Monday, December 27, 2010

Mission: Toy Library

I am going on 4.5 hours of sleep here, so forgive me if I don’t write clearly. Ardyn is in the bathtub and Marek already took a bath with his new Hot Wheels Tub Racer track (from Grandma Deb for Christmas) and he is handsome and sweet and clean. We have recently switched from baths together (which get crazy, splashy, and sometimes injury prone) to baths with one after the other (same water) which allows each kid their own space and their own un-interrupted play time. Less splashing, no fighting, more enjoyable for everyone around.

After Christmas I had those after Christmas Blah’s that every mom gets. No, not the ones where it’s like “Back to work, back to life” (Moms never really stopped working anyway!) But those ones where your entire house is trashed. Because everyone wants you to be everywhere so they can see the kids, and you drug half their possessions around for two-three days…. And then you brought home more toys than you know what to do with and they all need a home and you realize (again) that you really just need a bigger house. I find it difficult to purge toys, because my kids really do play with them all. We do a toy rotation, and keep a couple of HUGE totes in the attic so that we can rotate toys several times a year. We do two rotations in the winter, when we are trapped inside more, and usually a couple throughout the spring/summer as well. With each rotation I try to go through things and get rid of toys by donating them or taking them to consignment. We don’t really have broken toys because I am pretty particular about taking care of them. The more toys we get, the more difficult that becomes. With this last rotation, before December hit, I was conscious of the upcoming gifting season and left some “open” spots on our shelves, which worked out perfectly. I also keep several “larger” toys in the attic and we switch those out too. We have the McDonalds playset (which is in the attic right now) and the kitchen (which we haven’t taken “out of rotation” yet, but it’s been here for 2 years and is not being played with as frequently, so it needs to go) and the wooden doll care center, which has the high chair, bathtub, baby bed, and cupboards all in one (which is also in the attic) and then we have the trampoline (which only comes out for the winter) and the activity garden (only when we have one learning to crawl and walk) and the tree tent (which is also usually a winter toy.) And now we have (thanks to Christmas) a fisher price basketball hoop that I don’t know what to do with. We have one outside, but it’s in winter storage at the farm, so I guess we have an indoor one and an outdoor one? I dunno. *sigh*

So these are the mom’s Christmas Blah’s. Where you are ever-so-grateful but increasingly overwhelmed by all the toys surrounding you and how to manage them.

Even before Christmas, I was disappointed at the number of “projects” and Educational Items that I have that we don’t even use. Partially because there never seems to be enough time in the day, and partially because they need to be fully supervised. They don’t NEED to be I guess, but when you mix a 3-year old and an almost 2-year old, and things like markers, play-doh, wipe-off boards, zillions of legos, and 50 thousand tiny “choking hazard” pieces, yeah, they do need full supervision. They also need a clear space to play in, like a dining room table that isn’t covered with crap. I just really wanted to work those things into daily life more often. I considered implementing a time of day when those things were accomplished, but who am I kidding… that just won’t happen. This isn’t preschool. We still need to go to the bank, the doctor, the grocery store, to playdates, and we also have naps, and sick days, and laundry days.

So I had gotten this idea in my head. A “check-out” system that allows Ardyn to look through a binder ring that was filled with picture cards of things to “do” or “create” and then she could choose one and check it out, and she and Marek could play at the table with that item. If they were done, they would be responsible for helping to clean up and put away, and then they could check-out another one. This had been in my head for a couple of months, and just not implemented.

After Christmas I was having an internal struggle (which yes, lasted about 24 hours. I don’t dawdle in my thinking processes) regarding all toys being readily available to play with and mix or match and have all at once, or the alternative, which would be that all or most toys would need to be “checked out” in a sense, which means you would need to pick up what you played with last in order to get the next thing out. The latter was my mom’s suggestions a while back, and while I could see where she was coming from, I just could not bring myself to implement it. Mostly because my kids come up with the craziest things, and use their imaginations wildly, with different toys from different categories. This is what kids DO. They use a syringe from a doctor kit to decorate a birthday cake from the kitchen set. They use the string on the whistle as a makeshift dog leash. They use the perfume from the dress-up set to groom the dog and make him smell pretty. So taking away toys and only allowing them one thing or category at a time, seems like it would be hampering their creativity. I had to find a compromise. I also didn’t want them to constantly be asking me for a new toy, because I knew that I would never get ANYTHING accomplished. Part of the best thing about having these two close in age is that they play really well together. I didn’t want to compromise that.

It hit me yesterday. The check-out system. For games and toys or items that need supervision, or for things like legos that can easily get out of control, lost, and hazardous (to our feet!)

I needed supplies. I needed containers with lids. Snap on lids, to put certain items in. Like Littlest Pet Shops (choking hazard for Marek) and the new doll that Ardyn got with all the snap on clothes. Things like that. I had recently converted our DVD storage cabinet into a secure place to keep games, but I had yet to let them PLAY any since putting them behind closed and locked doors. This was not working. I can’t put things out of sight, because then they are out of mind. The checkout system would put photos of all these options onto small cards, that I would attach to a binder ring. On the back of the photo I would put the location of the item… like which cabinet it is in. This will be helpful since I will have to keep things in at least three different rooms. I just don’t have enough space left for one designated area for the checkout. But the majority of them will be in the kitchen hutch, which is largely unused after the remodel. The reasoning behind this is that they don’t generally hang out in the kitchen without me, and if they were in there I would think they were up to something, and they are less likely to get those containers down. Plus without a chair they can’t reach them anyway. I will also keep certain creative and educational items in the cabinet on the front porch, which has already been designated as such. Then I will have the DVD cabinet with the games inside, which will remain as it is. Last night I spent several hours plotting out my design and taking notes. I tried each “toy” in containers that I already had to see how many containers I needed of each size. I made a list and then I went to Wal-Mart from midnight till 3am to pick them all out. They were out of binder rings (boo!) but I got containers and from 3-4 am I was in the living room putting things in their proper containers. Today I hope to order the photos of the toys (which I took last night) from walmart and start labeling the containers and putting them in their places, and then make the cards.

I had better get going. I did talk to the kids about “toy library” and they (Ardyn) are excited. She has asked about it 4 times this morning. I need to shower so we can get to the bank and to Sheffield, and to order pics and such. J More on this later, as It progresses!

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