Why you should rotate your toys

I am very excited to share with you a post from my dear friend, Erin Buhr who is a blogger on her site Bambini Travel.  She always inspires me with her posts about meaningful activities with kids, kids books, and places to visit.  It’s my go to site for ideas for my kids.  One of her posts is about rotating toys and why it’s important.  Enjoy!

 

This post originally appeared on Bambini Travel

Do you rotate your child’s toys?

Many teachers and parents do not, but after 10+ years working with toddlers and preschoolers and 3 years with my twins at home, I feel confident in saying it is one of the most important parts of encouraging play. Today let me share with you my WHY.

When you look at your playroom or classroom, what do you see? Do toys cover the floor? Are there broken or missing pieces? Are the children sitting and playing with toys or are they running around in circles? Worse yet, do they claim to be bored amongst a pile of toys?

If they are happily playing and engaged, congrats! Go sip a cup of tea. If not, the problem is likely too many toys.

I know it doesn’t make much sense at first. Having more toys seems like a good thing. More options right? But there is such a thing as too many. In a playroom or classroom with too many toys children are overwhelmed.

*There is too much sensory input. Too much for their eyes to see and process.
*There are too many choices. Where to start?
*There is often not enough space to sit and play.
*There are toys with missing or broken pieces that you can’t actually use.

Children in this situation either run from thing to thing leaving toys in their wake or they do not engage with anything. Climbing on tables is often a fun alternative choice. Neither is ideal.

The secret? Rotate your toys!

The first step is to purge your toys. You should absolutely start by clearing out all the toys that are broken, missing pieces, or not age appropriate. Once you are done, you will likely still have too many toys.

The next steps are setting up a system for rotating toys.

As a bonus, not only will reducing the number of toys lengthen engaged play, improve social interactions, and increase imaginative play, but now you also have extra toys.

These can be used for:
*Changing the environment with new materials to prevent boredom.
*Sparking new interests. Put out new materials or a different combination of materials and see what your child comes up with on their own.
*Supporting ideas throughout the year. When your child suddenly becomes interested in fish or the circus, you can support that interest by bringing out different materials.

Do I have you convinced? If not, please let me know what lingering doubts remain for you. If I do, clear a couple of closet shelves, find some bins, and put some toys away.

Erin Buhr is a freelance writer, mama to twin four year olds, and educator. Currently, she is adjusting to life as a midwesterner in the deep south. She shares play ideas, family travel tips, and favorite books on her blog Bambini Travel.

Top 5 things to do with blocks…that you never thought of before!

So you have a bunch of blocks. You have a kid. What do you do? You build of course. But what else can you do with this timeless toy? Here are some ideas:

1). Representational drawings. Provide paper, a surface to write on (clip board perhaps), and an appropriate writing tool. During their play with blocks, pick up these tools and begin to draw what you see. Model the language you are using. “I see a square. A square has lines. I’m going to draw a square.” Then, if your child is interested give them the tools to draw their own picture. Try to avoid any management of their drawing. Over time they will begin to refine their drawings to look more and more like what they have built. Use the phrase; “Tell me about what you drew.”

2) Measure with blocks. For this activity you need blocks that are all the same size. Since children are ego centered at this age, ask your child if you can measure how tall they are using the blocks. Have your child lie down and then begin to line blocks up alongside them. Have them stand up to see the result. If there is interest get other things to measure. Have your child (with or without assistance) measure how long YOU are.  When describing your measurements, model language of tall/taller/tallest, etc.

3) Blocks + sensory material = fun! This is a very open-ended activity and great for kids who love sensory play. Items like play dough, sand, shaving cream, water, mud, or finger paint are examples.   Play dough can be used as “cement” with blocks, to make structures. You can play a game of hide and seek using shaving cream or sand with blocks. If you have different shaped blocks, you can provide some paint for the child to stamp onto paper.

4) Play a game of “what’s missing?” This can be used for many different materials. You will need different shaped or different colored blocks.   Begin with 3 or 4 blocks. Place them on a surface where your child can easily see them. If needed, label the blocks. Then cover all the blocks up with a cloth. Help the child resist from peeking! Tell them that you are going to play a game where you take 1 block away and they have to tell you what’s missing. Even young kids can do this, if you just cover them up, remove the cloth and say, “which one is missing?” With older children give them more choices and take away 2 at a time.

5) “Can you find the square?” This is a game that works on a child’s working memory. The level of difficulty can vary greatly upon the number of items you present and the distance they go to retrieve the item. Set up 3 different types of blocks in 2 spaces. Place one set close to your child and the other set farther away. You can work on different shapes, colors, or size. Work with what your child knows and go from there. Begin by labeling the items in front of you and your child. “This is a square, this is a triangle, and this is a rectangle.” Then point to one and ask, “Can you go find a square over there?” This challenges your child to not only focus on the task at hand, but also keep information in their brain to complete the task.

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MTL In the Press

At the MTL, we’ve been so lucky to be received by the community with such enthusiasm. Here are a couple of links to the press coverage.

  1. South West Journal 
  2. Kare 11 Feature on Toy/Tool Libraries in Minneapolis 
  3. MN Parent Magazine on Toy Lending
  4. Family Fun Twin Cities

Thank you to those who have featured us in their publications!

Are you interested in featuring a story or featuring the Minneapolis Toy Library? Contact us: mplstoylibrary@gmail.com or attend one of our upcoming events!

Summer Lending Events

Thank you to all who have joined us during our “trial” summer period! We have had so much fun getting to know each family and look forward to seeing parents and their children at each event. We wanted to share a couple updates with you as we move into the fall and officially launch the Minneapolis Toy Library.

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First, we’re always seeking new members so please share your experience as a member  of the lending library with your friends. Second, we’re expanding our locations.  Please keep an eye on our Facebook Page for the most updated information on where and when the next event will be held. We’ll also be adding more toys in the near future and as always welcome donations at any of our lending events or can be contacted for a pick-up/drop-off arrangement. Thirdly, if you’ve attended an event and considered volunteering with us, we’d love to have your support. Shifts can be anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on your availability. Send an email to mplstoylibrary@gmail.com for more information on how to get involved.

Finally as we officially launch the membership dues will be $20 for a full year. If you signed on at $10 rate, you’re grandfathered in until your six month trial has been completed at which point, you can decide to stay a member for an additional $10 or decline renewing your membership. If the donation fees present an obstacle for your family, please let us know and we will definitely work with you. Part of our mission is to remove economic barriers for families to access toys that help children’s healthy development through play.

As our membership has grown over the summer, some may not be familiar with our organization. Currently, we’re a small group of volunteers that have come together over common values of building community, reducing waste, and allowing children regardless of socioeconomic status to have access to high-quality toys. More to come in the near future – thank you for all your support over the summer as we’ve ironed out the details and truly made the Toy Library dream a reality.