Sunday, August 12, 2012

Too Many Toys

On their overflowing bookshelf, one of my boys’ favorite books tells a story familiar to most households. Its title says it all, “Too Many Toys.” The author, David Shannon also wrote and illustrated “No No, David.” It was baby Reed’s second favorite book (It was hard to top “Pat the Bunny” in those days), so we’re kinda partial. I love the book and can totally relate. We are drowning in toys! We’re kinda cheap, so we NEVER buy toys “just because” and we don’t go all crazy for birthdays and Christmas. We don’t have big birthday parties. The boys have a tiny allowance, and we rarely go shopping, so I can not understand where all these stupid toys came from!  But they’re definitely here, as evidenced by the Lego creations stacked on my bookshelves right now and the snakes I found hidden under the covers the other night. Over the years, we’ve developed several weapons in our war on toys. Here’s what has worked (sometimes) for us:

-          Our general rule: Do whatever the heck you want all day, but before nap time and bedtime, every toy will be put away.
-          Put toys with lots small pieces in large under bed storage containers and pray they forget they’re there.
-          Put even messier toys in smaller containers and hide on high closet shelf. Allow only one tub down at a time. Even if you PROMISE you’ll pick them both up. (Learned that one the hard way)
-          Encourage outside play. Sticks and rocks don’t have to be organized into baskets.
-          Keep most popular toys in large, open baskets. It’s easier to scoop them in off of couches or make shots from across the room.
-          Teach the baby to “pick up” and make a huge deal when he puts three cars in the car basket. Every little bit helps, right?
-          Set timer and threaten no bedtime story if they don’t beat the timer.
-          Set timer and bag up all toys left out after it dings. Put bag on a high shelf and threaten to throw away at Christmas (or some other arbitrary date). Let them rescue toys by beating the timer the next night. For every minute left on the timer, they each save a toy. Be prepared to be shocked at what they rescue (crappy, wrinkled paper airplane, anyone?)
-          Realize it’s unfair to the one kid who runs to beat the timer if his brother is doing headstands and bouncing cars off his butt. Assign each kid an area to clean. If they beat the timer, they get bonus play time. Our areas are “bedroom” and “rest of house.” It’s usually pretty even, but if one area looks more tornadic than normal, we improvise.
-          On nights of extra turdaciousness, set timer and issue one spankin’ per toy left in offending turd’s area.
-          Break up the monotony and employ other strategies than cleaning areas.
-          Have kids draw letter magnets. If they draw a “b,” go pick up all the blocks, then come back for another magnet.
-          Make chore cards
-          Throw them a bone and help out sometimes. Tell them for every 25 toys they pick up, you’ll pick up 25.
-          On especially messy days, have them do a pre-pickup before nap or bedtime arrives. It’ll save a lot of drama when it’s really time to clean it all. We’ve tried, “Stop and pick up 50 toys each. Then you can play,” and “Let’s see how many toys you can pick up before the timer dings.”
-          Every once in a while, after they’ve gone to bed, throw away some of the worthless crap. Cover well with other trash or you’ll have some answering to do the next day!

-          On late weekend nights tell them to leave the toys. Let them watch TV the next morning if they pick up all the toys right when they wake up without waking you up until they’re done. Enjoy the blissful extra minutes of sleep the next morning!
-          Remind yourself that one day, the toys – and the kids-- will be out of the house. Try to embrace the chaos.

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