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Toys driving you mad? Here is some down-to-earth wisdom from other parents on how to get the mayhem under control.
1 Big deep toy boxes often don’t work well Toys get jumbled into one big mess, small pieces get lost in the tangle and toddlers have no choice but to empty the whole thing on the floor to find what they want Collect lots of small, easy to handle, easy to carry, un-lidded containers, so children can sort their toys into groups – all the building things in one, wheeled toys in another, and so on
2 Have fun with lots of big, coloured hooks labelled for coats, hats, bags, skipping ropes, dress-ups It may not look elegant, but you and your children will be able to find what you need
3 Use symbols or colours, even allocate one colour to each child if that works for you Ben’s coat goes on the red hook, his bath towel and toothbrush are red and his special no-share toys are in the red box
4 Organise things into activity “zones” – puzzles, reading, art – so everything to do with that activity is there For example, as well as crayons and brushes, keep paper, aprons, wipe-up cloths and hanging pegs in one bin to make setting-up and cleaning-up easy During the day, convert a space from one activity to another by putting art stuff away and bringing out the puzzles bin
5 Make finding stuff and putting it away fun and interesting to build good habits for a lifetime Preschool teachers have made an art of labelling boxes and crates
6 Follow kindergarten’s set-up/clean-up routines too Before starting a new toy or game, help your child put away the first one Then there’s not a huge mess to sort out at the end of the day
7 Cull your child’s toys every three to six months, keeping an eye out for toys they don’t play with It’s easy for toddlers’ rooms to become cluttered with stuff they never use
8 Mess doesn’t matter, but you don’t want your baby to choke on a marble or tiny piece of Lego Enlist the help of your older children to make sure small, precious and dangerous bits are stored in higher places and that only chewable books and toys are at baby level