The Child Toy Chest
How can one small child own so many things? Within months of bringing home a baby, your home becomes overtaken with infant accessories and (sigh) toys, toys, toys. Teddy bears and tea sets. trains and cars. Blocks, books, balls of every size and shape. After several Christmases and birthdays, you can barely walk five steps without narrowly slipping on a stray crayon (and how did that puzzle piece get inside the refrigerator?).
The logical solution, of course, would be to put the toys away. But, parents remember this: the secret to a neat home is a storage system that works for both you and your child. A child toy chest is the perfect storage solution for any kid.
The Wrong Storage System
The simplest thing would be to pack all the toys in boxes, stack ‘em on the floor, or cram them into whatever shelves are available. But this just won’t work.
First of all, kids can’t reach the shelves. So they can’t pick up after themselves, and each time they want a toy, they’ll be screaming for your help. It’ll be impossible to get anything done without being interrupted, and your children miss the chance to learn to be independent or take responsibility for their own things.
Heavy chests piled on the floor won’t work either. For one thing, they’re a safety hazards. Small children may attempt to pull one chest (which will send the whole column toppling down over them). Others will try to climb over the chests. It’s an accident waiting to happen.
If the toys aren’t easily accessible, you also have another issue: bored children. They’re out of sight, yes, but they’re also unreachable, and as any veteran parent knows, a child who can’t get a toy will find another toy to play with—like the remote control, or the heirloom Ming vase, or kitchen scissors.
In short, you need a toy storage system where the toys are neatly organized but within easy reach of a small child. In other words, you need a toy chest.
Child Toy Chests
What are the advantages of child toy chests over large plastic containers? First of all, a child toy chest is constructed especially for the purpose of keeping a child’s treasures. They’re constructed especially for a child.
The height of a child toy chest is just right for a small child. He can keep things himself, and he can get them when he’s ready. The lids are light enough for him to lift, and they’re child-safe too—no sharp corners or heavy wood that can cut or pinch tiny fingers.
Painted in bright, colorful designs, the child toy chest becomes a treasure in itself. It’s more fun to put things in and out of a child toy chest that looks like it’s been painted in Santa’s Workshop. It feels more like a game than an errand. Don’t believe it? See the difference when you say, “Put it in the plastic chest!” and “Put it in your treasure chest.”
Toy organization tips
Giving your child a toy chest is just one way of ending the invasion of the misplaced toys. Here are some other ideas on how to restore order in your home, while teaching your child about independence and responsibility over his things.
· Don’t put all the toys out at the same time. Small children can become overwhelmed by having too many choices. They may also grow easily bored if they see the same toys over and over again. Instead, divide your toys into different sets. Each set should have enough variety that they can find something for any mood or situation (i.e., something for indoor play, something they can use outdoors). One set goes to the child toy chest, the others are temporarily kept out of sight. Rotate every few days.
· Have a “clean up” song. Try a tape that you play each time it’s time to keep all the toys. Choose something with a feisty beat, like a marching song. Then make it a game: he has to put everything away before the song’s over. If he succeeds, he gets a prize (like a star on a chart).
· Make up a story about the child toy chest. Use your imagination. Tell them about the Bad Fairy who likes to break toys when children are asleep, and how the Good Fairy waved a magic wand over the chest so it would keep them safe. Or you can say it was one of the treasures that Jack (of Jack and the Beanstalk fame) had stolen from the giant. These little fairy tales help add mystery and fun to the task of putting away toys.
· Tape a chart on the wall behind the child toy chest. Each time the child puts away his toys in the child toy chest, he gets a star. When he’s filled up the chart (it’s up to you how many stars he needs to collect) he gets a treat.
· Set a good example. When you ask your children to put away toys in the child toy chest, you have to be the role model and put away your own things, too. If your desk is a mess and your kitchen looks like you had to hunt wild animals to prepare dinner, then you lose your credibility.
· Follow a routine. Children need to have a sense of order and rhythm, so they know what to expect. Interrupting them in the middle of a game upsets them, so you get a tantrum and a drawn-out argument about putting away his things. Use a kitchen timer: “In five minutes, when it rings, you have to put away your toys.”
· Let him pick the child toy chest. Show him the many available designs for a child toy chest. Let him choose the one he likes. This gives him a sense of ownership, and the child toy chest immediately becomes his special treasure.
· Be consistent. If you yell at him to pick up his toys, buckle down when he has a tantrum, or decide whether it’s “worth the battle” depending on how tired or busy you are, your child won’t take your instructions seriously. Stick to the rule, and though the first week may be filled with screams and sobbing, eventually he’ll take clean up time as a matter of course.
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