Are you screaming when you enter your child’s bedroom/playroom? Are you fed of tidying up your child’s toys? Is your child complaining that he cannot tidy up when you ask him to do so? (well he might not be that clear but he might say like mine: “I’m tired”)
How to get from the picture on the left to the picture on the right?
Is your child not able to play independently? Is your child saying that he is bored despite owning 100 toys? If your child is younger, does he require your presence and input to play?
One of the reasons (if not the main reason) might be that he has too many toys!
When families visit my playgroup for the first time, they are generally impressed by the layout of the playgroup. As I would do in a home environment, there are different areas and every activity is set up on a mat or in a basket/tray. Children can clearly see every activity and are able, with support, to put them away. Although there are many more activities that you would need in a home (as I cater for around 12 children), children are not overwhelmed, distracted, disruptive or bored, they choose and are happily playing for one or two hours.
So what’s the secret?
In the Montessori education, less is best. And what kind of toys/activities you offer is also important as well as the way you present them to your child. Many parents coming to the playgroup will quickly decide to change the kind of toys they offer to their children as they notice how much their children are engaged in the playgroup.
So what is too many toys exactly? Can we give a number? I was kind of stunned to share pictures of my child’s car’s collection in a local FB group, asking for advice as I thought he has too many. Other parents quickly replied to me that the collection was nearly “minimalist”. You see I was kind of worried regarding my own children’s amount of toys as my youngest was still not able to put them away. The amount started to add up: cars, train set, plastic animals from all around the world, soft toys, dressing up, building blocks, Duplo’s, a growing collection of Legos, little peoples, kitchen and all the accessories… Not to mention the art and craft material and all the various board games or educational material available. Every category of toys was fine I suppose but the sheer number in each was overwhelming. And that amount might be very different for each child.
I have noticed that over the last 3 years, I have let the toys collection growing without paying too much attention to it. As we moved from a two bedroom flat to a house I was able to hide the mess in a cubby storage and I agreed to tidy up after him as he was still “little”. However, my Montessori training was coming back to me and my desire for my children to become more independent was more and more acute. Therefore I decided to purge drastically. It’s not that our toys were not great but we had too many in each category. Mainly I divided by two the train set, blocks set, duplos and stored away the remaining. I sorted the animals by continents/habitats and left only dinosaurs and one other category out at a time. I sorted the cars by kind too (wooden cars, metallic cars, cars from the movie “cars), set of diggers with people…) and left out just one set with his garage. And so on for each category. Since, oh miracle, my son has mostly put away his toys by himself after playing. He also spend more time by himself in his bedroom.
However, my son is 5 and your situation might be quite different. When I had only my daughter and when my son was a baby and a toddler, I was more aware of the importance of the environment and took a long time to set up trays and baskets of activities for them. I had around 8 trays/activities at any one time and it worked wonders. Along the way, I lost my Montessori principles but thankfully I’m back, for their own good, and my own sanity as it really helps our family life when both kids are able to tidy up and are happy and contented with their play.
My playgroup is a good sample of what you could do in your own home for a child under 4 and the principles are still the same for older children.