I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but with two kids comes about 12 times the number of toys. When Eli was Liza’s age, all his toys would fit into this nice little wicker basket. I bought the basket because I thought it would be handy to carry his toys from room to room in it. That basket sits in Liza’s room now and it holds about four smallish toys and those ring hooks (used to attach toys to the stroller) and a couple of baby spoons she chews on. There are toys in the kitchen again. Toys in the master bathroom again. Toys in my bedroom again. Toys in the living room again. There’s enough toys here for nine kids–and no, that’s not a personal goal.
Believe it or not I have sort of a hard line about the kid’s toys. Here are my guidelines:
1.) The bulk of the toy population must fit in their rooms. I relax this slightly when they are babies just because it’s easy to have them spread out around the house for when you move from room to room. And also, Liza can’t really carry her toys back to her room. We do have a chest in the living room that holds toys. I do this because there are a few big things Eli plays with that are easier to spread out in the living room. To accomplish rule 1 I have rule 2…
2.) Toys must be regularly purged. This usually happens after Christmas and birthdays, and I am ruthless. I purge at other times too. Like, if we can’t reach Eli’s bed for bedtime, then I’ll see if I can clean out the cruft. If the toy is now too young for Eli, I put it away for Liza. If it’s still good and we aren’t saving it for Liza, the Eli’s preschool gets first crack at it. If they don’t want it, it goes off to a thrift store. If it’s broken, it goes in the trash. These first two rules used in combination allow rule 3…
3.) There will be no toy/play room in my house. I understand that some people feel it’s a must. If that works for them, great. If I’m going to have another room in my house, please let it be a guest room so my friends and family can close the door when they sleep, not a room for sad, old toys to accumulate. Now you might say, “Misty, why do you get a toy room (office) and the kids don’t?” My answer might sound a bit juvenile, but here it is anyway. It’s mine and Stephen’s house and we get to say what the rooms are used for.
4.) All toys must be put away at bedtime. This rule, I’ll admit, can be exhausting. At the end of the day, trying to pick up, get Eli to do his part, and get the kids to bed taxes me to the limit. However, in my mind, it’s a short slide from leaving toys out to anarchy. So no matter how tired I feel, the toys go away. This actually serves a couple of good purposes. After the kids are in bed, it’s adult living space again and I can relax for 15 minutes before I fall asleep myself. When I get up in the morning I don’t have to face a disaster. Mornings are hard enough for me. Having to get going while battling toys everywhere would probably cause me to have to be medicated. This is also why I never leave dinner dishes in the sink.
5.) I prefer toys to be battery free. With 3 sets of grandparents this is impossible and I know it. When my sister-in-law made this rule for her son I thought it was a bit silly. There are such fun things out there with lights! and bells! and talking cows! But it turns out, most of those toys are passing fancies for my kids. They use a lot of batteries and are freaking loud.
Side note: Why do toy manufacturers make toys so loud? Do they think children are deaf and if they only make the toy loud enough they might break through the deafness? Some toys are now, finally!, coming with volume control. If it doesn’t have a switch, I tape over the speaker so that it’s not so noisy.
Eli got tinker toys and Lincoln Logs for Christmas and he’d sleep with the tinker toys if I’d let him. Those are the first toys out in the morning and the last toys put away. They are better for him creatively and they take up less space than a lot of mechanical/battery-powered toys. Also, I don’t ever have to purchase a battery for Lincoln Logs.
I have one exception to this rule and that’s activity tables for when kids are learning to pull themselves to standing. We had three when Eli was little. I know, I know that’s more than some daycare centers, so sue me. For Liza we have two. They are very useful to have in different rooms so she can pull up and not be pulling books off shelves and onto her head. Also, Eli is still amazed by them. The two of them will sit for several fives of minutes playing together.
6.) At birthdays and Christmas, only three toys per child from anyone in the family. Three from us, three from my mom, three from my dad and step-mom, and three from Stephen’s parents. That’s 12 toys, way more than enough for any one kid to play with and enjoy at one time. There are several reasons I put this rule in place. It makes it more fair to less affluent family members. Hopefully, it will keep my kids from getting spoiled by stuff. And it does help keep the explosion of stuff under control.
7.) Books don’t count as toys. We’re bibliophiles; why shouldn’t our kids be too? I know this is going to cause no end of trouble later but I’d rather move to a bigger house on account of books than toys. Priorities, people!
That’s pretty much my rule set. What do you guys do to keep the toy population under control, or do you even bother? I can’t wait to hear how you guys keep the tsunami from overwhelming you.