Early childhood experts are always talking about how kids don’t need special toys: Just give a kid a cup, bowl or stick and let his imagination...
Getting off the toy-go-round
In the closet, on the shelf, under the bed, even underfoot … there are toys. They’re everywhere!
The stuff kids’ dreams are made of are the same objects that create endless nightmares for parents — picking up, cleaning, sorting, finding missing pieces. Toy curation in a multi-child household is a never-ending story.
Then there’s all the time and brain power that goes into toy procurement. Every year, kids grow tired of their current thingamajigs and the toy companies release a new must-have; round and round, it never ends.
If buying toys for another holiday season already has you feeling a bit woozy here’s how to get off the toy-go-round:
Absence makes the child grow fonder
If you want your kids to fall in love all over again with their old toys, get them out of sight.
Starting a toy rotation can be as simple as putting a handful of regulars in a box and storing them for a week or two, or even a few months. After their vacation, the boxed toys can be exchanged for others; then repeat.
To take your toy rotation to the next level, divide them into categories (gross motor, action figures, vehicles, building toys, dress up, games). Then decide how many rotations you can fill and take a toy from each category and box them together.
Just be careful, or your kids will start to confuse toy-rotation day with their birthdays.
Be the mother of invention
Often toys make parents and kids feel like there’s only one way to play with them.
But they’re toys: There are no rules. Your child’s collection of animals shouldn’t be forced to idle their days away in the big red barn.
Take the animals to the bath or introduce them to Play-Doh. See what their footprints look like with a little paint. Engage them in some serious hide and seek. Blocks can do so much more than be stacked: Count them, sort them, weigh them, put them in a box and shake them. Once you get started, you and your children will start seeing endless ways to enjoy toys already in your house.
Check them out
If your kiddo’s a fickle pickle, you should consider checking out toys from a toy-lending library. In the Twin Cities, we’re lucky enough to have a handful of options. The Minneapolis Toy Library, ECFE’s Parent Resource Library in Roseville and Toylend USA have different membership fees, lending schedules and a huge variety of toys to explore. Outside of the Twin Cities, a handful of public libraries operate toy libraries as well.
Sharing is caring
“My friend X has toy Y — and it’s the coolest. I want one!”
If you’ve heard this before you might need a toy swap. Gather a group of equally toy-beleaguered parents. Have them bring their “recently ignored, but still lots of fun left” toys, add wine and, presto: Everyone has a good time and everyone goes home with “new” toys for their kids.
Rent before you buy
The bells and whistles and possible adventures for many toys exist mostly in your children’s imagination — or perhaps the incredibly misleading toy commercials.
It’s not until they are in your home, unboxed and loaded with batteries that you discover the toy doesn’t include all the awesomeness you both expected.
Skip the hype and try one of the many toy-subscription services. These services are a cool way to try out different types of toys to see what’s most entertaining for your kids. Check out Spark Box Toys, Toyconomy and Pley (LEGOs).
Don’t hand it down, bestow it
Does a perfectly good toy become unworthy of a gifting simply because it was previously loved? No.
Toys that have proven their worth by entertaining and surviving one child should be shared with a sense of passing the torch.
Get out and about
If your kids are in a rut with their toys, perhaps they just need a break.
Try heading out to the library, the Minnesota Children’s Museum or even the mall (not the stores, but the play areas where you don’t have to buy anything). None of the toys that you find there will be shiny and new, so you probably won’t hear the all too familiar, “Can I have one?”
This is not a box
Have you ever spent weeks scouring the Internet or visiting endless stores to find the perfect toy for your children only to have them make the box the toy came in a part of their permanent collection while the toy gathers dust under the couch?
Don’t fight it; embrace it. Make boxes into boats, cars or houses; use the whisk and bowls from your kitchen to cook up some pretend souffle; make binoculars out of toilet paper rolls.
If you look around the house, you’ll find hours of adventure.
As long as you have kids, the toy-go-round will keep going, but, perhaps with the help of a few of these ideas, you can make it spin just a little slower.
Airika Coblentz lives in Arden Hills with her triplet 4-year-olds and 8-year-old and her charming husband. Follow her exploits and mishaps (mostly mishaps) on her blog at lottowinners.wordpress.com.
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