This morning, as I was trying cook and clean up from breakfast and settle into our morning, I was overwhelmed with loud, boisterous children, lots of yelling, whining and clingy-ness. A preschooler who was trying to boss her sisters around to fit her dramatic storyline, toddlers who were thoroughly uninterested in this activity and wanted to nurse constantly, mostly because they were bored. Also, a big mess in our living room, with toy clutter everywhere.
No, thank you. At times like this, especially in the morning when I am still trying to wake up and deal with the world, its really hard for me to calmly think out what needs to be done to change the situation. I really want to just yell at them, threaten something or another, and/or storm off to another part of the house. Not the best choices, though, I know.
Instead, I realized we needed some changes. They were bored with the activities they had, and needed some fresh stuff. I started by getting two laundry baskets, and loading them up with toys to lug down to the basement (where our playroom is — I was not taking them away from them entirely). This emptied out the room for some new stuff, which I set out in various places. Gourds on a tray on a sidetable, for tactile exploration and play. Dominos, which I set out next to a bunch of boxes, egg cartons and containers on the floor. Some wooden people lined up on the windowsill, and a tub of duplos that they hadn’t played with in a few weeks. Also a tray with loads of different magnets, which also had been out of rotation for awhile. Then I set up our indoor play tent in the middle of the living room.
I didn’t tell them what to play with, I didn’t really have to say a thing. They were immediately drawn to the new items, sat down and settled in to play in various parts of the room. I breathed a sigh of relief. Whew.
Sometime during that first year of 3 kids under 3, I discovered the joys of toy rotation, and man, it has served us well. We are blessed with a LOT of toys and activities, thanks to what I had collected as a teacher, lots of my old childhood toys that my mom saved, as well as many awesome things we inherited from her old preschool. Not to mention generous gifts from friends and family, times three kids. We have a lot of kid stuff, and its overwhelming at times, for all of us! If there’s too much stuff out, its hard to put away or keep together in sets. It becomes part of the scenery of the room, and the kids lose interest and barely notice they exist. Pare things down, and everything gets noticed and used so much more!
Enter toy rotation. I initially bought 5 large rubbermaid tubs, and filled each one with a mix of puzzles, activity bags, art projects, and other toys. I put in some baby toys for Elsie and Delia, some big kid toys for Emma, and some that they all could share. I labled the tubs 1-5 and stored them in the basement, pulling one out each day. Sometimes we’d keep a tub for two days, but after that I’d put it away, so the toys would stay “fresh”. I kept a small box in the living room to put small lost pieces to things that were currently put away, so that stuff would get back into the right tub the next time it was out. Occasionally I would go through them all and resort them, add some new things in, recombine others, so that things might get played with in different ways. This worked really, really well for a long time.
At some point I stopped doing it so formally, and would just drag a few things down or up from our basement playroom to the living room (our main play space) each evening when I was doing laundry. That generally works similarly, as long as I keep on top of it. But having them in neat easy to put away tubs is pretty great, and I may have to reinstate it during these winter months when we are cooped up so much more (and driving each other nuts!).
Anyone else out there do some sort of toy or activity rotation? What does it look like for you?