The role of toy manager is actually pretty fun—you get to think like a kid and set up toys in a creative and inviting way. So, after you rescue those plastic zoo animals from under the couch, go ahead and start playing.
“When there are too many toys to choose from, it can be overwhelming,” says Heather Beach, Early Years Coordinator at the Wilmot Family Resource Centre in New Hamburg, Ont. “Try separating toys into bins that can be rotated daily, weekly or monthly. This reduces toy clutter, provides variety and makes the toys more exciting when a new bin is introduced.”
Check if your local family resource centre has a toy library. At Heather’s facility, toys can be signed out for up to three weeks. “A major benefit is the opportunity to try out a toy before possibly purchasing it,” she says. “Also, being able to borrow a larger play set, such as a tool bench, kitchen or vanity helps to save money as well as space.”
Ask around and get other parents’ recommendations on must-have toys, and take note of the things your child gravitates to at other locations, such as playdates or day care. This informal research can help you choose toys that are more likely to have long-term appeal.
Trade toys (for keeps, or for the short term) with family, friends and neighbours who have kids of a similar age. Their kids may have grown weary of a toy, but it will be exciting and brand new to your household.
Store smaller toys in baskets or bins that are compatible with little hands. You can use clear containers to allow the contents to be seen easily, or tape a photo of the items to the outside of the bin (a popular technique in kindergarten classrooms).
Make an effort to keep pieces from specific sets or character groups together for maximum enjoyment. You can also categorize items by theme—for example, pretend play (costumes, props and puppets) or building (blocks and construction machines).
Counteract the “out of sight, out of mind” phenomenon by placing things where your child can see and reach them. Pull the dollhouse, castle or barn off the shelf and set it up (with its assorted figurines) on a low table or an upside-down storage bin.
If your child receives an abundance of new toys during a birthday or holiday, tuck some away. His enjoyment and appreciation will be much higher when the gifts re-appear, one at a time, in the weeks or months ahead.
Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, October 2015.