Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Toy Library... Where Education Meets Motivation.... and Organization!

I want to do a quick (I hope) post about the concept of the "Toy Library"

This is my concept (as far as I am aware, I haven't heard anyone else doing it, but I am sure it's something that isn't a completely novel idea) so I can only comment on my experience so far.

We have many toys and activities that are what I consider "supervised" activities, which I do not let the kids have access to 24-7. Think about things that are considered choking hazards to your youngest, but are fun for your older child(ren), like Littlest Pet Shops or Polly Pockets. Or things that have a little bit of "mess" involved, like paints, play-doh, markers, crayons (or heaven forbid, MOON DOUGH which I despise and intend to destroy at my soonest opportunity.) And then there are things that might require a little help from mamma. Like Beading and Lacing and Scissor Practice and Tracing.

So, all these are things that we "put up" until we have those free moments (you know the ones, when the house is picked up, the laundry all done, and the dishes are all washed with all the meals made.) Those moments that happen ALL THE TIME. Right?! um. not in this house. I have all these cool things that we used to do BM (before Marek :) that we have totally forgotten that we even own. How about that felt board? Those foam shapes? The Potholder Loom? Right. You know what I mean. They are hidden. out of sight, out of mind. So. Along comes this Toy Library Idea. This was completely inspired by my mom saying that I should make them pick up one toy before they are allowed to get another toy. While this sounds logical, it also seems cruel and stifling to their imaginations. And I don't really want all their toys hidden and policed.

However, what if they had the option to clearly see the great things that we have available to do... everyday? What if there was some motivation, something that would inspire them to keep their toys picked up? Yes. The Toy Library. I named it this because Ardyn understands a library. You check out a book. You take care of it. You Return it when you are done, which allows you to check out another one. The second I said "Toy Library" it clicked in her head. barely any explanation needed.

  • So, to start, pick what toys and activities would go in the toy library.
  • Group the items on a solid surface, I love the wood floor or ceramic tile :) Photograph the contents of each "container" or each game, activity, etc. Print 4x6 photos of each Toy Library Item that can be checked out. Compile the photos in a small photo album. Look for something sturdy, and if you have the items in varying locations, you may consider an album (like the $5 ones at Wal-Mart) that would allow you to write a caption next to the photo. This works great for putting something along the lines of location, which works great to jog your memory (where did I stash that?) or to help out a clueless grandparent or babysitter when your child wants that particular item. At our house, for example, games and cards are located in the dining room in the game cabinet, but other items might be in the toy library itself, or even in our craft cupboard near my sewing machine. Then there are things like that Easy Bake Oven or the Cupcake Maker that I keep in the upper cabinets in the kitchen. The toy library album is the place that the kids go to see what options are available for checkout.
  • Find a location (or locations) that these things can be kept in order to keep them contained and "out of reach" from the kids. I chose the kitchen hutch, which was nearly empty after our recent addition of new cupboards in the pantry area. The other thought behind that, is that the kids generally don't play in the kitchen. If they happened to be in there and it was quiet, I would know something was up :)
  • Because I am me, Contain and Label. This is not necessary, but it sure makes for a neat library and easy to find pieces. Clear Containers are my friends. I love my labelmaker but I also prefer photo labels, which work great on the containers that they will FIT on.
  • I sat down with all the items that I planned to put in the library, and I tested them in the current storage containers I had at home, and made a complete listing of how many totes of each size I would need for the library. Then I made a calculated late night trip to Wal-Mart to get them all.
  • I put all the toy library items in their designated totes and began labeling. Then I put them all on the shelves.
Now for the rules. Every mom has her own rules. My rules? When you want to check something out, you ask mom. Then mom says "Is your room cleaned? Are your toys picked up?" and Ardyn is already telling me that she is headed to pick up her room so that she can check out something from the library. (I often help by allowing her to gather and stack up books in front of the bookshelf and then I put them on the shelves, as this book organization thing usually challenges her... and also sometimes help direct her by saying things like "find all the play food, and put them in their container") Once her room is picked up and the toys are put away, she gets to look at the checkout book and choose a toy. The rule is that if she wants to use the library, she is also responsible for picking up that toy library toy and getting it back into it's container to check back in to the library. There is also sometimes a stipulation as to where the toy can be played with (on the table, when marek is napping, etc) depending on what it is.

So she is now motivated to take care of her toys and pick them up, and also to put them in the right places/containers, because she knows that there is no checking out without picking up and taking care of what she already has available. I have already seen improvement in her cleanup skills and the attention she pays to where she is actually putting things.... and also improvement in Marek's picking up and his excitement in playing with things in the toy library.

Here are a few photos :)
The Checkout Album (which may change, since it's already full and I found a few more toys that I need to add. Plus the books at Wal-mart which are $5 have lines to write next to each picture, and also hold twice as many as this $4 album from Target.)

I use Picasa for my photo editing, which seems criminal considering I own the entire Adobe Creative Suite, but I love it's organization abilities and popping a caption on my picture is simple. I like to caption things, because let's face it, when Grandparents are here, They may not know that she calls Polly Pockets her "Puppy Pool", but captions, they sure can help out with that!

I do love how sturdy this little photo album is, and the elastic strap just squeals containment and top secret.... too bad it won't hold MORE pics!

The Toy Library Hutch Area:

I may also have made a cute little sign using some scrapbook punches and my cricut... just because it's fun. And I like that sort of thing ;)
I want to hear if it works for you, and if you have any tips or ideas to add!

1 comment:

astrocoz said...

This was a great idea! My little girl is too little for this just yet, but the amount of baby toys is getting ridiculous. I might have to start introducing something like this soon.

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