living with a toddler for 31 days buttonWe live in a material age – there is so much stuff around us, and even more stuff out there that we could buy.  Advertising tells us that our children will benefit so much from this toy; they will be smart, ahead of their peers, well prepared for school – and so forth.

Instead of walking completely away and just ignoring it all we do need to find our path through this.  What are the best things to buy for our kids, what toys do we invest in?  Here are some of the guidelines that we have used when it comes to our kids toys

  1. Toys for imagination not entertainment.  I’d rather buy a toy that helps them either learn a skill (like matching shapes, hitting balls) or stimulate their imagination (like a doll, cars, blocks) than something that flashes, whizzes and does amazing things for them.
  2. Toys that encourage my child to be active.  We encourage this type of activity outside – sandpit, water play, bikes, balls etc.
  3. Limit battery operated toys – this isn’t just because of the cost of batteries, but because I’d rather my kids use their imagination and be inventive than have a battery make a noise or movement for them.

We still have a lot of the favourite toddler toys from when my kids were little.  We’ve kept them because we have friends who visit with little kids – now they are coming out on a daily basis for our little Toddler.  These are:

  • Solid figurines (no little pieces)
  • Plastic animals
  • Blocks – wooden (we sold our large plastic ones!)
  • Cars, trucks
  • Music instruments

Here are some guidelines that we’ve used in using these toys

  1.  Keep toys up to date with their skills and development.  A box of toys that are for the wrong ‘age’ is very uninspiring (if they’ve been there and done that) or unmotivating (if it is too hard.)  This doesn’t need to be an drain on our money though especially if we buy toys that can be played with in many different ways – blocks for example, can be played with as a toddler and a pre-schooler, and even onwards – they use the same toy, in different ways, depending on their imaginations.
  2. Limit how many toys are out at once.  I keep a box of toys available for their free play, but only a few toys at once.  Once a week or once a month (depending on how they are interacting with the toys, and depending on how busy I get) I change them around.  Once again this doesn’t mean they have heaps and heaps of toys – I may keep the blocks out permanently, but rotate cars with animals on a weekly basis.
  3. Keep special toys for cot time – I give a toy set (box of toys – Toddler’s favourite at the moment is Noah’s Ark and a set of plastic animals), and a few books (cardboard books).
  4. Have inside and outside toys.  I have found teaching my little ones the difference has preserved many precious inside toys.
  5. Allow toys to be kept in the bedroom or cupboard, and not shared when friends visit.  Not all toys need to be shared, not all toys need to be available.  When we have visitors I put one or two boxed toy sets out and that is what they play with.
  6. Keep a few toys in the nappy bag or in a box in the car for when you are out and about.  Once again it is helpful if these toys aren’t played with every day – keeping them fresh and even having a bit of surprise element will help keep the child occupied when you are busy out and about.  My friend used to take a box of toys with her whenever she went to a friends for a cuppa.  This helped her toddler stay occupied, giving her time with her friend.

I find that too many choices, too many toys in any given space, simply overwhelms a child, and they will have one of two responses –

  1.  They will jump from toy to toy, become over stimulated and not focus on anything properly
  2. They become overwhelmed and withdraw and not focus on anything

Toys can be our friend or foe… but we need to be in control.  Sure people may buy you toys you wouldn’t have chosen, or you may end up with more toys than you would think necessary.  But you can do something about this.  Just because you have them, doesn’t mean your kids need to see them every day.  Rotating toys and using specific toys for specific activities or times in the day, has helped us use toys as a tool, rather than toys controlling our life and home.

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