Chasing Away the Clutter: De-cluttering Toys

toy-clutterHere are some handy tips:

  • Do this without the children present. I am sure you know what your children do and don’t play with. This way there won’t be any battles.
  • If you are unsure about getting rid of certain toys, put them away for two to three months and if they are not missed, donate them. If you have a lot of toys that you can’t part with, save them and “rotate” the toy selection every three months. (More on why and how to do this later).
  • Donate all toys that are no longer age appropriate (or pack these up to save for the next child, Insha’Allah)
  • Pull out all the children’s toys and start sorting into boxes to keep, donate, rotate or pack away for the next baby.
  • Toss broken toys or toys with missing pieces.
  • Keep toys in the children’s room or a play room.
  • If you must have a few toys available in each room, corral them together into a decorative basket.
  • In the future, if you must buy toys, buy gender neutral so they can be used by multiple siblings.
  • Try using household items like bowls, spoons, pitchers, boxes. Children can think of 101 uses for boxes. Often times isn’t it the case that they like the box, rather than the toy?
  • Before Eid comes, I make my children donate some of their toys to make “room” for any new ones plus they get a good feeling that other less fortunate kids will get their toys to play with.
  • Insha’Allah you haven’t come to this point, but sometimes with new babies, there are a lot of gifts from friends and family.
  • Discuss with your older children the reason for minimizing the need for all the toys and adhere to it. Be a good example for your kids by enlisting their help in going through the house. Once they see and enjoy the uncluttered space, it is easier to keep it that way.

 Why Minimize or Rotate Toys?

  1. It helps your child learn. With fewer toys available, your child will spend quality time enjoying and exploring each toy.
  2. It keeps your child from getting bored. People think more toys means more fun. Instead, leaving all of your toys out all of the time encourages your child to quickly play with each of them and in turn quickly become bored with all of them. The key to keeping away boredom is not more toys, it’s rotating. Rotating toys makes them like new each time. And guess what, that just-like-new feeling is great, because…
  3. It helps your child learn EVEN MORE. When a toy is put away for awhile and then brought back out, your child has forgotten how she played with it last time and is able to then play with it in a new way. You will see just a few weeks later, your child will name something new in a puzzle or finally be able to get in that tricky piece. The break from the toy allows for new learning and new experiences from a fresh perspective.
  4. It helps clean-up go faster. Less toys means less time to clean up.
  5. It means fewer missing pieces. Can you not stand the puzzle with the missing piece, or the shape sorter with no circle? Isn’t that reason enough to try rotating? Fewer toys out at a time mean fewer pieces to look after.

 How to Rotate Toys

You want to take what’s left and think of what purpose it serves for your child as far as his development. There are five main areas of development in early childhood: cognitive, social/emotional, language, fine motor, and gross motor. The five areas of development are covered by three types of toys: 1) thinking toys, 2) moving toys, and 3) pretending toys. Here are some examples of what would fit in each category and how they work:

  1. Thinking toys – These toys tend to target cognitive development and usually are carried out through small movements of the hand, therefore working on fine motor development as well. They include toys like puzzles, paper and crayons, nesting cups, stacking blocks, and shape sorters.
  2. Moving toys – These toys tend to target gross motor movements. They include toys like balls, swings, ride-on toys, tricycles, and instruments.
  3. Pretending toys – These toys tend to target social/emotional development and language development as your child acts out stories from his mind. But, as your child moves around to act those things out they may have to solve problems related to cognitive development or complete any number of gross or small motor tasks. Pretending toys include things like kitchen sets, car garages, fire stations, stuffed animals and dress-up clothes.

 Make Sets

Depending on how many toys you have in each category, we are hoping to make two to three sets of toys by taking about three toys from each category. That’s a total of around 9 toys. That’s how many you are going to put out at first. If it seems slim, it is. We are trying to really give your child repeated experiences with those toys. To make you feel better, you still have your books out (which I haven’t limited, yet) and no matter what, a few things seem to always sneak into our rotation leaving us with more toys at the end of the rotation than at the beginning.

Put your “out” rotation stuff out. You can put smaller toys in boxes or baskets on a shelf. Put away your “away” rotation(s). Then watch your child enjoy. If you have multiple children and their age range varies, like 7 and 1, or 4 and 3, here are some ideas to give you a guide:

  1. The closer your children are in age, the more toys they can share.
  2. Put out an age appropriate option for each child. If you decide to put out a puzzle, why not put out a jigsaw puzzle for your older child and a simple wooden puzzle for your younger child?
  3. Remember the older the child the more toys they can effectively play with, and the younger the child, the fewer toys they need. So, it doesn’t need to be an equal number of toys for each child.