I think I love toys as much or more then the children...even if I'm not playing with them. :-) I love browsing the toy aisles at the stores. It's not just for the kids in this family. LOL Lakeshore Learning/Toys to Grow On and Discount School Supply I enjoy purchasing toys from but I also find many from Amazon. So, as you can imagine...we have a LOT of toys/mainpulatives around here. Here are some toy organization suggestions that we do in preschool that work well for home:
* One thing I've brought home from my work experience, even before opening up as a family child care/preschool, was that of rotating toys. Having a toy rotation makes life much more enjoyable for a family with young children. Why? Because when you switch toys they become like "new" again. Also, less if often better. Helps children learn to do with what they have. Oh, it's so fun to watch the children on the first day of switching toys. A suggestion...if you can't handle a bit of disorganization for a small bit I recommend you switch out toys more regularly-one set at a time vs. all of them every two weeks or so. We typically do a complete toy switch out and so the first day with the "new" toys, especially if you have toddlers around, they are all out on the floor. But that doesn't last long. After the first day they are back into making sure they get put away. It's just the excitement of the "new" toys.
* Have a toy shelf vs. a toy box. I've been in homes with toy boxes and what do the children do? Pull everything out and very seldom do they play with much of it. It also causes the toys to not last as long because at clean up time they are all dumped back into the box and the more often that is done the more apt the toys is to break. Little pieces fall into the box and so sets are not complete anymore and so on. Do you and your child a favor and help them appreciate a little order to the toys. They'll find it's so much more enjoyable because they can find exactly what they want at any moment.
* Sterlite containers! I love Sterilite. Go for quality since the kids will be using them. Don't want to have to replace them every time they crack...which is one reason why I choose Sterilite. They tend to last a lot longer. (We do have the expectation that the containers are for storage and not for playing with. We have other containers for playing with!) Okay, so why plastic containers?
- They have a lid. Keeps it all contained and then I can stack them up so nicely in the closet, especially when they are the same size/brand, when it's time to store them. I also can purchase whatever size I need.
- To expect a young child to put the pieces back into their original box would take clean up way too long!
- It allows for children to find specific pieces without dumping the whole set out as there is usually "wiggle room" inside of a container.
- Keeps our toy shelf organized and allows the children to easily remove the toys from the shelf and take them to another part of the room. Unfortunately for us, since we remodeled the shelf has to be in a very small walkway and so if they sit down there in front of the shelf we have the path to the bathroom blocked...and really, we don't the children sitting in front of the shelf because it causes problems with the other children. So having the toys in a container allows for easy transporting.
- It allows for easy labeling!
* Label. Yes, this can seem a bit time consuming but it's SO worth it. Even toddlers can match toys to a containers with a label. Most people have digital cameras anymore. This is very handy but if you don't, you can usually find a picture of the set on the Internet to use. I take a picture of the toy or set of toys that belong in the container and then print, attach to the container by covering with packing tape. I strongly suggest you add the print that goes along with the toy. And, consider taking it a step further. :-) Print two copies, one for the container and one for the shelf. Laminating is the way to go. They last a lot longer. The children then know right where to put the item on the shelf. Just take the label off of the shelf and store in the toy container for next time. Side note: I also have toys around the perimeter of the living room as some are too big for the shelf, so I just place the label on the wall where I want the children to place the item when they are done with it. We've gotten away from this whole technique this last year because of various reasons but it became frustrating to me because I had to constantly organize...or the children couldn't find something they wanted because it wasn't in the same spot (speaking for the young ones) and with Trent and possibly another toddler-soon to be preschooler this fall...it's on the top of my list to have back in place by September.
Another note about toys...we have the issue that I, as a child care provider, can not have certain sized items accessible for children under 3. Well, I have an almost 6 year old and an 8 year old. Also, my older preschool students are well past the "baby toys". So I have an extra shelf in the boys' room that has the small piece sets. Just keeps it all separate but still organized. I also find that we tend to leave Legos, Knex and such out all the time instead of rotating them. I use this shelf to also store small piece toys that I wish to use with the younger ones, under supervision because I need them easy accessible (for me) and I strongly believe that part of the reason why we have such a delayed fine motor epidemic by Kindergarten/1st grade is because children just don't play with toys with small parts because it's "not safe". Oh, I think I've posted about this before so I won't go into it today. :-P
* As a preschool teacher/child care provider, I also plan which toys I'm going to have out. If I can make them theme related. all the better! But mostly I think...fine motor, gross motor, alphabet, numbers, shapes/colors, dramatic play, puzzles, science, music, blocks, infant/toddler. This helps me to be sure I have a wide variety of material out for the children to work with. Preferably I'd love to have writing and art materials out but as it's in my home and I have a mixed age group...I haven't had success with that! So we have daily opportunities that are a little more structured.
Thought I'd share one of the sets we got out today. Sometimes it's nice to see some toys that others have used. :-) If you have some that are popular with the children or popular with you because of it's many benefits...I'd love to hear about them!
Spatial Relations Play Set
This is how it often gets used when out for free play.