I can’t wait for the holidays. The family get-togethers, the food, and the presents are all so much fun. But, every year after the initial excitement, I get overwhelmed and frustrated. There is just so much stuff that takes over my house. I get anxious from all the clutter and so do my kids, even if they can’t verbalize it, I can see it in their behavior. Over the years, I have tried to come up with a few strategies to avoid most of this stress.
First, I take inventory of what my kids have before the holidays. I try to go to all the different play areas in the house and take out all the toys. I look at the games, blocks, puzzles, pretend play toys, ect. I make sure all the games and puzzles have all the pieces we need to play. I ask myself: does my child still like this toy? Is this toy still developmentally appropriate? Does this toy engage my child for more than a couple of minutes? I also ask myself: what’s missing from our toy collection? Would a set of animals, new people, or more blocks add to their creative play? Would new dress up clothes help spur their creativity during pretend play? While I do these things, I make piles and take notes.
After I take inventory of what we have and what I think might be missing I start to decide what to do with the toys we have. I make a pile of toys that continue to get a lot of use every day. From this pile, I will keep some toys on the shelves in the rotation and others I will put away in the closet for a month or so. I find that when I rotate toys my children start to use their toys in new ways and their creativity and attention to toys increases. Toys that my children have outgrown, I will either put away for when a younger child is ready for them, pass on to a friend, or donate. Finally, I will get rid of any toys that are broken or missing too many pieces. When I’m done with this my toy shelves should be clean, organized, and have room for new items.
Next, I will make a list of what I think will add play value to my children’s toy collection. For me, these will be toys that increase open-ended creative play, add to a developmental skill (i.e. sorting, storytelling, spatial skills) they are learning, or help build on something they love. I try to find toys that have lasting power and can grow with them like Magna-Tiles (we’ve added new pieces to our collection for the past few years), dollhouses and pieces, or new items for their play kitchen. I also like to add a new game or craft set to the mix. Once I have a list of what I think my kids would like/benefit from, I talk to my kids about what they really want for the holiday. I make sure my predictions about what I think they’ll like are right. They also get excited and begin to anticipate the upcoming holiday. After all this, I’ll have a list of things I know my kids will like and benefit from this holiday. I can use this to give friends and relatives ideas when they ask. I always make sure to put a few experience type gifts (i.e. a day at a favorite museum, trampoline park, or a lesson) on the list, too.
Finally, it’s time to share in the gift giving. Since we celebrate Hanukkah, most of the time we aren’t too overwhelmed with too many gifts at once: we generally open one gift for eight nights. But those gifts do add up quickly and if we don’t have places for our new toys we can get overwhelmed after a couple of nights. To avoid this, I try to make sure that new toys have a place on the toy shelf. Also, I try to mix in other items with new toys. One night my kids will get a new book, another night something to wear, another night we might go somewhere together, and finally a few nights they’ll get new toys. Now, even though most nights during Hanukkah we only get one gift, there are nights when we’ll have family parties and my kids will get multiple gifts. On these nights, I try to let them pick one toy to open and play with. The other toys I’ll move out of sight and I’ll introduce slowly, one by one so they can really explore them. I may put away craft sets for a snow day or if it’s one that multiple kids can use then I may save it for a play date. By preparing for the holidays and slowly introducing the new toys I hope this year we won’t be overwhelmed and the excitement the new toys bring will linger a little longer.
Randi is wife and mother to three kids aged 12, 10 and 4. She was born and raised in West Bloomfield where she is currently a stay-at-home mom to provide language rich activities for her youngest, who has Autism. Prior to making the switch to full time mommy, Randi was a pediatric speech pathologist for the past 15 years.