We have three small children and between them they own quite a few toys. We have a small, old house, with no storage, space for storing toys is limited as is space for playing with them. It seems that keeping the toys in check around our house is a constant battle that I never seem to be winning, but for now, with small children, that is just the way it is.
I try to be fairly ruthless, to keep the amount of toys we own to a minimum. I try to encourage the purchase and giving of toys that will last and most importantly toys that can be used in lots of different ways by a wide age group, over and over again. In fact I am probably a bit of a ‘toy snob’ when it comes down to it. I have pretty concrete ideas about what makes a good toy and what makes a bad one and I think we have a collection of really nice toys that we all enjoy.
Most of the toys are ‘stored’ in the girl’s bedroom in a range of containers and baskets – since we have no where else to put them. Every now and then the Twindoes live up to their nick name and remove every toy and book from their shelves in the name of ‘play’, which is fine, except they have ‘packing up issues’ ie – they don’t do it. So to keep some semblance of sanity we’ve set aside a corner of the living room for the kid’s stuff.
If you click on the image and go check it out on flickr you can mouse over the little notes and find out what is hiding in all the baskets and shelves. I like having the kids things as part of our family living space. I like that they play here rather than hidden away in our bedroom – to me it fits with the idea that play is important, that it is something that should be a natural and wonderful part of every day and something the whole family should be involved in.
The girls help me rotate the toys we have out every few weeks or so and they are allowed to choose a couple more things from the bedroom if they want them as long as they put them away when they are done. We’ve found that this keeps the general mayhem down to a manageable level!
The white shelves you can see in the photo are from Ikea and we have a matching set on the other side of the living room. The TV lives high on top of this set (to keep it away from little fingers – we learnt that the hard way!) and houses art materials, play dough, DVDs, puzzles and games all locked away behind two doors with magna locks.
I am not sure if our girls are particularly mischievous or destructive or they just have an uncanny knack of being able to get to things you think they can’t (hence the magna locks – I hide the magnetic keys as they’ve been able to open them with the key since about age 2.5) and cause utter mayhem. Izzy has a passion for cutting her hair. Zoe is rather skilled with stickers and glue. They both really enjoy pulling things to pieces. It took us a long time to come up with a system that reduced the impact of these skills to a manageable level while still allowing me to cook dinner and go to the toilet every now and then and the big white doors with locks were the answer to my woes. Since getting them life has been filled with much less yelling and hair pulling!
We also have two little tables set up side by side with chairs in the dining room (which currently adjoins our living room) which used to be set up with drawing things. Now that Muski can climb onto the chair then onto the table drawing things are no longer safe so they get locked away too and most art activities happen up on the big dining table. Muski hasn’t quite worked out how to climb up there yet. The small tables are now usually used as an imaginative play space and we set up something that is mostly Muski-friendly like the dinosaurs or a fairy castle.
It is getting to the stage now though where the girls want to play things without their little brother interfering and we just don’t have the space for it. The frustration levels rise very high on some days and at times I wish the girls had a bedroom that they could escape to and keep their ‘stuff’ safe from their brother, as much as for his enjoyment as theirs. Strangely he doesn’t much like being dragged away from the toys by his ankles. So while our current toy set up has worked so well for us for the past year or so it is being out grown yet again and we will have to reassess very soon.
Thankfully renovations are on the cards in the next year. The girls will move into the current master bedroom and have more space both for storage and for play. Muski will finally have a room of his own – if he wants it – and a space to store his toys. I am hoping though, that we can squeeze in a ‘store room’ arrangement as well. After hearing about a friends recent renovation that includes a store room I want a space to store household items like linen and suit cases and toys!
So how do you tackle the toy storage issue in your house? If you could renovate or create any kind of storage or play spaces what would you do?
I think ‘2008 The Year of Organisation’ is slowly morphing into ‘Renovate 08’ as I find myself dreaming and planning for our renovations and wanting to ask for ideas and opinions. So don’t be surprised if my Monday blog posts, and my life in general, becomes less organised and more crazy and scattered as our renovation dreams get closer and closer to reality!