30 October 2006

On Toys and Games

My children have gotten lots of toys over the last seven years. Lessons learned:

* The fact that children are old enough to not eat a toy with many small parts does not mean that the toy is a good idea. Little calendar magnets, magnetic poetry words, bath toy letters, plastic tea set pieces, halves of plastic Easter eggs, beads, dominos and parts of a few games we have with many small pieces have swiftly become part of the leaf litter. They have as much diffusion potential as dust. If it has more pieces than a checker set, it deserves a sober second thought, at least until late elementary school. Also, any art projects or toys with many parts, like puzzles, need to be behind closed doors when not in use, so no one is tempted to open them up and disperse them. Keeping parts for a toy in a ziplock bag helps, but only if you are absolutely vigilant and supervise the activity 100% of the time, which you don't want to do.

* Simple toys are much loved. Some of my kids favorite toys are the soccer ball, the Razor scooter, and their bikes. One of their favorite games is twister -- which has only two pieces. One of their favorite inside toys for many years was a set of several dozen large cardboard blocks. One of my son's favorite toys is a little die cast 747, I got him after I went on a business trip. Both children continue to love their stuffed animals, the comforter from my eldest's crib, and the fuzzy blankets I got at Walgreens a couple of years ago. Big rubber duckies and single piece floating boats and plastic cups have been the consistent favorites among bath toys.

* Toys that require batteries or have fragile parts tend to fall into disuse sooner. A pop up book will survive for three to five readings, with luck.

* Children are like dogs, they have an innate need to dig. It pays to give them a spot to do it in, rather than fighting a futile fight to stop it entirely with the consequence being very public blemishes in your landscaping.

* The fewer cushions your couch has, the less time it takes to put them back after they are appropriated for an imaginary fort or boat.

* Vacuum cleaners, mops, brooms and dustpans are attractive nuisances. A closet to keep them in when they are not in use is nice to have.

* Fragile things will be broken. This can be delayed if fragile things are less easy to access than other less fragile things.

* Too many choices are bad. Even if you have many toys, only a few should be available at any one time. If there are fewer choices, fewer toys will actually be played with, and every single toy will end up strewn all over the house on a regular basis. The day we instituted the rule that required any toy brought up from storage to be replaced with a toy removed from their rooms was a good day. The rule against too many choices also applies to clothing.

* It pays to rearrange furniture in children's bedroom once or twice a year. All sorts of things end up hidden deep beneath it.

* Buy Goo Be Gone. It is the only substance that is highly effective at removing crayon marks on walls and floors.

1 comment:

Julie O. said...

Your house sounds a lot like mine. I've had a rule against toys with lots of small parts for several years. My sister-in-law gives the boys very noisy toys instead.