It is amazing how many toys you acquire when you have a child. N has toys that he received when he was born, for Christmas, for his birthday, and treats from friends and family - 'just because.' I am as guilty as anyone, and have definitely picked up a few things for him here and there in the hope that it will keep him occupied for a while. I suppose by some standards he doesn't have that many, but being honest with myself, he already has more than he actually plays with and enjoys.
Recently a friend shared an article with me which really struck a chord. The Mum in the article had a playroom full of toys for her kids, yet they would declare they were bored after 10 minutes in there. She decided to get rid of the majority of them to see how they responded, and to her surprise, they loved it. She realised that with a small, carefully chosen selection of toys, her children played happily and for far longer.
We don't have a separate play room, so we keep most of N's toys in our living room. He has a kitchen with pretend play items stored inside it, and a large basket containing everything else. Usually he digs through the basket, plays briefly with something, flings it aside, and repeats with a different toy. Before long the floor is covered in toys, and he has hardly played with any of them.
Whilst N was having his nap one day, I decided to cut things right back. I cleared a shelf on our TV stand and put a few toys there, and a few more in front of the fireplace. Anything that didn't fit in those two places went into the loft - I won't be throwing them away though, as the plan is to rotate them.
This is what was left - the toy kitchen, a basket of books, a Noah's ark, a truck, stacking rings, a bucket of blocks, a shape sorter, stacking cups and a pull along toy.
Is there vast amount of choice? No. Do I think there is enough there to entertain my busy 17 month old? I think so.
When N woke up from his nap, I watched him carefully to see what he did, as this was the first time his toys were all out on display like this, easy for him to access, rather than piled into the basket. He stood for a moment looking around, then walked over to the TV stand. He pointed at the cups saying 'cups. tower' and bent down to get them out. Then he sat down and played with them. For 5 minutes. Compared to the usual 5 seconds, I would call that a record!
Its been 3 days now since we had this new set-up, and it is going really well. We have played together with each and every toy at least once, and he has played with several of them on his own too.
Of course - this blog is meant to be about language development through play, so never fear; there will be a follow-up post soon about how we are using the toys mentioned in this post to develop language skills.
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I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!