with toys that they had lost interest in (or sometimes, toys that they had fully outgrown). And I was turning down brand new toys that filled their hearts with joy! Why?
Now, I get the idea that kids can’t always expect to always get the latest and greatest. They need to learn that contentment is great gain. But I am not of the opinion that we need to turn down blessings in order to get that memo across.
Well, that was a bit of a tangent…my bad. My point here is that the majority of parents struggle with their children having an excessive amount of toys/stuff. Whether that is gifts from family/friends or regular shopping sprees from us, the parents.
A solution to the chaos must be found. But, I don’t think trying to limit the gifts that are entering your home is the way to go. Unless, of course, you are outspending your budget on those regular shopping sprees!
Let’s just accept that most homes with children will have a lot of stuff coming in. We simply need to develop some strategies to keep things under control anyway!
Toy Chaos Under Control
The first step to getting toy chaos under control is storage boundaries. We have one large toy box my kids’ closet and one small toy box hidden in the living room. The living room toy box is just to make it easier for them to pick up the living room throughout the day. A couple times a week they empty the contents of that toy box into the large one.
ALL toys in the house MUST fit into the large toy box. Period.
Once I set that boundary for myself, the choice was gone…if the toy box was too full, we HAD to get rid of some toys.
So, we have now started a new habit of, every few weeks, have a “keep or chuck” party. When I notice that the toy box is getting too full, the kids and I sit down next to it. Toy by toy, I ask the kids, “keep or chuck?”. If we get to the bottom and have not gotten rid of enough, I simply say that we can’t leave until all the toys fit easily into the toy box.
Since I started so young, I think it is easier to get my kids to comply. For as long as they can remember, we have had “keep or chuck” parties and getting the toys to easily fit is simply the way it is. It might be more difficult with an older child but if it is presented as “simply the new rule”, they will have to accept that it is what it is.
I have found that it helps to show excitement whenever there is a decision to “chuck” because that helps them understand that organizing and decluttering is a positive thing. I also take a minute, when the process is done, to express how good the organized space looks!
To reinforce this perspective, they “help” me organize and declutter every space in the house as it is needed. That way they can continuously see this as a positive and helpful thing.
One final suggestion on the boundaries point: I strongly suggest avoiding the label of “Play Room”. If you choose that an entire room in your home is devoted solely to play/toys, it will be much harder to make a reasonable limit to the toys. I have also found that it is easier to get out of the habit of keeping it picked up because there are no other activities that have to take place in that room so “what’s the point in continuously putting everything away”. This is just my personal opinion.
In addition to the toy box, we have a large closet that contains all of the “crafts”, as the kids call them. This includes coloring, painting, stickers, markers, dry erase books, play dough, building toys with small parts, etc.
Toys are fun and can help build their creativity and imagination! But I have found that the things in the activity closet really aide in building their confidence, education, and ability to sit still and self-entertain.
A couple days a week we have a craft time and I will do their choice of craft with them, but other than that, they do them on their own (with me nearby to answer questions).
Instead of buying them toys (since they get so many of those from elsewhere) my husband and I have started budgeting a certain amount every month to get them a new “craft”. It is usually selected based on what they are learning, or something that can (in a fun way) help them move to the next level. Here are some examples of what we have gotten:
Assign Uses and Rules
The absolute best way I have found to keep the mess under control throughout the day is to implement certain routines and rules when it comes to toys and activities.
Even if you keep the toy box decluttered and the activity closet organized, when all of the contents get scattered across the room, it can still turn into a huge mess very quickly.
My kids get an hour of free play in their room before nap time and bed. They have to stay in their room during this time so this is the main time they play with their toys. Occasionally, I will be tied up with the baby or needing to focus on a task like dinner prep. I will tell them to go play and they know that means they can go get toys from their room, bring them downstairs and play until Mommy is done.
When they wake up from their nap or in the morning, they know they can not leave their room without making their beds, getting dressed, and putting ALL of their toys away.
Before they can eat their lunch or dinner they know they have to pick up the living room, dining room, and kitchen. All of the toys that may have gotten scattered are put in the living room toy box until it gets too full and needs to be taken to the large box.
We kind of already discussed this but basically, 2-3 times a week I let them pick a craft to do with me. If I get a craft that compliments something I am teaching them, it might be used during “school” time. Other than that, in those moments that I need them to entertain themselves for a bit, they can either play with their toys or choose a craft that they can do by themselves.
Each child can only have one craft out at a time. If they want to switch crafts, start playing with toys, or we are ready to move on to something else, the craft they were working on needs to be put away first.
It’s that simple! Set up tight boundaries, instill the habit of decluttering to fit those boundaries, and set up a organized routine to keep everything in its place!
But did you notice something else? Through all of the pick-up routines, I don’t touch a toy! I think it is time for us to teach our kids, if you make a mess, you clean it up! Can I get an “Amen!” mamas??