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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Tot Tip: Too Many Toys

If your house is anything like mine, then you have tons of toys.  Often as parents, we enjoy getting our child new toys almost as much as he or she enjoys receiving new toys.  Unfortunately the newness quickly wears off and the child moves on to something new, leaving piles of unused toys in his wake.

There is a great deal of research and advice out there saying that fewer toys are actually better for your child's development.  I'm not going to get into that here, but there are some easy things that you can do to  both bring life back to the old toys and eliminate the over-stimulation brought on by too many toys.

1.  Distribute your toys.  Don't put all of your toys in one place.  Little Bear has 3 play stations around the house.  One is in his bedroom, one is in the great room and one is downstairs (we have an open floor plan so this really encompasses the living room, dining room and kitchen).

2.  Hide some toys.  Don't put out every single toy that your child owns.  Put some of the toys away for awhile.  Later bring those toys out and put some others away.  This will give your child an opportunity to rediscover his toys.

3.  Rotate toys between your multiple play stations.  Every few months, I will move Little Bear's toys around.  Often a new setting will allow your child to come up with new uses for old toys.

After I did some toy shuffling, Little Bear rediscovered this simple tractor.  He spent the entire day driving it around and making sounds.

4.  Pay attention to the types of toys that your child enjoys.  Not that you don't ever want to expose them to new things, but if your child isn't interested in stuffed animals, what are you going to do with a room full of teddy bears?

5.  Shop for toys carefully.  Don't always buy the toy with all of the bells and whistles that can do everything.  Instead search for toys that will allow your child to do a lot with them.  Dolls with minimal facial expressions encourage children to create their own emotions for the doll.  Wooden cars encourage children to create their own sound effects.

6.  If a toy breaks, don't always go buy a new one.  Teach your child to be responsible and care for their toys.

7.  Rather than buying new toys, give your child safe household items to play with.  This allows them to both use their creativity and model your behaviors (one of their favorite pastimes anyway).  Little Bear has his own cabinets in the kitchen that are unlocked and filled with things that I use on a daily basis but are child safe (mixing bowls, measuring cups, tupperware, etc.).  Often if I am in the kitchen he would rather play with those than his other toys.

8.  Play with your child!  You are the best toy that your toddler could possibly have, so instead of spending the time and money to buy another toy just have some good old fashioned fun!

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