Welcome back! Last week we shared insights and ways to identify our role in teaching kids organizational skills and how to set-up a successful system. We finish up the discussion (for now) on Weeding and towards the end, offer practical suggestions for continuing the process.
If you missed Part 1, you can catch it here.
When and How to Weed Out your Child’s Toys
In our culture, we have very good skills when it comes to acquiring things, but we have lost the complimentary and very necessary skill of weeding. Getting your children in the habit of “letting go” of toys they no longer use is good training for the rest of their lives.
Besides, play rooms and toy collections are difficult to clean up when there is not enough space. As mentioned previously, every toy needs its very own home, preferably labeled with photo and words, so your child will always know where it goes. So when you have a seemingly infinite number of toys and a finite space, it’s decision time. What stays and what goes?
Here are some tips for how to approach the weeding process with your kids:
- First, sort the toys into categories; dolls, board games, stuffed animals, action figures, cars, etc. You can do this yourself or you can have the kids help you. Having toys sorted into like-piles will make decision-making easier.
- Second, have your child find all the toys that are broken, missing pieces, ripped, etc. If they are not going to be fixed, then they can go into the trash. Duplicate toys can be donated.
- Next, take a good look at the space you have. Then give your child choices with limitations. Start by having your child choose what to keep. Make it into a treasure hunt. “Find your two favorite dolls. Find your ten favorite cars….”
- Then, have them choose the toys they know they definitely don’t want anymore. Put those into a “finding a new home” box.
With the toys that remain (not favorites but not discarded), you can do one of several things…
- Let them keep what there is still room for. “You can keep as many cars that fit into this bucket.” Or “You can keep as many video games as will fit on this shelf.”
- Keep the extra toys in a storage box. Every month or so, swap some of the toys from the playroom with the toys from the box. Children will rediscover toys that they haven’t appreciated for a while.
- Simply find another home for the extra toys.
Where to find a new home for toys? Some options are to donate to charity, children’s hospitals, doctor’s offices, churches, or preschools. Another choice is to keep the toys for a yard sale and then let the children keep the earnings from selling their old toys. Or swap them for some new toys by organizing a Toy Swap. Narrow the choices down to what you are comfortable with and then let your children help you decide.
Make weeding toys a somewhat regular event. Going through the weeding process after birthdays and holidays makes space for all the new cool stuff and makes it easier to let go of some older items.
Organizing with Your Kids: Practical Suggestions
Clean-Up Time – As They Play or Once A Day?
It would be nice if the kiddos cleaned up one toy before starting with another, but it doesn’t happen without some prompting from you. Children’s play is like a stream of consciousness, and interrupting it repeatedly to clean up can impede the flow and satisfaction. (Keep in mind that Playtime is “important business” to children.)
One suggestion is to clean up before every transition in your daily schedule. If your little one plays for twenty minutes before lunch, save a few minutes before lunch to clean up. If your child plays for two hours before bed, give a little more time before you start the bed routine to clean up. This ultimately leads to more meaningful play for your child as well. Starting a play time later in a messy area will only inspire messy play.
If your child only plays for a short time AND if there is a system in place to make clean up easy, it won’t take more than a minute or two. Longer playtimes will require 5-10 minutes for clean up. Give your child a warning a few minutes before clean up.
“Five more minutes until we clean up for lunch!” You are more likely to have a cooperative clean up if your child knows when to expect it and isn’t expected to suddenly quit playing in order to clean.
What to do with all the stuffed animals?
They may be bears, dogs and dinosaurs, but they multiply like rabbits. Where to put them all?!? Here are a few ideas for storing the stuffed animals:
- Toy box – this is one of the few times a toy box is a good idea, especially for larger stuffed animals. Toy boxes can be large plastic bins, boxes with lids from the office, or wicker baskets.
- Hammocks – these can be hung at any height in the corner of the room. If hung up high, they’re a good place to put stuffed animals that are sentimental or rarely played with. You can buy them or make them yourself out of a large piece of fabric.
- Shoe holder – the kind with clear pockets that you hang over a door. This is good for smaller stuffed animals and beanie babies.
When the stuffed animals have bred too much, it’s time to find some of them a new home.
What about all those teeny, tiny parts and pieces?
Have you ever stepped on a lego or a Barbie shoe in your bare feet? That pain is incentive enough to find some easy way to keep all the little pieces off the floor. A few ideas that may help:
- Shoe holder – again, clear is best. All of Barbie’s accoutrements can go in a pocket or two; the Marvel Avenger’s with their sheilds and arrows can go in another, etc.
- Plastic shoe boxes and bins – If your child’s collection of Power Ranger’s toys is on the large side, give it it’s own clear box. These are also good for science kits with lots of parts, Barbies and their clothes, and legos. You can find clear boxes with lids at the dollar store. The trick is to find the right size. You don’t want the container to be completely filled because then it will be hard to find anything without items spilling out.
- Zip-lock bags – they’re not just good for that yummy snack! These are great for small craft supplies, really tiny legos, and other small pieces. Put the ziplock bag in the container with its friends. (of course, plastic bags are not for the very young, consider these an age appropriate solution.)
Another idea for legos:
For those of you with moderately sized lego collections, you can use Box4Blox
. It’s a fantastic product that sorts and stores your child’s legos. Clean up and storage in one step!
I hope this series of posts gives you ideas about how to conquer the toy clutter in your home. If you try any of these ideas, let us know how it goes! If you’d like to share some of your own tried and true tips, leave a comment below. Let’s keep the conversation going.