Sorry for that longer then planned absence, but hi and I’m back! During this unplanned break I did a complete sort through of Imogen’s toys and I firmly established our toy library area.
First, I highly recommend the book Simplicity Parenting, by Kim John Payne. There is an entire chapter that deals with toys, it can be summed up by this one quote from the book:
“A smaller, more manageable quantity of toys invites deeper play and engagement. An avalanche of toys invites emotional disconnect and a sense of overwhelming.” pg. 65
That being said, we still have way too much. But, here is how I try to contain and organize the seemingly endless stuff.
This is our main living area and her main play space. She was in a funny place where she rarely played with her trains anymore, but was HIGHLY resistant to any mention of packing them up and putting them in the toy library (more on this whole situation later in the post).
The shelf is a standing unit from our local unfinished furniture store that I have used for her toys since she was 6 months old. For three and a half years I have thought about finishing it or painting it, at this point I think I am going to embrace the natural. The small sitting desk is from a local antique shop and we use it to store her finished artwork.
Across the top:
- Petco small animal carrier filled with Imogen’s veterinarian items. There is a stethoscope in there but otherwise it is a collection of mostly repurposed items.
- Blue tin full of marbles.
- Basket of cats, because what’s better than a basket of cats?
In the shelf:
- Bin FULL of stuffed animals. Often sick stuffed animals that have to visit the vet.
- Clementine box with this bug catcher and an insect viewing box
- Bin full of trains and other vehicles*
- White wooden bin with dollhouse accessories – tiny tiny things
We currently put special, have to keep, artwork in the desk. She uses the clipboards above the desk to display her works and she changes them occasionally. I know the watercolor has been up for ages.
The magazine holders hold her copies of Ladybug and some Highlights High Five. I pick up the Highlights at Barnes and Noble when they are buy 2 get 1 free. I love them for those two hour car rides to the grandparents.
* This is what the room looks like this morning – she did have the basket of cats and the stuffed animals out to play with. So, as I was writing this post last night and looking at the pictures, I realized that she hadn’t played with the trains since I took the pictures on July 8th. I took the advice in Simplicity Parenting and I moved them to the toy library. The green bin that held all the trains fits in the shelf in the office and I packed up all the tracks into a box and set it in the office closet covered with a pretty scarf. Since it is in the toy library, it is still available and I have no problem helping her get it back out, but with all the trains put away, it allows her to focus on what she is currently playing with and really enjoying – the houses and the animals. It is 2:30 in the afternoon and she hasn’t even mentioned that the tracks or the trains are gone.
Our family room is in constant use. It is right off the kitchen, so it is where Imogen often plays or does art at her small table as I am cooking dinner and it is where everyone sits to talk. On one wall we have built-in shelves and I have used the bottom three shelves on both sides for toy storage.
Top shelf all the way across:
- Pictures of Dan and me, her big sister, and an Imogen picture
- A clementine box that holds chapter books
- The green felt container holds two small measuring tapes
- The most important treasures treasure box
- Two special cards from friends
- Two homemade musical instruments
- A glockenspiel
- Our summer buckets
- the only Montessori work I have out which is a sewing tray
- Basket of instruments
- basket of CDs
- CD player – Imogen does use it independently
- Her favorite basket that often becomes a prop in other games
- The basket where I try to corral library books
Next to the built-in shelves we have a little recessed shelf. The bottom holds puzzles and the top shelf holds board games. Not the most organized and accessible, and I should probably move some to the toy library. I didn’t really do anything with these during the reorganization, I think I may revisit that tonight.
Now we move to what I call the toy library. These are the toys that she does play with, but not that often. It also holds the catch all bin – you know, the little prizes or the toys in gift bags that your child decides is the best thing ever and there is no way it is going away anytime soon. Our toy library is located in the office which is still on the main floor of our house off the living room. Before this reorganization, I had it in the office closet, but I was prone to just shoving things in there since it was out of sight out of mind. Having it out in the open makes me more aware of it and gives Imogen more control of keeping it organized and being able to choose toys and put them back.
The idea of the library, again from Simplicity Parenting, is that these toys can be rotated in and out of the main play spaces. For our family, I think I am going to leave them in the office and Imogen can choose them from the shelves, and then when she cleans up they go back in the library. Many of these toys she doesn’t actually play with, like the treasure boxes, but they are very special to her and she enjoys sorting and looking at her shells, rocks, pieces of paper, costume jewelry and all other tiny things.
Toy library from top left to right:
- Bin with doll clothing
- Clementine box with two dolls
- Green bin holding silk scarves
- Blue bin holding dinosaurs
- Woven basket holding all the miscellaneous pieces, it’s the catch all. I do try to keep this somewhat cleaned out but it is a fine balance since she does seem to remember everything she owns.
- The next cube holds all the other treasure boxes. Imogen loves to collect and sort – that really sounds much better than my daughter is a hoarder.
- The remote control car has it’s own space.
- The pink reverberating microphone had it’s own cube, this was part of Imogen’s organization. I did move it to the catch all basket and put the train bin from the family room in this space.
- The larger green bin on the floor holds her dress up clothing.
There is still too much stuff, but it is a great improvement. To get to this point I probably donated or bagged up anywhere from a quarter to a third of her toys. It took me about two evenings to clean and put away, and I suggest opaque bags and immediately putting them in the car trunk or out of sight. That reduces the risk of things being spied and suddenly becoming the most wonderful toy in the whole wide world!
I evaluated everything:
- Does it meet our family standards?
- Is it in good repair?
- Does it have “staying power” this is discussed in Simplicity Parenting
- Does she still play with it?
A question I found extremely helpful as I was going through everything, again from Simplicity Parenting, “Is this a toy my child can pour their imagination into, or is it too ‘fixed’?” I have worked pretty hard in making sure that I am always okay with the toys in our house, but we do still have a remote control car which is 1) battery run 2) plastic and 3) “fixed.” After her initial love of the car at Christmas, she has hardly touched it, it really should have gone in one of the bags. But, that is why this is always a constant process.
Anything I wasn’t totally sure about, which usually was just a question of whether she still played with it, I put in a black bag and put down in the basement. I like to say in six months I will just donate the bag without opening it, but I know I will have to at least peek and see what all I packed away! I noticed that it was often my attachment to items that made it hard for me to donate or bag up the toys, but I had to remember it’s about Imogen not me!
While I did all the purging on my own, Imogen did help rearrange and organize the library in the morning. The other shelves kept their basic organization from before. Rather than noticing that some of her toys and the such were missing, she loved the new library set up and was excited to plan new ways to organize and immediately became more engaged in her play.
As long as you have a basket of kittens, all it right in the world.
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