Welcome to my wonderfully crazy life!

Homeschooling 6 blessings (so far) is teaching me a few things about grace, passion, patience, mercy, love and home management. I want to share these things! While some people love reading my long chatty emails, others insist that email should be done in memo form. Spoilsports! To save the sanity of those lovely folk, I will blog. I hope you will follow us on the amazing adventure the Lord has set before us.

Monday, May 14, 2012

toy management

In a house with 6 children, toy management can be quite an issue.  Each stage of development means a new set of fun, "essential" toys.  Some people show their love by giving lots of gifts.  If you happen to have one of these people as grandparent to your children, you may find yourself with an overwhelming amount of toys even if you only have one child.  Our family has found a way to manage toys that works pretty well.  It took a couple years to perfect the system, but now we have it down.

The first thing we did was divide the toys.  Each category has a labeled 20 gallon Rubbermaid type box.  We lean toward using the solid colored boxes with the handles that hold the lids on, because they seem to be the most durable and stay closed.  Right now, we have 8 boxes - cars, blocks, rescue heros, little people, baby toys, trains, doll house, and dolls.  Only one category is allowed out at a time, except the girls always have a few dolls and the boys always have legos.  There is also a small basket of baby toys in my room and a basket of toddler toys in the living room (because we often have visiting toddlers.)

In each child's bedroom, we have an easy to use storage system.  The system has to be easy enough to use that the children who live in that room can easily clean up their toys without much adult assistance.  I have found if putting toys away requires the children to place things in a container in a precise fashion or order, cleaning up is too overwhelming and time consuming.  That leads to frustration and anger for both mom and child.  No good.  So, we use low sturdy shelves with bins that are about twice the size of a shoebox and enough bins to hold all the toys in one category with room to spare.  This way, the children can just scoop up toys and toss them in the bins.  The older ones can sort them if they want.

The boxes that are out of rotation get locked away in the boys' and girls' room closets.  We don't have huge closets in our house, but they are big enough that 3 boxes can sit on that top shelf (that none of my kids can reach anyway) and two boxes can fit side by side on the floor without interfering with hanging clothes.  Each closet has a child lock on it that only my 3 oldest can unlock.  As each child has figured out how to unlock those locks, we have gone through a brief transition time where we have had to teach the child that ability does not equal consent.  Yeah.  Not a fun thing to walk into a bedroom and find ALL the toys out.  However, the child who unlocked the door and pulled all the toys out, or left the door unlocked so that a younger sibling could get them all out, helps with the clean up and that is usually enough to teach them why the locks are essential. 

When it seems like the toys are spending significant time on the floor being stepped on, I know it is time for a toy rotation and purge.  We go through the category that is out and take out anything that is broken, torn, dirty beyond washing, inappropriate or annoying.  We take this as an oppotunity to do away with annoying toys like Chicken Dance Elmo.  If a category of toy no longer fits in the assigned bin, it is time to purge that category of toys or, buy a bigger bin. 

We set aside any toys that are of sentimental value, decide how many more toys in that category need to go away and we let the kids decide.  With stuffed animals (do they multiply when we are sleeping at night or what?) I asked the kids to pick their two favorite stuffies and the rest went to Goodwill.  With their enormous collection of Little People, we decided that it was wisest to just give away the two big things that will never fit in a bin.  I don't think the kids even realize those toys are gone. 

With this system in place, rooms are generally neat and tidy (or easy to make neat and tidy) and when a toy rotation occurs, it is as if the kids have a bunch of new toys.  It works for us.