Parenting: The Toy Juggler

Tuesday, May 01, 2012
There are ways parents can triple the life of their childrens toys for free!

There are ways parents can triple the life of their children's toys for free!

Any parent can tell you that toys are fun for a while but then children seem to tire of them. Even the most curious child will stop playing with a favorite car, train set or construction set.

Instead of constantly giving away toys, buying new ones or trying to chase the newest trend at the toy store, I have a few practical suggestions for getting the most out of your child's toys.

1. Spread out the fun. Put some of the Christmas and birthday gifts away right after your child opens them and bring them out the next month. Most young children won't notice that they opened seven gifts but only get to play with four of them for now. I think children typically get overwhelmed by our capitalistic system of piling their gifts so high. I'm guilty of it too, but I try to take some of the feeling of overstimulation away from my 2-year-old twin boys by tucking a couple gifts in the closet after they've opened them. You can also do this before they open them if you or your relatives/friends don't mind being next month's surprise.

2. Switch the order of the toys. Reorganize the toy room or play area by changing the way the toys are grouped or stored. Put the building blocks next to the stuffed animals so that next time you're on the floor with your children, you're more likely to grab the stuffed giraffe and let him sit on top of your newest high rise. It makes things different and sparks your child's creativity when they see that each group of toys does NOT have to stand alone. They can intermix in new and exciting ways all the time.

3. Use silly costumes, hats, or scarves. Dress everyone up in a plastic firemen's helmet or a sparkly princess crown. You could wrap their shoulders in a scarf or mocked up cape to spark new play ideas with the same favorite toys. Suddenly your child's favorite Matchbox car no longer races across the floor for the 100th time. Now it's the escape vehicle for the fire chief racing to a blaze or is the magic carpet on wheels sweeping the princess away from danger.

4. Use silly voices or sound effects to give your child's old toys a voice. Now the teddy bear can "talk," and the bulldozer has opinions just like the vehicles in "Bob the Builder." Acting skills stretch your child's mind in a new way.

5. Let your child play in your closet. My twins love to slip on my shoes or play with my belts and scarves. They like helping me fold clothes because they get to see what we all wear. The laundry becomes a new game as they pick up clean clothes while I'm folding them and walk around "trying them on."

6. Don't be limited by toys that are typically for one gender or the other. My boys love to play with stuffed animals and Indiana Jones dolls. They love "cooking" in the kitchen with their pots and pans while I'm cooking. They enjoy dancing around and banging on instruments. I say try everything and see what sparks that excitement in their eyes.

7. Make some homemade toys to freshen up the toy box. It can be a craft your children do with you, or something you do for them. Folding fans, getting a puzzle made from their picture, cutting out large cardboard boxes into a fort are inexpensive ways to have a "camping trip" in the living room. You could also do an armchair tour of the world with their toys.

8. Grab a random collection of toys and spend 15 minutes pretending they relate to each other by making up a special story or play using those objects. Our toy room has everything from broken trucks to one-eyed stuffed animals, to pieces of a puzzle and a random silly hat. My boys love when we somehow make them all relate.

Do what you would normally do to make your own clothes, music or furniture feel new again. Move it around, regroup it with objects that don't seem to go together, add a dash of color, try something edgy! Anytime you get down on the floor and play with your young children, they'll love it!

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