Q: You Have So Many Toys, How Are You Bored? A: Unorganized Play Spaces

How many times as a parent or caregiver have you looked in awe at a bored child surrounded by a sea of toys. How could they possibly not want to play with anything in front of them? Do they really need new toys? Quite simply, no.

It’s not a lack of choices leading to little ones becoming bored and then often displaying less than desirable behavior, rather it’s too many choices. To put it into an adult perspective, how much easier is it to decide what you’ll order at a restaurant with 10 entree choices than a restaurant with 50. Children need fewer choices, not more, in order to really engage in play throughout the day.

Engaging in play is vital for children. Learning how to start and stick with an activity for more than a minute is setting the foundation for future learning. The creative thinking, problem solving, and sensory experiences that happen when children play creates neurological pathways in the brain that if not formed in early childhood will never be formed.

This doesn’t mean you need to haul away half your kids’ toys to the attic or consignment shop. A well organized play space with play stations set up will do the trick. Though if you’ve really got a ton of toys, rotating the “stock” isn’t a bad idea. Take some of the toys and put them away. In a few weeks bring them out and put away the played with toys. Once you’ve got a manageable amount of toys:

  • Separate toys into easily accessible bins by their type.
Cars, airplanes and all things that "go" are in green bins.

Cars, airplanes and all things that “go” are in green bins.

  • Have a different color or type of bin for each toy group. A picture of what belongs in the bin on the outside is a great addition too.
Puzzles are in a basket with the pieces to each kept in a clear cosmetic bag with a zipper.

Puzzles are in a basket with the pieces to each one kept in  separate clear cosmetic bags with  zippers. 

  • Help children make play choices by setting up play stations with a few options, like building, music, books, cars and trucks, etc. Four or five set up at a time is a good number.
Keep a good amount of space between "areas" to help children make a choice, then watch as they combine play choices in imaginative ways! Musical cars anyone?

Keep a good amount of space between “areas” to help children make a choice, then watch as they combine play choices in imaginative ways! Musical cars anyone?

  • Put out toys and activities that you haven’t seem them play with in a day or two. Often it’s not that they don’t want to play with those particular toys, but rather that they’ve gotten lost in the mix. Help them rediscover them.
A favorite Peek A Boo scarf that E rediscovered with a music and movement area.

A favorite Peek A Boo scarf that E rediscovered with a music and movement area.

  • Keep the bins of other toys on the side but accessible. When lots of toys are out at once and things start to get cluttered (as they do) encourage and help your little ones to put away a few toys. Again, too many choices leads to no choice and less playing, more throwing.
  • Pre-Kindergarteners and school aged children can be expected to clean up an area, especially if there are obvious places where toys go, by themselves when asked. For toddlers and pre-schoolers, a little help may be needed. Model how to to pick up toys and put them away. Expect them to put some toys away, and you to do the remainder.
  • Songs are a great tool for signaling that it’s time to do something, and tend to make it more appealing. Our clean up song of choice: “Clean up, clean up, everybody, everywhere. Clean up, clean up, everybody do their share.” E loves the word “share”, and I’m pretty sure she she learned it from this little ditty.

Throughout the day set up  new play stations with new choices. Watching children who are really into what they’re playing with is just awesome. Spend a few minutes observing what creative ideas they come up with.

With these tips you’ll be able to keep the play going all day, meaning occupied kids, less behavior issues, and a few more minutes to do what you need to do, or maybe even something nice for yourself! Like sitting down.

 

 

9 thoughts on “Q: You Have So Many Toys, How Are You Bored? A: Unorganized Play Spaces

  1. Hi,

    I found your post through Playful Learning Link up. It never fails when we tidy up and organize the toys the kids rediscover old favourites. Great tips!

    Cheers,
    Bonnie

  2. I have a toddler and he’s actually learning how to clean up.. most of the time though, he just leaves his toys on the floor if he gets bored. He’s only got a few and we don’t buy so much because it seems that he’s more interested with empty plastic bottles and the like, lol.

    • Ha yes it’s amazing how interesting plastic bottles and egg cartons can be, skip the recycling and upcycle into toys! Thanks for stopping in!

  3. This is so important and I think often overlooked (by me, at least! lol!). Even adults get overwhelmed by too many choices, why would it be any different for kids? We’re working on a toy rotation system right now. 🙂

    • It’s so true, I often have to remind myself that if I’m overwhelmed, my daughter is as well, probably even more so! Toy rotation is great, it’s like they’re brand new all over! Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, much appreciated!

  4. I don’t encounter bored children in my own children. We keep the number of toys down to a minimum and I find that they use their imagination all day long! That said, I know that others do struggle with it and for them, these are some awesome tips! I also saw another post where the woman opted to divide the toys into sets, and would only keep one set out at once, and keep the others in the garage. Then each set seems “new” again. Thanks for sharing with Countdown in Style!

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