Tips & Tricks

Toy Rotation - Making the Most of Your Child's Toys

There are few more powerful tricks you can have in your mommy tool kit than understanding the magic of toy rotation. It will save you time and save you money. It will make your house tidier and your world a little saner. And most importantly of all, it will mean more fun and better learning opportunities for your child. Having too many toys out at one time can be overwhelming and distracting for young children, interfering with their ability to focus on an activity. Rotating toys simply means putting some of the clutter away, reducing the distractions and allowing your child better opportunities for learning. And as you bring old toys out of storage and back into the rotation, your child will enjoy them as though they were new again!
Your first attempt at toy organization will likely be the most time consuming, so set aside some time one evening when your little one is asleep. As you get the hang of it, you’ll find that it’s a simple system, but one that can make a world of difference. For best results, keep the following tips in mind:
·    What to keep – If your child plays with a toy regularly (at least once every day or two) keep it out for your child to play with. You may find that some of your child’s favourites never end up being rotated into storage, and that is just fine. The point is for your child to get optimum learning and enjoyment out of her toys.

·    Think variety – When choosing what toys to keep or bring back into the rotation, think of the big picture to ensure your child has a variety of toys to choose from – a variety of pretend play toys, some building toys, some art and creative activities, a few puzzles, a few games, etc.

·    What to rotate out – If your child rarely or never plays with a toy, put it into storage. If you have multiple versions of a similar toy, put a few of those toys away as well. Your child will have just as much, if not more fun playing with two puzzles than with twelve! If you’ve been given toys that are too difficult and more appropriate for an older child, put these into storage as well - just be sure you don’t forget to bring them out again when your child gets a little older. And as a sanity saver, put away those toys that your child loves to hate – ones that they seem fascinated by but often result in tantrums or tears. My daughter has a shape sorter she loved, but couldn’t quite get the pieces back out of once she had put them in, a problem which resulted in frequent bursts of tears. I put the toy in storage and rotated it out a few months later, and was thrilled to discover that she can now get the pieces out on her own – no more frustration for either of us!

·    Find a storage solution – When you put toys away, be sure to put them in a place where your child cannot see or have access to them, or else you have defeated the purpose. A big bin with a lid kept somewhere your child does not normally play is the simplest solution. Make sure it is easy for you to access, not buried somewhere deep in storage – the point is to make your life easier!

·    Pieces together!!!! – Nothing is a bigger waste of money than buying a toy and then promptly losing all its pieces. When rotating a toy into storage, take the time to ensure it still has all of its pieces. If some are missing (and you know you had those pieces at some point!), put the toy on a shelf somewhere until you find the missing piece. Sounds finicky, but there is no better way of saving money on toys and reducing that clutter at the bottom of the toy box. Once you get into the habit of it, you’ll find it is amazingly easy to stay organized!

·    Rotate regularly – I find it works best to rotate my daughter’s toys about once every four to six weeks. Once you get started, you’ll figure out what works best for you. Just be sure to keep rotating regularly. The more you do it, the quicker and easier it becomes. You’ll save time. You’ll save money. Your house will be tidier. And your child will be happier. Take it from this faithful toy rotater – it is absolutely worth the effort! Happy rotating!

Puzzle Storage Solution
To easily organize all of your children's puzzles, simply purchase a box of extra large zipper-style freezer bags. Some brands are larger than others, and not all will be big enough for standard sized wooden puzzles, so be sure to check the dimensions of the bags first. Once you’ve found bags that will fit, puzzle organization is so incredibly simple!
·    For board puzzles with inset pieces, insert all of the pieces into the puzzle and slide the entire puzzle into a storage bag.
·    To save space in storing jigsaw puzzles, cut the top (with the picture of what the puzzle should look like) off of the box. Slide the box top into the storage bag, picture side up, and place the puzzle pieces underneath, being sure to close the top of the bag so that pieces don’t get lost.
Your puzzles can now easily be stacked or stored on their sides in a box, without the risk of losing pieces!

No Stress Mess

To save your floors and your sanity during craft activities, spread a plastic shower curtain under your child’s highchair, your kitchen table, or in the designated “craft area” in your home. The shower curtain will protect your floors from dripping paint, globs of glue, and those delightful little bits of glitter that never seem to disappear. When your child has finished his project, simply fold up the shower curtain and shake it off or wipe it down outside. Allow the curtain to dry, fold it up, and reuse the next time you decide to brave a particularly messy craft! Happy mess making!

No Stress Mess - The Sequel

To save your kitchen or dining room table during messy craft activities, keep a few plastic dollar store tablecloths on hand. I often buy these kinds of table cloths for parties (particularly kids’ parties, where there are likely to be lots of spills), as they are inexpensive but make the room look festive. Once they get worn or stained (often after one use, if you are using them with children), simply wipe them down and keep them near your craft supplies. When attempting a messy craft activity, cover your table with the plastic table cloth, using masking tape to tape the edges of the tablecloth to the underside of your table. Your table is now completely wrapped in plastic, which will not shift or slide off of the table. Paint and glue won’t soak through as they often do with newspaper, so you can relax and join in the fun of creating with your little one!

Getting Connected
Connecting with community resources is one of the most important tools you can have in your mommy tool kit. It will benefit you, and it will benefit your little one. Whether you are home full time and need ways to get out and connect with others, or are working full time and need special opportunities to really connect with your kids, the resources in your community are likely far richer than you know. It will take work to discover the best opportunities. But here are some tips to help you along the way…
Tips for Getting Connected in Your Community
1.    Call or visit your public health unit. They often compile a list of resources for new parents – a great place to start. Just don’t assume that this list – or any other – is an exhaustive one.
2.    Ask every parent you know what groups they attend or have attended with their children.
3.    Check out your local community centre for listings of upcoming classes.
4.    Visit your local library.  Many libraries offer parent and tot programs free of charge. And most also have brochures available with listings of other community programs.
5.    Check your local newspaper and attend family-friendly community events. These events can be a lot of fun for the family, and as a bonus you may find information booths promoting other community programs.
6.    Look online, but don’t assume you’ll find everything that’s out there, or that online listings are current. If you discover something that looks promising, follow up first before attempting to attend (a lesson learned the hard way!).
7.    Get out and try things! Not every program will be a good fit for your family. But the only way you’ll know is to try. The more you get out there and try things, the more parents you’ll meet and the more resources you’ll discover.
8.    Keep hunting! No matter how long you’ve been searching, there are likely some gems out there that you still don’t know about. Keep your eyes and ears open, and don’t forget to ask new parents you meet.

Helpful Hint: Here’s a secret that’s worth knowing! Many community centres offer “partnership classes” – classes offered at the community centre in conjunction with another organization, such as a music or dance school. These classes are often the same as ones offered through the other organization, but at the community centre rate – great value for your money!

And One More Helpful Hint: Never assume that the cost of a class has anything to do with the quality. The vast majority of the groups and classes that we attend are absolutely FREE, and I find them to be of a higher quality than many of the most expensive programs.