Soon, it became hard to keep up after the toys, they never seemed to look nice, no matter what. It was cleaned up but imperfect to me. I was over the toy tornado.
I started to read a few books on learning through play methods, and open ended toys. Then I started to change out the toys. I put away a lot of toys they had outgrown or that they just did not enjoy very much. I started looking into more open ended toys, brainy toys, toys to encourage creativity, and spark the imagination. Slowly but surely, the play area was transformed. I changed it little by little. We started off with the room changed and cleaned up really well. Then I started to change how I approached them when they made a mess. Instead of scolding them or making a big deal out of it, for making a mess, I would have another member of the family take them into a different room, I would clean up the mess, then when they came back I explained why it was not okay to just trash the place and how we need to only have one or two toys out at a time. I did this over and over until finally after a week, they got it. I let them know that if they made a giant, senseless mess that we did not need to play with the toys. I have seen many kids make giant, senseless messes. Ya know, the dumpers, the shelf clearers, the toy box emptiers, the destructors. These are my pet names for destructive toy handling by children. I realize they are not proper english.
So let's break it down.
The dumpers are the kids that just go around and empty a bin of toys onto the floor in a rapid fashion, for absolutely no reason. The common goal is to make a mess and be sure that the bin is fully emptied. Not to actually constructively play with the toys.
The shelf clearers are kids that come up to a shelf of toys and with one or 2 fail swoops, they clear an entire shelf of books, or toys. The common goal of a shelf clearer is to get every item on that shelf onto the floor in the quickest, messiest fashion possible.
The toy box emptiers are on the edge of negative toy treatment and ok toy treatment. If the child wants to explore a toy box to see what is in it, that is great!! Let them. However, they must clean all of it up after they are done, AND you must help them if they are under age 5. Face it, if it's a lot of toys in that box, and the kid had a great time exploring the contents of that toy box, then that is wonderful! However if indeed there were a lot of toys in that box, the child will most likely try and avoid finishing the job.
The destructors are kids who see a room of toys as a challenge. They must gear up and win at all costs. The common goal of a destructor is to quickly put as many toys on the floor as they can in a very short period of time, not to play with the toys at all, just to make a gigantic mess with them.
Why? In my own theory as a Mom of 5, former teenage babysitter, friend of many Moms with kids ages 0-5, and a playgroup organizer, it's the toys.
If the child is presented with a tidy room of well organized, open ended, imaginative toys... it changes a lot. Each toy or set of toys has to have a "home". If the toy or toy set have no "home", how on earth will anyone in your home, let alone your child ages 0-5 know where these toys go when it is time to clean them up?
I prefer labeled clear plastic bins. I have some from wal mart and some from the dollar tree. Both are effective. I buy common inexpensive packages of white rectangular labels. I put one label on each box and write the name of the toy. You can also include a photo of the toy, printed from your computer. Use scotch tape to cover the photo of the toy. It kind of laminates it to the box. The label plus printed photo would be very effective for a child who is under age 3. Each toy set goes into a clean plastic bin. Each bin is clearly labeled with that toys name and optional photo of the toy. The boxes go onto shelves, stacked no higher than 3 in a stack. If you go any higher than 3, expect a big mess when the bins are removed from the shelf for play.
You start off with ONLY allowing one bin off the shelves and opened for play, at a time. After a couple of months, 2 becomes the limit.
You remind your children that the toys are theirs to play with any time they choose, but they can only be out one at a time. We dont want a big mess or to loose the pieces to our wonderful toys, so One at a time.
After 8 months of this. We now have an open box toy display. One month ago, I moved the bins to stacks of One on the shelves. Still only allowing two boxes out at a time.
Note that some toys can not be boxed and have to be displayed in a different way. The rule applies still. All toys with their pieces, neat and tidy. One toy out at a time, until you decide it is ok for two.
Have you ever seen a child play with 10 sets of toys at once successfully, without a huge mess?
How about 5?
Once the children learn the rhythm of the play room, mixing toys will come. They can use a few of this toy set, and a few of that toy set... for fun, imaginative play. Until they learn to keep the toys tidy and are able to handle keeping it tidy and only playing with one set of toys at a time, they don't need to be taking a few from each set for play.
The toys are key in this process. I started to learn that the plastic toys that blink and make noise are a novelty that wears off rather fast. They have some good value but they become old hat, faster than I would like. I had to really start digging for toys. I found new ways to search for brainy, open ended, imaginative toys. The research payed off and things are really great now.
Examples of open ended, imaginative, brainy toys Plus any toy that you see my twins playing with in any blog posts from late 2011 and all of 2012 to date.
I was going for a montessori/reggio/waldorf combination inspired display of toys in our play area. However that can not be achieved overnight. It took time, patience, and effort.
They are not destructing, dumping, trashing, shelf clearing, etc.
They are playing, enjoying, learning, etc.
typos fixed, my apologies... its been a long week so far. lacking sleep ;)