Showing posts with label toys in small spaces. Show all posts
Showing posts with label toys in small spaces. Show all posts

Friday, September 25, 2020

Montessori Style Toy Rotation

I wanted to write about our toy organization and toy rotation structure because I don’t know what I would do without it. It is a technique that helps keep our home organized and the children, mostly my toddler, focused. 

If you want to know how to manage toy rotation in a small home with multiple children, then you came to the right place. 

Safety

The first thing I would normally say is that I “follow the child,” but in this case, there is something more important. Safety. 

I am not going to follow the child when he is interested in touching sharp things, chasing poisonous animals, or reaching dangerous heights.

If you are reading this, you might have one child, children of the same or similar ages and stage of development, or you might have multiple children of different ages or stages of development. 

Safety is a big factor.

Whether you know it or not, you already complete some aspect of toy rotation simply by making sure your child's toys are safe. 

There are lots to toys and tools that are perfectly fitting for some, often older children, that are hazardous for other children. If you ever waited to give a toy to a child based on maturity or recommended age, you have already completed this part of toy rotation.

How do introduce and maintain toys in the home that are not ideal for all of the children? How can you entertain an older child while keeping the young one safe?

One way around it is to communicate with the child who is ready for a more complex toy and play up how special a toy is. Be transparent about how another child in the home should not have it until they are either older or reach an x, y, or z milestone. If it is dangerous, say why. If it is fragile or breakable, be transparent and describe in detail how easily a sibling might break it if they get their hands on it. These discussions are necessary whenever your child encounters any toys that require extra safety measures.

1. Small Parts 

Anything that is small or pliable to fit into a curious baby's mouth is a concern. A lot of babies explore with their mouth and the limited teeth that they do have to discover new things about their surroundings. Items that should stay away from a baby or a young child include: 1) play-do, small balls, magnets, batteries, screws, caps, anything granular like sand, art supplies, and toy parts like eyes just to name a few. 

The technique that I have encountered described in "Montessori from the Start" suggests an older child having a box with these more dangerous or sensitive items and telling the child that they are his, her, or their special things that should stay in that box away from a sibling. 

2. Sharp or Fragile Toys

Anything that can be sharp or can easily break off into sharp pieces is dangerous. My toddler loves nature, but bringing sticks into the house is a limitation he has to live with. We also have a dog that likes to chew on her bones and other chew toys. Those all have sharp edges that can cause cuts and scratches to a young baby or child who may not have learned caution about unfamiliar textures. 

Secondly, in our home and against canon Montessori, we do not use glass. My children are very tactile and we already had enough accidents with ceramics to learn that things break and that cleaning up is very hard. Even Christmas decorations containing glass are either completely inaccessible to little hands or put away for the future. Yes, plastic and ceramic ones are not the same, but I have heard enough horror stories to convince me that these safety controls are just a mild inconvenience. 

3. Complicated Toys

Anything that is too complicated for its own good can be a safety concern. This might be a bigger issue for households with children with larger age gaps, but babies will always find buttons. Any remote controlled cars, or anything else with buttons that produce a movement should not be accessible to a small child. They will not learn much about the world and might get an injury instead. 

4. Baby-proofing

Any structures and baby proofing should be age appropriate. If a child is a climber, or even if the child is not a climber, furniture should be secured if it is unstable. If this is not possible based on where you live then you can limit the access of the child to certain areas without your supervision. 

Inventory

Now that the safety part is done, the next step is to complete an inventory of the toys that you have and if needed organize the toys, e.g. put sets together, keep the same blocks together so a child does not get frustrated from trying to make two incompatible blocks work together. I divide children’s toys by form and function:

1. Teething toys

2. Sensory toys

3. Cars and trucks

4. Stuffed animals and dolls

5. Puzzles

6. Arts and crafts

7. Sets or stand alone games 

8. Balls

9. Animals

10. Blocks

Everyone's methods will probably be a bit different based on their needs. 

The Montessori method suggests only a few toys out in order to help the child learn new skills instead of sheer distraction and entertainment. I wish 5 toys were enough, but here my excuse is that I follow and know my children. 

While one of each toy from the above categories sounds like a lot, that’s what works best for my family with the exception of special interests. All of the special interest toys are out and we are not sorry. 

This week, our special interests are animals and teething toys.

Decide on a Number

Much of Montessori guidance regarding toys features quality over quantity. A few well-selected and often rotated toys will do more for play time than lots of overwhelming toys that may not captivate the child's attention or allow the child enough possibilities for play. 

While others might have suggestions, I have seen good videos suggesting 5-6 toys, I don't think there's quite a perfect number unless it's the one for your child. 

Some children want more variety than others and some might play with two toys at the same time that might be counted as two by a parent. 

I will be honest, we stick to about 10 toys between the two children.

My oldest started the day by playing with dinosaurs, then solved a puzzle, just to shift to playing with balls with his brother. My youngest enjoyed teething toys instead of the dinosaurs. 

I know what sensitive periods my children are in and offering toys that do not meet those needs will just clutter up my already small living room.

Observe

I guess observing is aligned with the first concept of following the child. I observe when my children start playing with a new toy. I watch how they discover a toy, and if and how they continue playing with a new toy.

Their sensitive periods may play a part in the different things that I observe. It will be difficult for a child interested in biting and tasting new textures with his mouth to avoid doing that with a new toy, but another child out of this sensitive period may never bite on a new toy.  

Children may develop special interests that stay over months or even years. I will be honest with you, some toys I have shifted into a "set" that I now count as one toy and I just watch my child play with this set every day without it ever growing old. This is how our "big cat" toy set developed. The manner with which he plays with his set might change including playing outside on the grass, washing the toy set with soap and water, or playing pretend with the different cats.

Rotate

Like previously mentioned, some toys aren't for rotation, like the big cat set in our home. Instead, we rotate many toys around it. 

Our rotation cycle is completed based on our children and their interest in different toys. If a toy is unique enough, then it stays out for a while. Likewise, if there is no interest, we simply rotate it out after giving it a chance for about a week. 

Children will not miss any toys they do not play with. 

Storage Options 

This can be its own journal entry. The premise of Montessori education is that you do not need to have the entire toy isle in your home to ensure your child is captivated and actively playing with toys and hopefully learning new things. That said, it seems, at least from experience, that a lot of logistics go into preparing a space ideal for learning. This preparation includes having the right toys at the right time with the help of storage.  

I cannot speak on the experiences of others, but we have 3 types of storage methods in my relatively small home. 

The reason we have 3 types of storage is because a little bit of clutter looks like a mess in a small space. And without a plan, it is easy to store toys in any available nook and cranny including on shelves in the linen cabinet, in my bedroom closet, on dressers, in shopping bags, in craft boxes, and on top of the drier in the laundry room. You get the idea. This made rotating toys so much harder because we had to spend time looking for them. 

I highly recommend anyone interested in toy rotation to have a storage method in mind before starting so that mistakes like the ones we made earlier in our journey could be avoided.

Immediate Storage

Immediate storage includes anything that a child of any age can get to or into. This storage is the location of where toys live. My oldest interacts with this method of storage which is typically baskets, bins, cups, etc. He can put things back easily without confusion. 

Doesn't this mean that a child can get this toy any time? Yes, that's the point. 

I want my child to feel comfortable to get a toy instead of having to ask us for it.

This storage must be intuitive and baby proofed.

Does this mean that an older child can get to more toys than those in rotation? Yes, and that is a part of growing up. Children will explore almost every inch of their home with impressive curiosity. 

My toddler can open closet doors, but he will not ignore toys that are immediately available just to search through a hard to navigate closet.  

Short Term Storage

Short term storage is anything that is harder to get to and is not baby or toddler friendly in its entirety. In our home, this is a nearby closet and chest that have toys organized just out of reach of the child. Toys are stored efficiently instead of visually. 

This is where toys are stored that might not be at the right age or stage of development for either child in my home. And this is the place where toys go when they are being rotated. 

My older child has opened closets to find toys that he was excited about, but this was very seldom.We will make short term storage friendlies for my toddler to navigate over time, but right now he does not have a lot of interest in using closets to find toy treasures.

Long Term Storage

Our long-term storage includes the attic and the basement. Once a toys has made it there, it will likely stay there at least a season.

If a toy might work well for another child and might get too much wear and tear if kept within reach of older children, it will go in the attic for safe keeping.

Reintroduce

The best toys are those that can captivate children in our home despite differences in age and stages of development.

Based on time, place, and culture, growing up is a unique experience and learning periods can be different for different children.
 

While not always possible, I personally like toddler and preschooler toys that double up as sensory play toys for my baby so that each child can reach full potential in my home without having double the toys out of their storage area.

Likewise, I have noticed that my older child would be interested in playing with some of the baby toys out of curiosity and his ability to play with a higher degree of understanding and coordination. He can now count the legs of an octopus and group baby toys by color.   

 

 

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