Making the Most of Your
Chapter 9 "Removing Toy Madness"
“A child left to himself
Brings shame to his mother . . ."
Is one of the most annoying and ongoing messes in your home the multitude of toys that are all over your house? If your children or grandchildren own too many toys, here is a solution that I developed years ago that really works! When my older children were little, I tried several ideas that I had read in magazines, books, or heard on talk shows. All of them proved to be ideas that someone who had no children, or only one child, had thought up.
Now, years later, I still love learning more ways to organize and watching organization experts! Once again, some of their solutions are ridiculous and really are a joke.
Toy boxes are, to me, a joke. The children tend to play only with the top items, or they will pull out everything to get something on the bottom. For a few years, I tried the Montessori method and created shelves on our sun porch and tried to get them to put their toys back up on the shelf. Honestly, this was so much work that it was not really worth the effort—even though I had only two children and a lot more time to devote to toys.
A laundry basket, however, is great for a small child’s toys (toddler) and contains just enough toys for him. Even the smallest children can learn to pick up their toys and put them in the basket, unless you don’t make them do it when they pitch a fit. But just remember when you give in to them—if you can’t manage an eighteen-month-old, how will you manage when they turn 18 years old?
Today, there is no doubt that children in the United States have way, way, way too many toys. I watch shows all the time when the parents say they need bigger rooms or a bigger house because of all the toys that their children have. How ridiculous! They get toys from parents who work, grandparents (who now have a limited amount of grandchildren that they have waited for, for years), and for their friends. Hand-me-downs, and yard sale toys can also create too many toys and way too much clutter.
So, again, the rooms are cluttered and there is no room to play because of all the plastic slides and other paraphernalia that parents wrongly believe are necessary for their children to have to keep them occupied and happy. Some of you may share my beliefs, but it is your parents or in-laws who are the culprits. There is an easy remedy if the grandparents live locally, and that is to tell them that whatever they buy needs to stay at their house. Oh what a joy it will be for your child to get to go to Grandma and Grandpa’s house where there are so many toys! My ex-husband told me about going to his grandparent’s house almost weekly. They had nothing to play with except a little footstool that he would flip over and play in as if it were a racing-car. Oh, how times have changed!!
I recently heard that baby showers for Grandma were becoming popular! Grandma gets toys and other baby furnishings for her house when the grandbabies come to visit. Yikes, this is scary.
Well, after twenty years of proven success, here is a sure way to control the toy problem in your home or in Grandma’s home (if she wants help).
First. Sort all of your children’s toys into categories or sets, or make a bunch of variety buckets. Use any kind of container you have, such as huge laundry soap buckets, Rubbermaid tubs, laundry buckets, and keep any sets in their original box if you have them (and if they fit back once assembled). Throw out any toys that are missing pieces or are broken beyond repair.
Now, lock’em up! Next, find a closet to put all the sorted toys into that with a lock, and bring out one set for an entire day. Horrified? You think they will not be happy until they can get their hands on every toy they want? A.D.D. (Attention Deficient Disorder) is not a disease but a behavior that we encourage and nurture in our children or grandchildren.
A child who is left to run from one event to another, to watch as much television as he wants, and has little or no discipline (even the word “no” is not used) is in for trouble or will soon be a student who needs to be “drugged” when they get to school and is incapable of sitting still for five minutes at a time.
The more you are blessed financially, the more your children will have, and the more destruction it will bring if you are not very, very careful. If your child is forced to play with one set, he or she is also forced to “be creative”! It usually comes over them quickly when they tell you that they are “bored.” My cure for “boredom” is housework!
I immediately stop what I am doing, enthusiastically (with a big smile on my face) tell them “Great! I can use your help!” and get them going on a job. This method is not effective if you only “threaten” that they will work if they complain when bored. You must follow through for them to learn that complaining that they are bored is the natural consequence for not being creative and learning to entertain themselves.
If you are not as determined of a mother or grandmother as I am, you could easily modify this method and just let one set come out at a time. And unless it is all cleaned up, another one is not given out. But trust me, children who are forced to be creative (with only one set a day) are the most blessed.
Schedule. Now that your toys are organized and in sets, see how many sets you have, and assign each to a day for play. Here is an example of what we did:
Wednesdays: Space set
Thursdays: Cars (all Hot Wheels and trucks)
Fridays: Farm set
When my older four children were young, we would rotate on a one-week schedule. Now with my younger three, we have enough sets for a two-week rotation.
I also had a “music” day with all kinds of toys that made noise and another day for puzzles. I did not have these in the normal rotation but brought them out only periodically. I could rarely take the noisiness of the music day, but I loved the day they did puzzles all day long.
You may be thinking that you don’t mind the toys, or you have enough room to let them have all their toys available every day. However, as I shared earlier, there are many more benefits when I followed the Lord’s leading on this. It helped my children to learn contentment. So many children are “bored” even though they have a toy store in their own home. All they want is more, as they flitter from one activity to another. Love your children enough not to indulge their boredom; instead, stretch them through teaching contentment. It will also help the creativity that God put in them that is now lying dormant.
Missing pieces: No matter how hard you try, you will find pieces of sets under the couch or behind a table. Rather than trying to put it right back in the set, I put a bucket that I marked “Missing Pieces” and put it in the closet with the other toys. When the children or I found a piece that was missing, we put it into the bucket. Then each morning after I pulled out the set for the children, I would dump the bucket out on the floor so the children could look for pieces that belonged in the set they were playing with. Even Dad knew where to put something he found!
This kind of rotation can work with board games too, when your children get older. Just set a particular game for that day, and you will find that they get less bored with the same one.
This also helps when grandparents want to know what your children need for Christmas or birthdays. You can see what set needs more Legos or cars and get something that your children really need, instead of something that they won’t play with.
Another great tip. Set aside a favorite or new set for when “Dad comes home.” My husband told me once, when he worked outside the home, that sometimes he would dread walking through the front door at 5:30 p.m. because of the “mobbing” that would ensue. They would beg him to wrestle or play with them, which he would do because he loved them. However, he told me that if he just had a little time to unwind, he would be fine.
So the next night, I told the children that I was going to let them play with their favorite set “when Daddy came home.” When they heard him come through the door, he was again mobbed with kisses and hugs, but then they ran away to Mommy who had just taken out their favorite set! They played happily until dinner was ready. Then, after dinner, they had a wonderful time with Daddy who had had time to relax after a hard day’s work.
This also works when adult guests come to visit. Just take out a special set that is brought out for such occasions. Speaking of guests, when you have children visiting your home, you will LOVE this method with your toys being locked up.
When little friends come to play. Some children are extremely destructive and break toys, while some are literal tornadoes making a mess throughout your house. When friends come to play, make sure you insist that they help clean up the toys. Children who are made (maybe for the first time) to pick up toys will be less likely to destroy your home when they come back (if they come back).
You will probably have to supervise the clean-up, but you may be helping that mother who never thought her child was capable of picking up after himself. Make sure you teach your children to clean up when they are visiting. When other moms see how your children are trained, they may just ask for your help. Then you can send them to our site for free books, which we hope will lead to them coming to know the Man who died for them!
Where children play. Early on in my mothering, I made it a habit to have no toys in the child’s bedroom, unless it was a doll or stuffed animal. I always kept the children’s reading books in their room, and that was all. Bedrooms, my children learned, are for sleeping, resting, or reading. This saved their rooms from looking like most children’s rooms—a disaster that I did not want to have to clean nor try to make them clean.
A great way to keep the stuffed animals and/or dolls off the floor and give them a home (while at the same time decorating their room) is to put small cup hooks around the door of their closet or window. Then tie a ribbon around their neck and hang them from the hook. I did this because we seemed to have fifty stuffed animals that would always end up on the floor. Rarely did my children ask me to take them down to play with, so when we moved, we donated them to the poor.
Even if you live in a very small apartment, you can carve out a place to play. If it is tiny, make it fun by laying out a large blanket or sheet on the floor and tell them they need to stay on it. Believe it or not, it makes things more fun. Another benefit is when it is time to clean up, especially if they have been playing with small pieces such as Legos—it’s a snap to lift up and pour the pieces back in the container!
In closing, one very important task, even with toys, is to de-clutter your toys periodically. A good time is right before your children’s birthday and again before Christmas. Then you can see what toys your child may benefit from having in your home, and rid your home of toys that are broken, missing pieces, no longer played with, or toys your child has outgrown. Give toys to the church or to charity since God blesses us for giving, not selling.
Use the method from Chapter 2 for sorting your toys, and especially focus on toys that your children have outgrown. Give such toys to friends, to the poor, or box them up for future children (but only if it will used within two years).
If your child is not playing with a toy, it is probably the biggest part of the mess you clean up, or step over every day. Do yourself and your children a favor by ridding yourself of toys they no longer use or need, then organizing and hiding the rest as suggested in this chapter.
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