Tidy up time

I can just hear my littlest singing “Tidy up time, tidy up time” as I write this.  The kids know that post-birthdays we have to do a big clear out to make space for any new toys.  Some birthday and Christmas presents are “consumable” and, after bringing a fair amount of joy into our home, have already found their way into the dustbin.  I’m always grateful for smart friends and family who like to supply gift-joy without the clutter!  These included Whopee cushions, cracker fillers and party favours, stickers, and soon-to-be-added to the list – hatching dinosaurs!  The kids have fun but we don’t need to keep the souvenirs.

But how do we decide what stays, and what goes?  Based on my previous post, you will see that I am a fan of keeping things simple.  So I thought I’d add my two cents as to what can stay.

  1. Traditional toys: wooden blocks, puzzles and a few treasures like ViewMaster and Etch-a-Sketch
  2. Classics: the Duplo and Lego collection
  3. Transport: planes, trains and automobiles
  4. Animals: farm set, wild animals and dinosaur collection
  5. Open-ended toys: tools for creative play that grow with your child. We love Moluk, Playstix, Lego and I have a few on my wish list!
  6. Some art supplies: crayons and paint, large paper rolls, stickers, colouring books and a black board
  7. Some gross motor toys: balls, frisbee, sports equipment etc
  8. Something for dress-up and role play: we have a few masks collected from children’s parties, some medals, a tea set and some mini shopping

Now all I need are some beautiful wooden shelves, but for now clear drawers will do so that we can see what’s inside.

And what must go:

  1. Anything broken
  2. Anything with missing pieces
  3. Anything no longer age-appropriate.  My little one has just turned two which means all the baby stuff is heading out the door.
  4. Any junky plastic toys that we feel have served their time

In general, I am not a fan of “licensed” toys.  By that I mean our home is not bursting with Disney characters, superheroes and related products.  For example, Oogi from Moluk can be superman today and an aeroplane tomorrow, without costing me money or space.  Branded toys tend to have limited use and lifespan, and that licence is what makes the toy so expensive.  Yes we do have some. but if you’re looking to reduce clutter, then looking at “multi-purpose” toys might be the way to go.  When faced with toy choices, research shows that limiting options forces children to be more creative in their use of what they have.  My grandfather use to tell us post-war stories of how they would make their precious trains out of wooden thimbles.  Each child had only one toy, rather than one favourite toy.  Maybe my children have never fixated on a certain toy because there are too many options and if they can’t find one toy, well, they’ll just play with something else until it turns up again!

I hope this summary helps.  And if you can’t decide what stays and what goes, get the children to help.  I have been amazed at the maturity they have shown helping me in this process.

Strength to all the mommies and daddies – you will soon have more breathing space!

A reminder for all of us as to what really matters

A while back a friend’s FB status went something along the lines of “Ah open-ended toys. So beautiful. So multifarious. So very expensive.”

This made me sad.  While I was able to share some ideas with her about “loose parts play“, I had to admit that the most beautiful open-ended toys are generally quite expensive.  I’ve been following the most beautiful Grimms’ toys on my IG feed and have terrible #toyenvy when I see the elaborate creations, marble runs, Noah’s arks, car garages and obstacle courses built with these positively beautiful, masterfully crafted wooden shapes in rainbow colours.  I would love to support them through our business and for our family,but buying a set of imported wooden “blocks” for R5-7K just seems totally crazy!

So what is the rationale behind acquiring expensive toys for our children?  Aren’t our homes cluttered enough?

1.  Make space for beautiful and durable toys

I recently saw a post on IG by a mom who has totally bought into the concept of wooden toys, and open-ended play.  Before Christmas she cleared out their toy room of anything plastic other than Lego.  She created an absolutely beautiful space, with wooden blocks, a play kitchen and various other toys which allow for creativity without giving the child too many ideas as to how each toy “should” be played with.  The idea of open-ended play is that the possibilities are infinite.  The child develop their play ideas according to their level of what occupational therapists like to call “Creative Ability”.  Creative Ability is a very proudly South African concept as one of the pioneers in the field developed the theory of understanding what an individual is capable of doing at each stage of development.  Just give the same blocks to a 1-, 2- and 4-year old and watch in amazement as they play.

2. Support green manufacturing processes

Open-ended toys should definitely last throughout childhood, and when not compromising on quality the manufacturers go to great lengths to ensure durability as well as adhere to international safety standards.  The amount of energy that goes into production of a toy should be proportional to the use that the child will get out of it, thereby reducing waste and at the same time using our planet’s resources responsibly.  Did you know that Moluk’s toys, although plastic, are considered green?

Moluk has been featured at Design Week Milan and were part of Play It Green, an exhibition by afilii about sustainable toys during Kind & Jugend Fair in Cologne.  Sustainability has always been an essential concern when they develop toys. They use recyclable plastics and avoid any painted parts or composite materials. No PVC, no phthalates, no BPA. The resources and energy it takes to produce a toy always stand in relation to the play value and years of use you get out of it. Moluk toys have a stellar track record in this regard and a minimal ecological footprint

3.  Think SIMPLE or rather don’t think at all

Despite my background I made some rookie mistakes this weekend when planning a space adventure party for my kids.  Essentially still toddlers and two years apart in age, I had many crafty activities planned which required too much adult assistance, too many steps to follow, too much dexterity and too much structure.  At one point I found myself a little exasperated amongst the chaotic squeals of kids around me.  But everyone was having a great time.  I realised afresh that kids just crave freedom to be kids, to explore  some new materials and create at their own pace, and to have the safety of a familiar adult nearby but one who does not interfere.

4.  You don’t need big bucks for your kids to have big ideas

On Sunday, when all the friends had gone home and we were left with play materials that needed to be packed away, they were much more ready to be creative in the space that had been created.  And this space did not require fancy toys or a large budget.  They just needed time, a place where they could explore at their own pace, and the freedom to do it.

5.  Clear out those junky bits and pieces

Whose joining me in clearing out for a fresh start to 2019, #mariekondomeetsstraightzigzag style?