Monthly Parenting Magazine

How to make the most out of your kid’s toys

How to make the most out of your kid’s toys

Kids Toys

Absolutely Mama Editor Carly Glendinning on how she battles mess and makes the most out of her kid’s toys…

I think most parents can relate to what I like to call ‘the battle of the toys’. The days that I’m at home with my toddler start with all the kids toys neatly ordered and in their place. By 9am, it’s already a disaster zone. First up, is a crate of small world figures that have been she’s pulled onto the floor whilst my back is turned for one minute to set up a painting activity.

Whilst I clear that up, every last teddy and small stuffed animal is unceremoniously dumped out of their basket, scattering across the room. And this is how our day goes: an endless stream of mess-fighting in amongst fleeting moments of play.

The battle of the toys is not only exhausting, but it makes me feel like the toys are my nemesis. It stops me from actually being able to sit down and really focus on an activity with my daughter.

In a bid to make our playtime more meaningful (and give me a break from the constant tidying up) below are a few actions that we’ve recently put into place.

We did a toy audit

First up, we set aside some time to assess all the kid’s toys we had. We had so many toys that my daughter wasn’t really playing with them all and things were getting lost in the toy cupboard.

Some toys were no longer age appropriate (hello baby toys), and there were things that she wasn’t very interested in. The toys I thought she might potentially grow into, I boxed up and put away for now. I separated everything else into three categories: sell, donate, or recycle.

We used local parents’ WhatsApp and Facebook groups to re-home the majority of things. We also found some great places to donate toys via The Toy Project and The British Heart Foundation. Finally, we took our broken toys to our local recycling centre.

We had to be quite brutal when it came to parting with things. Luckily my daughter is still too little to push back about letting things go. But I would suggest an honest conversation where you really think about how much an item is really getting played with and what value your kid is actually getting out of a particular item.

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We got better toy storage

Things were getting in a mess before because we didn’t have adequate toy storage. We invested in a large cabinet in our living room with plenty of space that would be easy for my daughter to access.

We also made space in another non accessible cupboard for items that we wanted her to play with under supervision. This has meant that she is unable to pull out all of the craft supplies the moment we turn our back!

I started to rotate my daughter’s toys

We decided to try a toy rotation system inspired by the Montessori method. The idea is that you have a set number of kid’s toys on display for your little one to play with, storing everything else away.

When you swap in a toy, it’s like you’re bringing out something brand new because they haven’t seen it in a while. This method has helped my daughter to get a lot more excited about her toys. She engages with them more and plays with them for a lot longer.

I’ve found that around ten toys is plenty and I set up a little play area on top of the toy cabinet, changing it over every week. I also make sure there is a variety of different activities – from musical instruments, to puzzles, and imaginative play.

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I involved my daughter in tidying up

Maria Montessori believed in providing a beautiful and orderly environment for little ones to play and learn in. This was to help children to focus better, feel calmer, and move through the space more easily. Instead of teachers or parents going around picking up toys, she believed that everyone should work together to keep a space clean.

Most children can learn to tidy up by 18 months. Tidying up helps to teach little ones independence, as well helping to hone their hand eye coordination, and sorting skills. I knew that my daughter was expected to tidy up at nursery, so I asked her teachers for their advice to help encourage her to do it at home too.

They shared their tidying up song with me, and advised that we make it into a fun game. Involving my daughter in tidying up has definitely helped. So now when she dumps out the basket of teddies, she’ll often have put them all away before I get time to stress.

We buy less, but better

This is a big one for us. Now we’ve done our toy audit, we’re being really choosy about what’s coming in.

There’s a huge temptation with kid’s toys to be constantly buying new things. We give into every cuddly animal they fall in love with at the gift shop, or jump to buy a toy that they engaged with once on a playdate.

Every new toy we buy now has to earn its place. We make sure it can be played with in multiple different ways, will grow with our daughter, and can be passed along when she tires of it.

And when we’re feeling uninspired by what’s in the toy cupboard, we use our imaginations instead.

Read next: Seven reasons why I don’t buy plastic toys for my kids