Couple of weeks ago, as many other parents, I found myself in the middle of my kitchen with my both kids wining at my feet, bored and incapable of playing alone. I was trying to make dinner, but as you imagine hot pans, boiling water and young children aren’t the best combination. So I walked them to their play room, only to see an explosion of toys. Dolls and stuffed animals in a form of a mountain in a once-pretty doll bed. Plastic and felt food literally covering the outside, and the inside of an abandoned kitchenette. Dolls half undressed mixed with books and games, opened and abandoned. I was already thinking about the issue of over-stimulated kids, and I realized that among all these toys, they just don’t see nothing anymore.
And that simply cleaning it, and putting them back on shelfs won’t change that, because there’s too many toys. To much choice. Too much stimulation. And that’s when I started to be more rigid about organizing my kids playroom. Instead of accumulating everything that they could use to play with, in one room, I try to leave them space to play and to actually see their toys!
Here’s how I got my kids exited about independent play:
1. Toy rotation.
– Once a week, I purge their playroom with a big box: I come in, and I put in the box everything that they didn’t play with within last couple of days: games, dolls, etc. I try to get as much out of the room as possible. Then I bring them one or two “new” toys at a time during the week.
– I don’t keep all of the big toys ( like a drawing board, a kitchenette, a play tent, etc) together in the room. Out of all of the bigger toys, I choose one or two at a time, in their playroom: it prevents clutter and let’s them be more exited about them when they’re out!
2. Moving furniture.
Every time I change a position of a piece of furniture in their room, they’re playing there with more enthusiasm, thanking me for a “new room”. Just by moving things around I create the illusion of a novelty, and that always excites young children to play!
3. Setting up play stations.
Sometimes I’ll prepare a scene of their toys eating, sleeping or just sitting in a circle. Or I’ll combine the kitchenette with a little table, and set up a restaurant for dolls. Or I’ll take out a game they haven’t played with for a while and set it up in a middle of an empty room. It’s like an invitation to play, and it always works!
4. Less is more.
Kids don’t need that many toys. They’re creative and full of imagination, and “too many toys at once and too much choice, confuse kids and results in them not knowing what they want to play with anymore. It makes it harder for them to devote themselves to one play, because seeing all the other toys just makes them switch from one to another.”
5. Keeping the playroom essentials.
Every child has their favourite toy or an activity. For my older daughter it’s playing imaginative role play with little figurines and play houses. So I keep these out of toy rotation. Sometimes just making room, and displaying their favourite toys in a new setting, will excite a child to play alone! ( I’ll take her figurines, and set them in a funny scene, and that works great!)
6. Keeping the decoration simple yet inspiring.
I love adding whimsical touches to my kids room, but too much decoration is also over-stimulating kids, and taking their focus off the essential: their imagination. That’s why I think it’s better to stick to neutral colours when painting a play room, and adding the punch of colour and whimsy with prints, textures and wall decorations.