Ugh!--toy clutter seems to be the bane of every parent's existence. Even before your child was born, you were probably slammed with gifts of toys. Or, perhaps, those sneaky targeted Instagram ads got the best of you, and you've made a few impulse buys for the sake of your child's entertainment. Today, we are talking about toy clutter, and why it seems so! hard! to manage.
Why Do I Have Toy Clutter?
If you've read a decent amount of Kaleidoscope Learning's content, you know that, within the first six years of a their lives, children go through periods of rapid development. Think back to a few months ago--was your child talking? Walking? Using the toilet? Pinching items with their thumb and pointer finger? At this age, children are learning about themselves (physically, mentally, emotionally) and their environment through play, which is why toys are actually really important for child development.
It is no wonder children crave an abundance of play materials. One moment, a toy could be really satisfying their needs, and a week later, it could no longer serve a purpose in their eyes. This is completely normal and very much okay. Second, everyone loves to give toys at baby showers, child birthday parties, and other holiday/special occasion gift-giving events. The reason why were are identifying the root cause of toy clutter is to not shame any parent or caregiver for not having an Instagram-perfect home--it is to give context as to why toy clutter may easily accumulate.
All these marvelous toys do have some downsides. Children can sometimes feel overstimulated with the large amount of toys at their disposal, and parents can feel overwhelmed navigating through the mounds of toys; "I just want my living room back!" This feeling for adults is extremely valid. A complaint I often hear from parents is they feel like their space, which is an extension of their identity, is dominated by their child's materials. Clutter can not only present downsides for the child, but as well as the other children and adults living in that space.
What Can I Do About It?
First thing is first: cut yourself some slack.
Your current toy and play set-up will not be forever. As children get older, you might anecdotally notice that your child doesn't outgrow toys as quickly as when they were a baby/toddler. However, if you would like a little help with toy clutter right now, we are sharing a few small tips and tricks to make managing toys a little easier.
Here are a few points to consider when managing toys in your home:
Rent your toys: The Kaleidoscope Learning Family Resource Center has an Educational Materials Library available to our member families. Our library is filled with gross motor items, specialty children's furniture, Montessori classroom materials, early childhood educator-designed activities, and high-quality toys. We allow families to rent toys for as long as they would like, which allows children to thoroughly explore and love a specific material. When a child is done with that item, instead of it being chucked into a toy box or laying around a play space, it can be returned in exchange for a new, stimulating item. The Educational Materials Library is the best of both words: access to HUNDREDS of high-quality toys without the burden of storing them!
Rotate materials: If you attended our July Family Symposium, "Creating Play Spaces at Home," we talked about the importance of rotating items into a child's play space. If you walk into our physical Family Resource Center space (or you've seen photos on Instagram), you might notice our beautiful, accessible Montessori shelves. As a Montessori-inspired organization, we are big fans of the traditional Montessori shelf because it allows children to see all the toys accessible and available to them. These shelves allow families to rotate items in and out of a child's play repertoire. Rotating is beneficial because it allows a set number of toys to be open for play, while the rest are in storage. We like this technique because it eliminates toy clutter in common spaces like a living room or family room. When your child seems bored of the toys on their shelves, rotate in new materials that were stored!
Remove Unwanted Toys: It is necessary to go through your child's toys with them every couple of months to avoid a pile-up of toys. If they have out-grown a toy, then consider removing the toy from the home by giving it to a friend or donating it to a local school or charity. We also recommend you make sure that each toy is in working order, clean, and has all of the correct parts (if that stuffed teddy bear's fur is crusty and cannot be remedied, consider tossing it). Marie Kondo has a practice when removing items from a space by showing them gratitude/giving thanks. If you or your child feel sentimental about getting rid of a toy, consider the practice of thanking each toy for the wonderful memories of joyous playtimes.
Create a Designated Play Space: If you are feeling like your house is a dominated by your child's toys, try creating a specific play space for them. In our July Family Symposium, we recommended to families to try and find a play space in the locus of the home, which allows an adult to keep an eye on the child while also allowing the child to be independent. The benefit of creating a designated play space is to contain a child's toys to their own space without those items creeping into the living room, kitchen, bathroom, parent's bedroom, or garage.
Get Storage-Inspired: Come on in to the Family Resource Center to see our Model Home Environment! We designed it specifically to inspire families to incorporate more Montessori and early childhood education techniques into their own home. If you want to dabble in design/storage ideas, consider browsing social media sites (like Instagram or Pinterest) or check out furniture companies that have a children's section (Ikea, for example). The benefit of these resources is that you can be introduced to wonderful products and techniques that might not have been known to you before. However, be aware that social-media can be deceiving--you're not a bad parent if you cannot create an Instagram-worthy play space. Decluttering is all about small changes.
Resources for De-Cluttering
The Family Resource Center is filled with numerous services to best help you declutter your space and promote positive learning and play experiences at home.
If you are interested in becoming a member of our Educational Materials Library, feel free to browse our membership levels and our inventory. We are constantly adding new materials everyday, and we're excited to see these materials loved by children!
Explore our curriculum used in our July Family Symposium: "Creating Play Spaces at Home". Our early childhood educator, Julia Kallmes, shares her tips and tricks on how to manage toys, ease stress, and promote a positive learning/play environment at home.
Finally, browse our whole blog site for more tips and tricks for creating a play space, eliminating toy clutter, and familiarizing yourself with our toy library inventory!