Monday, September 22, 2014

Ba Bye Toy Room

Assembling the bunk beds meant recreating the nursery. It's an exciting milestone, even though we have two and a half months before the baby arrives, it's nice to feel ready. I always figure it's best to transition the baby being dethroned early on, rather than just before the new baby comes.

Unfortunately, putting the nursery back together equates loosing the toy room. Which reminds me of the toy room post I always meant to write. So here it is, presented like an Eulogy to one of my favorite spaces.

My pre-toy room judgments
As a new mom I was convinced I'd never own too many toys. A small basket or two would do. Oh how I laugh at the innocence of that young mom! I could not have survived last year's winter without the great hand me down/gifted toys and the many goodwill scores we've collected over the last year or two.

Reid, 6 months old, with all the toys he owned. We have gotten ridden of several of those, but we've also collected dozens of others.
Once I finally accepted excess toys I balked at the idea of a toy room. I'd never indulge my kids so much that they had an entire room dedicated to toys! But here's the thing, having a toy room isn't an indulgence for the kids; it is an indulgence for the parents! It's the easiest way to keep toys out of sight, and it doesn't require cleaning and organizing at the end of every day. Every few days, yes ... but not every night (like a bedroom or front room require). Oh how I'm going to miss our toy room! All for a good cause though.

My toy area rookie mistakes
Finding the right space! Space has to be taken into consideration when making a toy room/area. Our home is mid-sized, and I figured having a toy room wasn't really an option. When we'd go on play dates to bigger homes I'd always notice dining rooms or offices were turned into toy rooms. How wonderful I thought, but since I had neither of those rooms I assumed a toy room wasn't an option for our home. For the first year in our new home our toy area was basically the entryway space behind our couch. It was always a mess. But I didn't want all the toys in Reid's room because I knew it would always be a mess if we kept the toys in there. Plus, some toys require a little supervision/assistance, so they needed to be somewhere in the main living part of the house.

Now that a separate toy room is no longer an option, we have put all the toys in the kid's bedroom. I'll update you on how that goes later. I'm never going back to toys in the front room/entryway/behind the couch again. Toys find their out there nearly every day, but it just doesn't work as our regular play space anymore.

Placement problems! Once we found the right space (the nursery) I ran into placement problems. It took a month or two to figure out just where the activity table should go and how to optimize space in the small, closed off room. I especially noticed the placement problems when we had friends over for play dates. I really needed to figure out a way to free up all four sides of the activity table while still leaving enough space for some floor toys. Eventually I found the perfect placement for everything so don't be afraid to rearrange and move things often -- until you figure out what works best for you in your little or big space.

^^^ this ^^^
In that top picture my kids were smooshed into a corner if they wanted to play at their activity table. The center of the room had tons of open space because I figured having open space was great for inviting play. One day while I was cleaning the room I pushed the table into the middle of the room and realized there was still plenty of open space for play and my kids could play on all four sides of the table. May seem like a small thing, but it made a huge difference. Ben noticed it right away and said "Why didn't we do this all along?"

I don't know honey, I don't know.

Another placement problem we had (and I just fixed) was our dress up corner.
I love having the dress ups at easy reach, because I think they are such a great part of childhood play. However, the dress ups always seemed to be a mess and it was driving me crazy. I didn't realize the problem was the storage bin below (which has the dress up hats and other accessories stored in it). About a month ago I moved that bin and simply put it on top of the other. That made things sooooo much better. It was easier for my kids to get their chosen dress up out and put them away themselves. My next step is to get a clear storage bin or open basket for the dress up hats and accessories. My kids really never play with them (but Nell loves the hats) because they are out of sight in that opaque bin.

Expert advice from an intermediate toy room mom
Rotate, rotate, rotate! I always scroll through facebook or blog posts that discuss toy control and organization and if there is one thing I've learned from those posts/threads it is that toys NEED to be rotated. Your kid will loose interest in a toy (no matter how great it is) if they are able to play with it everyday. Hiding a mediocre toy for a couple weeks suddenly makes it magical when it reappears. Kids love novelty, but parents don't love buying new toys all the time. Toy rotation is the simplest solution to all your problems. It helps with boredom, organization, and so much more.
Our activity table has four basic toy rotations: blocks, castles, trucks, and trains. When the trucks, trains and legos aren't on the table they are hidden out of reach. The castle is often put away but not out of reach. It is one of the few toys I'll let Reid bring in to the front room to play with. He knows the Legos do not come off that table. If you've ever had Legos you know why! (and yes, when my boy plays with his trucks I give him some beans in a disposable cake pan, you'd be surprise by how little mess he makes, he knows it's a special privilege).

Hide things! As alluded to in the rotation section, simply putting toys away or out of reach isn't always enough. Sometimes you really need to hide a toy. We have an electronic train set Reid loves (and was given to us for free from a friend whose son out grew it) and it is perfect for rainy days. Other days, I kind of hate it. It takes up a lot of floor space and he always wants me to play with him. The same could be said for our hot wheels race ramp. So they are both hidden in the opaque storage bin that sits at the bottom of the closet. The play doh and toy food are also stored out of sight when not being used. They are both great development toys that my kids love playing with, but I just can't handle them on a daily basis. Out of sight out of mind.
Hidden things are in the bins or the cloth storage pockets. Out of reach items are on the top shelf. The middle shelf, dress ups, and pull/ride toys are easy to access.

Inviting wall designs! When we first created the toy room the walls were bare. The nursery pictures still hung high on the walls, but there was nothing at kid level. So I went to our local Education/Toy store and bought a couple things that appeal to preschool aged kids.

The map gives us a chance to talk about the places we travel and where our extended family members live. You may recognize the upcycled bulletin board from here. The calendar was free on Shutterfly. It's all pictures of the kids from that month last year. I hope to keep that idea up. You practically have to try to not find a free Shutterfly calendar promo.
The back corner has a Little People toy (they get rotated too!) and our Weather Station. Both the kids love changing the weather and they are learning at the same time!

Rules! The final bit of toy room advice I have to offer is to set rules. As mentioned above, Reid knows the Lego blocks do not leave the activity table. He also knows we have to put away a couple toys before we get new ones out. I really don't think we have too many rules, but one day he had a friend over and at least three times I heard him say "No __________, my mom doesn't ...." or "We can't ..."

So maybe I'm a bit stricter than I intended, but I'm glad Reid knows there are expectations -- even in a space that was created just for him and his sister. 


Mom said...

Love the photo of Reid in the basket!! Also love the table! I need to invest in new toys for grandchildren!! I loved all yours.

Anonymous said...

Cute room and cuter kids!!! But, a nursery is so exciting and means lots of new and fun times for the Szilagyi family. Love, Pa

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