Thursday, January 11, 2007

So Many Toys, So Little Time

Yesterday we received our Christmas loot in the mail. We left a huge chunk of stuff back in North Carolina (we couldn't fit it all in our suitcases), and my parents shipped it to us. It didn't look like that much stuff when we were at my parents' house, but now that we've unpacked the boxes into our (much smaller) home, I'm not sure where to put it all. . . You see, I don't know what to do with all our toys.

I do realize this is one of those good problems to have in life (Oh no. Too many toys! What ever shall we do?!?). But seriously. I need a reality check. I have one basket filled just with stuffed animals. Do I put them in Marcie's room? Leave them out? Just pull out a couple and box up the rest for our next kid? Casey occasionally plays with them, but very occasionally. And Marcie has only shown interest in them when Casey plays with them.

I have a giant Little People doll house and a Little People School bus. Do I box these up or keep them out? Neither of my children has ever shown any interest in the Little People stuff. We are boxing up our Little People Noah's Ark and our Little People Farm because of this lacking interest. But maybe Marcie just doesn't know how to pretend play with the stuff and I need to show her? Or should I put them away for now.

What about all the blocks we have? We have a tub of blocks. Casey loved blocks when he was Marcie's age. Mainly, he liked to stack things high and knock them down. But he has never really been into building. And Marcie will knock down my creations, but she hasn't expressed any interest in building . . . yet. My instincts tell me to definitely keep the blocks out-- but I'm not 100% sure.

We have a tub of musical instruments, toy food, and LeapPad readers. Casey has recently expressed interest in the LeapPad thingy for kids Marcie's age (that figures), and he went through a period of time where he was more interested in his. Do I put them away for now because we are reading to them anyway (when Marcie pulls a book out of her mouth long enough to allow me to read it to her, that is)? They are bulky, and I question their value.

We have a basket of balls. I think I'll keep that out. We have a basket of trains and matchbox-sized cars. I will keep that out. And we have a giant basket of large-sized cars, which Marcie has occasionally expressed interest in, so I'm keeping that out. We also have a boatload of puzzles-- the wooden kind-- with many missing pieces. Do I toss these? Keep them out?

We have threading activities with giant beads for Casey, which we haven't used in a long while-- but I feel compelled to keep out because we should be using them more with him. And we have the LeapPad table, a vacuum cleaner, and a stroller with a baby doll all taking up space. Marcie only uses the table if I set her at it, so I'm thinking of packing this up and passing it along to friends. Casey has never used the vacuum cleaner, and he mainly pushes the stroller into walls. But Marcie is getting to the age where she might like them both-- and I'm afraid if I put them into storage, I'll forget to take them out until she is too old for them. . .

And last (I think) is our Bounce and Spin Zebra and each of the kids ride-on car toys. These actually get used quite a bit by Marcie, who is impressively able to navigate them, wheel herself around, and bounce along on the zebra. The thing is that all these toys are in our family room/dining room area. Which actually has furniture in it. I suppose I should just start calling it our "play room" (especially given that the coffee table has been turned into a train table for Casey). And these are the toys I'm contemplating keeping out after putting away many other toys. . .

Now add to that list Marcie's new dinosaur roar ball toy, the ball bopper, the gumball machine, and Casey giant Lightning McQueen-- all pretty large-sized items for the space. Where do I put them? Will Marcie even play with these toys? Should I send one or two of them over to Grandma's, where she plays all day (I think I might, but that doesn't resolve all my space issues).

And also consider that Casey is having a birthday on Monday. And a pretty big party. Which probably means more toys . . . So how many toys are too many? How do you decide which toys should be kept out? Should we just rotate the toys through the room? How often? In doing that, do we leave everything out, but just less of everything-- or do we have toys that are available for just a couple weeks at a time? The thought of rotating the toys frightens me if only because it's another thing to add to my to-do list, which is already much too long. But we can't live as guests in the home so full of toys that we can't walk anywhere without tripping over one, either.

What do others out there do?


dfg said...

Mmm...the toy problem. We are dealing with the same thing, though not with quite as much volume. Here's what I do. I designated a shelving unit and a couple of small dressers JUST for this problem. The toys that need supervision or assistance go in these places and get "put away". They are taken out only in those instances when I know that I can devote some real quality time to playing WITH the kids. Then, some of the toys are stored in laundry baskets in the garage. This includes the toys that Emma has outrgown and Nicky has not grown into yet. When he's ont he verge of being ready for them, I take them out and put others away. Finally, if there are any toys in which neither shows interest, they go in the garage as well. I take them out at a later date, and boy, the novelty returns! And the kids show A LOT of interest in it all over again. Incidentally, if you're looking to unload your leapfrog table, I'm happy to take it off your hands and pay for shipping. I was just looking at that for Nicky for Christmas, but decided against it in the interest of our bugdet. In the end, they don't need ALL the toys out at once. Frankly, I find that all it does is overwhelm them and teach them a short attention span by jumping from one available toy to another. Keep out only the stuff they really play with, and a few things that you want to try and stimulate them with. Generally, I stick with the basics that I know will hone their skills: blocks, beads, books, balls, etc.etc.etc. As for imaginary play, Emma started to do that when she was about 20 or 22 months old. So pack that stuff away until Marcie's a bit older. Then you can bring it out and see if she's really into it or not.

Whew! Ok. Sorry. This was way to long for a comment.

dfg said...

One more thing. Stuffed animals are mostly good for decoration only. I've found that my kids almost never play with them as well. So, except for the ones that they occasionally sleep with, the rest go on shelves for decoration, and even then, it's only the ones that are very special. The rest go to good will. Put a few on some shelves in the kids rooms and get rid of the rest. I don't know if you remember my "collection" as a kid, but I had something like 350, and I NEVER played with them. They all sat on shelves. Leave that space in the play room for more stimulating or productive toys.

babyreynolds said...

My cousin (who is a teacher) always suggests that before Christmas or a Birthday or when toys seem to pile up, that kids get rid of some by going through them and picking out toys to donate somewhere. Marcie might be too young, but Casey might be able to do it and understand!