Friday, November 18, 2011

The Toy Library

One of my husband's perennial complaints around this time of year is that the kids have "too many toys!"  It is true that we become inundated with new belongings this time if year, but can you really blame the 2 and 4 year old for having been born, respectively, a few weeks after and a few weeks before the big Christmas gifting season?  It's not their fault that they're December and February babies and that they're so darn cute that people like giving them toys.  That's ALL our fault. 

Around this time of year, I try very hard to moderate my husband's tendencies to "toss it all!  It's not like they won't be getting new stuff soon."  I agree that we can easily get too many toys, but I also know that the girls get attached to certain toys.  We always have to dance a careful compromise to not hurt anyone's feelings.

This year, the issue is compounded by my youngest child refusing to clean up her anything she has played with.  It's like WWIII every night when it's time to clean up the playroom.  Tears and tantrums, threats and ultimatums, it's always a hard road to get the room clean.  Her sister and I usually end up doing most of the work, letting the little one out of most of her work. This week, we decided to put an end to it. 

Enter:  the toy library.  We packed up all of the Little People, all of the toy dishes, the toy food, and dress-up gear.  Left in the playroom is the toy kitchen furniture, the doll stroller, the Little People buildings, books, and anything large.  Removed are all of the little pieces and parts that make the mess.  We allowed them to keep a small volume of toys that would not drive us crazy trying to get her to clean up.  Everything else is in the toy library.

If one of the girls wants to play with something from the toy library, all she has to do is make sure the toys in the playroom are cleaned up.  If they are, she can check out a new toy.  It must be returned before anything else can be taken out.  At the end of the day, the child listed as responsible for checking the toy out is charged with returning it with all of its pieces.  It's simple, really.  I don't know why we didn't try it sooner.  The playroom looks neater.  The children are more excited about what they're playing with because they had to anticipate playing with it and earn it by cleaning something else up.

The best part of this whole deal is that when I refused to let the littlest play with a new toy this afternoon, she threw a fit, then quietly put every single toy away.  When I went to check on her, the toy room was clean and she had accomplished it with absolutely no adult supervision and nagging.  I'm definitely impressed with her effort and reminded once again, that kids are capable of more than we give them credit for.

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