Tag: toys

Too Much Stuff

Too Much Stuff

There’s no other way to say it, my kids have too much stuff. Books, stuffed animals, clothes, and electronic toys are frequently everywhere. They like to make messes, but when they get bored with what they’re playing with in five minutes they’re rarely willing to pick it up. It’s a constant source of tension for us.

I don’t think any mom wants to admit that their children might have too much stuff. We want them to have everything, right? All the fun toys, learning materials, and warm and comfy clothes and shoes are so tempting!

I was recently confronted with this issue in a way that I couldn’t ignore. On a 3 hour drive to go camping my girls cried for toys and tv for about an hour. I must admit that we discussed a portable DVD player during this time, desperate for backseat contentedness. Once we got there their moods improved only marginally–they were bored. A lot of the day was filled with complaining and testing my patience until bedtime. The next morning, however, they began to settle down. They found leaves to run around in and collect, sticks to stack, and large rocks (dinosaur bones). Madilyn found a little metal nut and labeled it “robot finger” and spent the rest of the trip doing everything, including sleeping, with her robot friend. On the trip home they played with straws, pretending that they were musical instruments, and their socks, using them as mittens, bags, and “dinosaur eggs”. There was no whining on the drive home except to express disappointment that we were going home and not back to the campsite.

How can I ignore the message here? I was disappointed in myself for even considering the DVD player, when clearly they need less media and electronics, not more! Research even demonstrates this. Kiddos need activities and experiences over objects.

We have an overabundance of loving and well meaning friends and family, myself included, that like to get new stuff for the girls on a regular basis. While it’s something that I struggle to keep up with, we generally counteract the overcrowding in a few ways:

1. Toy Tub Rotation

Sometimes I just throw toys in tubs, leave one out, and put the rest away. Once they seem bored the tub can be swapped for another one.

2. Zebra Boxes 

I haven’t done a zebra box in a while, but it’s a great motivational tool for getting children to help clean up or cooperate. You can read more about it here.

3. Toy Auction

When things just get too out of hand I will pick up everything and hold a toy auction. Little buyers get a set amount of coins–in our case they’re poker chips from a thrift store–to buy their belongings back with. I usually do about 5 book coins (although their books are kept close by anyway, because reading), 1 large toy coin, 2 or 3 small toy coins, and 1 coin for building blocks or puzzles.

4. Disappearing and Reappearing Toys

Occasionally one of my kids will ask where a certain toy that they haven’t seen in a while is. This is when I pull out what they’re missing. They usually play with it for a day or two before getting bored, and I can put it away again.

5. Sticker/stamp Chart

I’ve written about the stamp chart before. This is such a great way to get kids engaged in keeping their belongings tidy(ish) and rewarding them for helping.

6. Toy Culling

Rarely I get so overwhelmed that I qill do a culling of toys. Anything they don’t play with, refuse to pick up, or volunteer to get rid of is donated. I did this in July, and the girls were actually so overwhelmed with clutter at that time that they helped decide what to get rid of.

7. TV Time

I’m really bad with the TV. I’ll leave it on when they ask and turn it on to try and bore them to sleep. I have to have some kind of controls in place to stop myself from thos, because I have definitely noticed that the less screen time they have, the happier they are and more imaginative they play. There are soem great learning shows for kids, but I still feel interactive play and outside exploration is better.

For now, our system is that they can watch as much TV on Friday as they do worksheets/workbooks. Today it was 40 minutes. They actually got bored very quickly and left before the time was up anyway. Still a work in progress.

Portable Busy Box

Portable Busy Box

Sometimes you go somewhere, like a restaurant or the doctor’s office, and the kids get bored and restless sitting there. What can you do?

I’ll admit that I have resorted to handing over my phone in some dire circumstances, and although I am never particularly proud of myself for this, I am thankful for the temporary reprieve that it offers.

However, I knew in my bones that there had to be a better way. And then suddenly, after a hankering for turkey lettuce wraps, the solution sat in front of me in the form of an empty lunch meat container.

Just a smallish container and the possibilities became endless.

Supplies:

A small container per child

Art supplies–colored pencils, crayons, markers, stickers, and coloring pages have worked well for me

Small, versatile toys–blocks, figurines, or even a puzzle might be fun

Directions:

Mix and match! I like to change the contents of the containers frequently because I enjoy their surprise when they see what’s inside.

That’s it! Cheap, simple, fun, and effective.

The Zebra Box

The Zebra Box

Hello and happy Friday! This week I’m excited about sharing something wonderful that’s been happening in our house. I hope that it might be of some service to you as well!

My kids hate to clean, which is fine–a lot of people don’t like to clean (myself included), and they’re both still very young. Nonetheless, it’s important that they learn to clean up after themselves. We ask them regularly to tidy up once they’re done playing, but they are oftentimes so busy having fun that my pleas go unnoticed.

One evening, after a particularly hectic day, I sat down on the bed and looked at the bedroom. Our girls sleep in our bed, but have two toddler beds as their own personal spaces. Clothes and toys littered the floor. As I was cleaning up the mess I had a multipurpose idea: what if someone left them each a small box to entertain them when they first woke up? I could wake up more leisurely and get dressed without hearing “mommy, pick me up,” and they would be happy. Perhaps the condition under which this occurs is that the floor is clean enough to walk through.

The first morning when we woke up I told them that on the way to bed I met a zebra that told me he’d like to do this for them, but it had been very hard for him to get into the room with so much stuff everywhere. If they kept it clean enough then he would make sure that they had new items in the box every morning. The box is very simple: a few quiet, low key items such as a book, a stuffed animal, and some blocks or figurines.

To my surprise, it’s working! Tonight before bed it was extremely messy in the living room, so daddy asked them to please pick up so that the zebra could fit through the living room, and to both of our astonishment they both tidied up the entire floor (while singing “Tidy Up” from Little Baby Bum).

The stray necklace came later.

My two and a half year old excitedly jumps out of bed to see what’s in her box! What other creative ways do you get your kids to help out? I’d love tips and new ideas!