I have realized that in our small space we have too much stuff. My mom has hinted at toy rotation for a long time but I am finally getting the bug to actually get organized enough to do it. When you have a lot of junk it can take a while to filter through it all. I am doing this now in anticipation of Christmas and New Years. I want to make sure we are getting gifts that the kids will use and not just add to our stuff.
Right now I am trying to set up some type of toy rotation plan. Being around Montessori I know that everything should have its place - but honestly, that is one reason I could not be a teacher long term - I can't keep things in their place. I am working on it though. Here are some blogs that gave me some inspiration about cleaning up and paring down.
Simply Convivial - Here is the 31 day series on cleaning and organizing that got me on this new kick. Her goal is to make things practical - not cutesy. I truly appreciate that.
The why behind toy rotation. Did you know that some people recommend no more than 10 toys per child at a time? I don't know how we got to the point we are at but we are WAY beyond that. No wonder my poor kids are overwhelmed. Here are some specifics about how to do it and even more details. Another mom writes about her plan and suggests maybe a five day rotation. I'll have to think about that one.
Honestly, the overwhelming number of books in our household is probably one reason why my kids don't pick up ANY books and just flip through them. They don't know where they are or what is appropriate for them to read. They like library books in part because there are fewer of them to choose from and they know they are worth looking at. I have NO idea how we will rotate or bring the book chaos under control (remember I did inherit a small school library) but it is a worthy challenge.
This weekend was the women's retreat at my church AND I got to meet with some long time spiritual mentors. After all of that input I also realized that I need to spend more one on one time with my kids. As I rearrange my schedule for the spring I hope to create about 10 to 15 minutes most days where I focus on one child and really listen and play with them. This will require some organization - which is one reason to organize the toys. This might be a lofty goal but I am going to try. I am also thinking about how to incorporate more craft time - but that is a whole different ball game.
Here are my thoughts for what I might do right now:
1. Divide toys into "play with mom" and "play by self". Honestly, all the play with mom resources are like brand new because I just don't do that often and they aren't organized to grab and go.
2. Organize the "play with mom" by child so that I can easily grab something when it is time and start playing. Our focus time won't always be led by me but when I do want to play with something it will be available. This might also help ensure that I am reading age appropriate books to my littlest - somehow I suspect Peter Pan is going right over his 20 month old head.
3. Organize the "play by self (or with brothers)" into categories - puzzles, card games, board games, building toys, train/blocks, balls, dress up/make believe and maybe even books if I am feeling really put together.
4. From there I would like to organize my toys into "rotation bins". Each bin would have something from each of the categories that is age appropriate for the kids. The best idea that I found was to pull out everything in a category - say puzzles. From there you would pick and choose from what you have and separate them into a rotation bin. This allows you to consider how different toys might work together and really do the thinking once and put it all in one spot. Then you just pull them out when it's time to change. This might also help me better organize some of my homeschooling materials into categories. I hope it will also make it clear which things just need to find a new home! There is a consignment sale coming up around here.
5. For storage I might use under bed boxes and store them in my garage (or under my bed if I can get it clean enough). I am falling in love with underbed boxes. Right now each of my two older boys use them as their "dresser". Stacks aren't too high, they can see almost everything at once and it is contained. I can stick a lid on it if I need to do so. They are NOT under the beds (they would never get used if they were) - one is in the bottom of a closet and the other is under a loft bed. My older son keeps most of his legos in one that is kept under the crib. Again, he can see lots of his legos at once and it is easy to put it away and cover it if the youngest wanders in there (he is really only sleeps in there at night).
If we have less to clean up and a better idea of where it all goes I think we might avoid some struggles around here. So, I will let you know how the grand scheme goes.