Spring is in the air, and perhaps it is time for a Spring clean? Usually, we are motivated to streamline our lives and homes for a more organised and productive lifestyle at this time of year. If you have young children, I am sure you can identify with the image of toys scattered all over the floor of a room or spread through the house and found in the most random places – like the time I climbed into my bed to rest my weary head at night, only to discover it filled with every soft toy owned by my two daughters.
Getting on top of the toy ‘takeover’ common in the early years can greatly benefit parents by reducing excess clutter and the constant need to be tempted to become frustrated and berate children for cleaning up. It also, however, greatly benefits the young child to have an environment that provides opportunities for quality and meaningful play and the development of concentration. A recent study found that an environment with fewer toys led to a higher quality of toddler play, suggesting that fewer toys provided an opportunity for better focus, exploration and creativity in play (Dauch, Imwalle, Ocasio, & Metz, 2018).
I want to share with you 4 top tips for tackling the toy ‘takeover’:
1. Begin by taking the time to observe the age, interest and phase your child is in. Once you have taken note of that, you can begin sorting the existing toys into tubs that you can donate or mend:
- ‘outgrown’ – this can be both developmentally, such as books, rattles, puzzles etc, or no longer of interest to your child (no longer ‘sparks joy’ for them)
- ‘broken or missing parts’ and
- ‘duplicates’ (it took me a while to realise that we didn’t require 20 baby dolls in the house, so only 4 remain!)
2. Increase play objects that have natural qualities that allow for exploration and investigation in a variety of ways and inspire an active child (often simple & safe household items such as a tub with a lid – they will likely take the lid off and put it back on 100 times over and still be satisfied). If you have lots of digital, ‘flashy’ toys that sing or talk to the child, they will be less likely to explore its properties and experiment with it actively.
3. Consider the purpose of the toys and have an even amount in each category, e.g. construction, craft, imagination, fine motor, musical, soft toys. If you notice you have an abundance in one area, then declutter in that category.
4. Carefully consider what comes into the house to stay on top of the ‘takeover’ (this may mean having a gentle word to the grandees ?).
Once the number of toys has been reduced, the next step is to consider how to layout the play environment. Stay tuned for next weeks bite-sized blog: Creating the environment to invite meaningful play!
Dauch, C., Imwalle, M., Ocasio, B., & Metz, A. E. (2018). The influence of the number of toys in the environment on toddlers’ play. Infant Behavior and Development, 50, 78-87. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.infbeh.2017.11.005