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Get Out of Toy Hell

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Here's how.

child with toys

Your house is cluttered with toys, yet your kids complain endlessly that they hate them all. You don't certainly don't have the money to go out and buy them brand-new toys "just cuz," and the thought of jamming any more toys into your already cluttered garage makes you nuts. How do you know when it's time to trade out and rotate anyway? Is there an easy way to transition through each toy stage ... and when is it the right time to do it? We asked ML parenting expert Jill Spivack to weigh in.

Before you go out and buy all new toys, there are some toys that have real longevity. These are often described as "open-ended toys" which have multiple uses. Some examples of these types of toys include water, containers, boxes, blankets, sand, kitchen Tupperware or spoons, crayons, paint, building blocks, dolls and stuffed animals, dress-up clothes, non- powered cars or trucks, play figures, and arts-and-crafts equipment. Children under three should not have access to sand or water play or art equipment without adult supervision (and sometimes certain items, such as those with little pieces like cars are trucks, are not appropriate either).

The toys to invest in are the ones that grow with a child. Some toys often serve several purposes, initially appealing to young children because of the way they look or sound but ultimately serving the purposes of dumping and filling, stacking or imaginary play.

Weed out the "boring" toys. If you're finding you have a lot of toys that your child has gotten bored with, try to sort out "single-use toys" (which probably will never become interesting to your child again) versus toys they can use in different/imaginative ways in the future, such as play kitchens, sand boxes, etc.

Get organized. Organize a closet or garage area with some plastic bins and label them ("musical instruments", "art supplies", "dress up clothes," "blocks," etc.), and rotate them out of sight for a while. Make sure to keep your child's play area fairly organized. Children don't need 100 toys out at the same time ... if they have too much out, it's difficult for them to attend to the specific qualities or use of one particular toy and they do not learn to sustain their attention to a task or goal.

Rotate! Rotate frequently -- as often as every week or two, if necessary, to keep things fresh. You can gauge when it's time to rotate or throw out toys by your child's interest level and whether or not he pays attention to a particular toy after a while. You can rotate back and forth when you find your child has grown tired of his current toy stash and see what appeals to him. As he develops and new skills develop, he'll find new uses for toys over time. If you find he remains uninterested with certain toys, even if you show him new ways to play with those particular items, you're probably safe to donate them to children who need toys.

'Fess up: Do you get rid of your kids toys when they're not looking? Comment below.

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    8 comments so far | Post a comment now
    Anonymous January 25, 2009, 12:12 PM

    The answer is simple; don’t buy so much for your spoiled kid!

    Kim January 25, 2009, 12:19 PM

    Great article! Rotate and donate or even do a toy swap with other parents - and yes - I have tossed toys when my kids arent’s looking - or at least pulled out the batteries on the loud annoying ones that were usually gifts from well meaning people who have no children!

    Anonymous January 25, 2009, 12:20 PM

    how timely! i am currently trying to purge and store a ton of toys. i am going to send this article to my mother!

    HomeGirlBlog January 25, 2009, 12:48 PM

    When I get toys that require batteries for my baby, I let him play with it a few months without the batteries. When he gets bored with it, I add batteries and boy do those flashing lights and music rekindle his affection.

    Jean January 25, 2009, 4:59 PM

    I must confess, when my kids were younger, I would throw out stuff and guess what, they never even noticed! Maybe it’s a sign that they had WAY too much stuff???

    - Jean

    Julie January 25, 2009, 11:24 PM

    Invest in something that lasts a lifetime, like music classes that include home CD’s and instruments. Your child will never outgrow music.

    Mary January 26, 2009, 7:34 AM

    To HomeGirlBlog - excellant idea thanks

    Pthemcwz June 30, 2009, 1:28 AM

    nCZQdh comment2 ,

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