Before you had kids did you make promises and pleas with yourself that you would never, ever get on that slippery slope known as Mt. Toy? You would reserve toy purchases for big events like Birthdays, Christmas, and other major celebrations, only to discover that, yes, saying good-bye to the pacifier was indeed a “major celebration?” So, too is getting your kid to sit down and be quiet so you can finish meandering the aisles of Target? Who hoo–another celebration. Another toy.
When I was working as a nurse I would come home late at night–midnight or better–and was greeted by a pile of toys. It was like they multiplied in the hours that my husband and kid (I had just one at the time) were off in dreamland. No, that wasn’t the case. What was happening is that my babysitter would let my daughter get things out–things that I considered “hidden” in closets or neatly displayed on a bedroom bookshelf or in the basement. Suddenly every toy we owned graced the living room floor. A tired husband who had already done the 8-5 and came home for kid-duty was overwhelmed, I am sure, as to what to do with these toys.
O.k.–here it is–the best thing I’ve ever done as a parent: Toy Trade Tuesday. Why? “Toy Trade Tuesday” encompasses all aspects of childhood growth and development: physical, emotional, social, intellectual, and fine motor. Not only does it appeal to kids, but parents as well. Think: organization, themed play, and education.
Here’s how it works:
- Take a good inventory of all of the toys you have. Determine which items your child has grown out of, or has missing pieces. Delegate accordingly (resale shops, garage sale, your cousin’s new baby).
- Now group them into “like” categories. Do you see a theme? I bet you’ll discover about 8-10 themes among your pile of toys.
- Run out to your favorite store–ahem….Target…and get some large, clear plastic totes. (Kids won’t play with what they can’t see)
- Plop the themed toys into the bin and slap a label on it, “Farm,” “Zoo/Jungle/Safari,” “Baby Dolls,” “Cars and Trucks,” “Dress-Up,” “Pets and Vets,” “Busy Town,” etc.
- If you have a basement area where you can store them–do it.
- As Tuesday rolls around each week, ask your kids, “What should we do for Toy Trade Tuesday?” They will almost always have an idea. Sometimes, it’s fun (in a dorky kind of way) to match your home theme with one they are working on in school. Added reinforcement, right?
- Items you’ll like to see in your box: themed placemats, books, stickers (just look at all of those stickers at craft stores–often for less than $1), stuffed animals, puzzles, games, coloring books, small manipulatives, but leave the messy things out.
- Change it up occassionally. If you’re out and about and see something that “works” for one of your weekly themes, grab it (if the price is right) and pop it in the box when your kids aren’t looking. It will be a fun surprise to find it when that box makes its weekly rotation. Consider stashing away newly opened gifts in the same manner.
- Afraid your kid(s) will get bored with the same ol’, same ol’? They won’t. It’s the novelty of discovering “new” toys week after week. Plus, your kids are growing and changing everyday–every week–and so what they did with that dinosaur three rotations ago will be different than what they do with it today.
Now, if you are the “Queen of Theme” like I am, then you will appreciate this: “Field Trip Friday.” In keeping with your weekly toy rotation, pick a destination that goes with the theme. When we have “Pets and Vets” week at our house, I load the girls up and wander the aisles of Pet Co for 45 minutes or so. We even stop into the local vet and visit the front desk staff if they aren’t too busy. It’s a lucky day if we stumble upon kittens that are for adoption. During your “Nauture and Environment” week, you could explore a neighborhood pond as a family.
Now for our kids with CAS: This is a fabulous way to work on a specific set of vocabulary words and activities. When you pull out the farm-related stuff, you can focus on animal sounds, for example. It also helps decrease all of the “clutter” which makes it harder for these kiddos to concentrate and focus.
Give it a try. It’s a little bit of work in the beginning, a little more on Tuesdays, but your house and your kids will thank you!