Toys can very easily become far too much a part of your life, when they should really be the kids’ domain.
When I watch those TV shows that show living rooms, halls and kitchens all rammed with toys, I’m astonished. How can adults live like that? How can the kids? Parents have the right to have a clean, toy-free home, as much as the children have a right to play to their heart’s content in a clean and tidy home.
How can the twain meet? Well, we have a pretty small place here, so we’ve had to get pretty good at streamlining our life and keeping our home clean.
Our large living room has to serve several purposes: during the day, it’s the playroom and my office, and in the evening it’s our clean, calming grown-ups’ haven/TV den. The last thing I want is to be sitting in a playroom, when I want to relax. Likewise, when the kids are playing and I’m working I enjoy being with them.
How to do it? Firstly, don’t let the toys spread around the house. We have a huge cupboard full of toys in the kids’ room. The toys are all stored in plastic boxes, so each day we choose one box of toys for them to play with.
With our wooden floors, I find plastic toys can make a lot of noise, so we have a playmat. The box of toys goes on the playmat, and the kids play happily for ages. If they want to have a different box of toys out, then they clean away the first box before they decide what they want next. It’s pretty simple stuff really!
Before, when the eldest was a baby, I was keen to have all his toys, so he could see them and select them – that was, of course, before we had quite as many toys as we have now! Nonetheless there were still a fair few toys to deal with. Back then, I came up with a little system: every couple of days I would rotate the toys and clean the toy shelves.
The toys on the top shelf came off and I’d dust the top shelf, then I’d move the next row down, up, and dust that shelf. The toys from each shelf moved up a level each time, and those at the top went to the bottom, so they’d have their turn at being played with as well!
Quite honestly, I loved that system. I was able to my son’s room clean and give my son the chance to play with a much wider range of toys (me too! There’s nothing as annoying as having to play with the same toys over and over, is there?!).
These days, the kids (2 and 4) clean up after themselves. Their involvement in cleaning the kids’ room and cleaning up after themselves, I think, is an important part of their development. We have systems in place that keep our home – our children-filled home – clean and tidy.