Monday, September 27, 2010

Toy Math

Cadence has WAY too many toys. So we divide them into three batches, and she only gets one batch at a time. Each batch has a large basket that sits on the floor to collect bigger toys, and a small basket that sits on the bookshelf to collect small toys, like cars. I recently decided she has enough baby dolls to divide, so now each batch has some baby doll supplies. I just put as much as would fit in her little diaper bag we use for the baby's bed. She is getting my old baby doll crib for Christmas, so then she can use it for a bed :) This system is awesome for several reasons.

1. She doesn't need that many toys.
2. She can't even play with that many toys in a day - she would just pull them all out and then not play with any of them!
3. I only have to "help" her clean up a third of her toys every day (that's the big one!).
4. Every time we get a different batch out, it is like she gets all new toys. She carefully explores each toy as if it is a long lost friend, and they seem fresh and exciting to her. This way we avoid (mostly) the "I'm bored, I don't have enough toys, all these toys are old, let's go buy some more even though we don't have room for the ones we already have" syndrome.
5. Every time we get a different batch out, Tony and I get to see how far her motor skills and problem solving skills have increased - in a dramatic way. This is so much fun for us. For instance, for Christmas Cadence got a ball maze / whack the ball toy. At the time she mostly just watched us do it. When we got it out again, she was able to push the balls through with her hands. The next time we got it out, she was able to accurately hit the balls with the hammer. It was exciting to see these new skills just suddenly appear. I'm sure they weren't actually all that sudden, but we wouldn't have even noticed if we had seen it from day to day.

I organize her toys like I organize almost everything else, which means the process is messy! I just did it this week because things had started getting pretty unorganized, but other than that the last time I had to do this was right after Christmas when she got so many new toys. I take everything out of the baskets, spread it out all over the living room, then put it back in the baskets. As I spread things out, I group them by type of toy: balls, small toys, cars, random middle size toys, pull toys, sorting toys, musical instruments, toys with Mega Blocks, cuddly animals, singing books, puzzles, etc.

Then as I put them back in the baskets, I can just scoop up a group of toys and divide them equally between the baskets. You can see at this point the baskets had some cuddle animals, a puzzle, some cars, some small toys, a musical instrument, and a ball each.

This way each basket has a variety of toys in it. Here they are finished and ready to be put away:

I also set aside a few toys and books to go in the van, and all the small quiet toys go in a tub in Cadence's room to take as needed to church.

When I am done sorting, I put two baskets in the hobby room under my work table, and arrange the other in Cadence's play area. The baby doll bag goes by the rocking chair, since Cadence likes to rock her babies.

How often do we switch the toys out? It depends. Sometimes I will notice she seems bored with her toys and hasn't really been playing with them. A LOT of times I will switch them out while one of us is sick, since seeing all her "new" toys occupies her and keeps her happy without me doing a lot of work or expending any energy. Sometimes I will get sick and tired of cleaning up the same toys, or hearing the same doofy kids song from the same annoying little toy, and decide it's time for a change. Typically one of these events happens about every six weeks. Sometimes sooner, sometimes later. Not exactly an exact science!

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