If you have to ask the question, “should kid’s toys be confined to one room,” there is a pretty good chance that the toy situation in your home is driving you crazy! And listen, you are definitely NOT alone. At some point every parent realizes that their over indulgence in the toy sector of life, can quickly make their home look as if a five year old hoarder lives with them. And really, no adult should be forced to tippy toe through every room of their home in the hopefulness that they will avoid stepping on Barbie dolls, toy tricks, plastic kitchen utensils, crayons, and other toys.
Another thing to consider is this. With toys strewn throughout your entire house, you are actually making playtime for your child more difficult and stressful. There is nothing worse than helping a determined child find that one specific toy in your home, which has apparently been lost under the mountain of playthings. When young children have too many choices and too much stimuli they can feel overwhelmed, indecisive, frustrated, and lost among the environmental chaos. Plus, how do you start winding down a toddler at night before bed – when all they see around them are playthings just waiting to be held.
The trick is transitioning to confining toys to one room at the appropriate age.
Obviously, when you have a baby in the house that is barely crawling or walking – you want to keep toys in an area that is convenient for you. But as they approach and grow through toddler hood, moving the toys to a playroom (if you are lucky enough to have one) or your child’s bedroom - can go far in teaching them about responsibility and accountability. (Not to mention keeping you sane)
Instead of allowing them to drag every toy they own out into the living room or dining room, allow them to make choices on their own by choosing just one activity. You can also set up a system of cleaning up one mess before starting another. This is a win – win situation for you and your child. You aren’t disallowing toys in the living room, but are setting limits with your toddler by only allowing one activity at a time to be brought out. And this ensures that your living areas aren’t over run with toys and child playthings. Remember, these are the same sorts of limits they will have to adhere to in school, and in life!
Similarly, in order to teach your child responsibility – start providing a consequence for leaving their toys strewn about the house. Explain why this is inappropriate, and explain to your child that any toys left unattended, and left out – will be donated to a thrift store or shelter. Or you can just place them all in a plastic bin and allow your child to earn them back through positive behavior. This type of scenario can justly be started around the 2-year mark in your child’s life.
Eventually, many parents, especially those who appreciate a well-decorated and kept home, tire of seeing primary colors and pastels clashing with their décor and mature level of comfort. It is possible to be too OCD about the toy situation. After all, living with children means living with their stuff. Finding the happy medium by confining toys to one room, also gives your child a place to call their own. If you set up a playroom, or strive to keep toys contained to the kids bedrooms – make sure you have enough organizational tools in place to make things easy to get out, put away, and find for your child. The big toy box is not a good choice, because too many things get lost. Instead, use shelving, bins, Tupperware containers (for the small stuff), toy organizers, and kid friendly furniture that is designed to hold books, art supplies etc. And allow your child to be the master of this domain. Setting up one time near the end of every day to clean up is a reasonable expectation – and you should allow your child to take ownership of this task. And remember, if the toy room is a little messy by your standards, but your child is trying to follow your rules, don’t undermine them by redoing it to your expectations.
Another tip for organizing toys is to do a little spring-cleaning a few times a year. Your best bet is to do this when your child is not home, so that you can pack up and store, or even give away toys that are no longer of interest to your child, or aren’t age appropriate. As your child grows, you can scale back on the amount of toys and instead focus on the types of playthings your child is most interested by. Collecting toys for old times sake, or because you want more children one day only wreaks havoc on the space in your home, and causes chaos for you and your child.
If your house is split up in levels, that perhaps makes taking trips to the toy room or bedroom all the time to get new toys, you might want to think about using something like a wooden crafted toy box, or attractive basket in your living spaces to hold just a few toys at a time. This way, your home won’t appear as if it stands in for the local pre-school, yet your child will have quick access to their favorite toys.
In the end, deciding whether toys should be contained to one room or not, is a personal choice. Some parents don’t mind having wall-to-wall toys, while it makes other parents nervous. Each family has a different level of expectation for how their home should look and feel. In some instances, you have to decide that the ‘toy phase’ of your child’s life is short lived and remember that soon, your house will be an empty nest, void of dolls, blocks, trucks and toys that make noise.