Our Play Area…

Recently two (unrelated) friends on FB posted pictures of their kids playrooms that were completely destroyed. I’m talking “I can’t find the floor” messy. While they each have two girls, one friend has grammar school aged kids and the other has toddlers. I started to wonder if this is a problem for all parents of any age group and gender or a sign from Him ( I don’t believe in coincidence! Coincidence is actually God getting your attention 😀 ). Btw, both of these women are intelligent, capable, amazing women and mothers so I’m thinking this is not a lack of parenting {Please don’t unfriend me! I ❤ both of you!}. The result of these posts was the toddler mother spent hours cleaning and the other mom rightly declared “clean up or the toys get trashed/donated!” Luv it!!!

Anyways, it made me think, and I love to think! Research has shown that children play and develop better with fewer toys. And I get very aggravated when my living room floor is missing under an ocean of toys. Two very good reasons to keep the toys to a minimum!

Here is our play area system…

photo 3photo 2photo 1We bought and stained a bookshelf (from A.C. Moore) for the play area sometime during Tau’s first year. It has saved my sanity folks! The four cubbies provide boundaries that we all seek and need. We bought matching containers (from Michael’s) to go inside each cubby. The bookshelf laid on its side provides a shelf area for play and a few other toys that don’t fit into the cubbies. Each container has a theme. Right now we have 1) Wooden cube blocks with letter/pictures/numbers. 2) A M&D pizza set. 3) Foam blocks in different sizes/shapes/colors. 4) Baby toys- stacking cups, a mini dump truck, a viewmaster, etc. On top of the shelf is always a basket for books. Right now there is also a workbench that Zeta got for his last birthday. Recently I added an ottoman style storage cube/seat for dolls and stuffed animals. Here’s a quick breakdown: Bookcase $50. Bins $40 (i know, overpriced!) Rug $20 from Walmart’s back to college section 3 years ago. Ottoman $20 also Walmart 3 years ago. Book box was a baby shower gift. TOTAL: ~$130.

photo 1-1 photo 2-1 photo 3-1 photo 4

This is NOT all the toys my children have! This is ~25-33% of their toys. The rest are in “rotation”. I shall explain. The other 75% are in storage and out of reach. Every 6-8 weeks I rotate the toys in the play area. This keeps my kids interested and engaged with their toys and books. When I rotate the stash I try to include any items that will reflect upcoming holidays. Christmas books come out a few weeks before Christmas, Easter books come out before Easter, etc. Each rotation I try to include a food play item like the pizza set or tea party or play food and shopping basket. I also try to include a building toy like foam blocks or mega duplos. If I notice something is a favorite item at the moment I leave it in the play area for longer and rotate the other bins.

My guideline is if the play area can’t be cleaned in 5 minutes then there are too many toys available! And I’m talking “every single bin dumped out” messy. 5 minutes-no exceptions. How much easier would your day be if your play place could be cleaned in less than 5 minutes? The other perks of my system are that my kids are learning boundaries, organization, tidying up skills, and contentment. Zeta is 15 months and can easily identify where each toy belongs by its theme/category and helps clean up his toys!

Inevitably new toys come into our home via birthdays and holidays. This is a joyous and yet exasperating time for me! Right before a gift receiving event (about a week) I toy purge. Anything not being heavily used in that rotation goes back to storage. The new toys come and some get put into the play area immediately. The others go into storage or returned if they are duplicates or don’t meet our guidelines, but that’s another post! Rotating the toys also gives me a pretty good idea of which toys are loved and which ones are a flop. If a flop toy stays a flop after several times in play it goes to charity. I would rather another child get joy out of a toy rather than keep it out of obligation. This has kept the flow of toys in and out pretty well balanced.

Right now this system works for us. A typical toy rotation takes less than 1 hour. We have discussed getting a second bookshelf in the future to stand vertically for big kid toys that will be out of reach of babies and toddlers. The only addition I want to include is their dry erase board calender. I plan to mount this onto the wall directly above the cubbies. I think I should also note that they are not allowed any toys in their bedroom. The bedroom is for sleeping not playing.

What does your play room look like? Could it benefit from a toy purge? Are there so many toys the kids can’t clean it themselves? What has worked for you that you highly recommend?! I’m all ears 😀

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About Cheryl

Twenty something SAHM to two beautiful babies!
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