Friday, December 28, 2012

Off the Topic: Toy Rotation and Our New Playroom

Every now and then I get a bit off the topic of arts and crafts with this blog. But I try to only do it when I find something interesting that I would like to share with people. I believe I've mentioned my son's sensory seeking tendencies before. He seems to be most calm and centered (as probably most kids are) in an organized and less cluttered environment. I hate to admit that it took me an embarrassing long time to figure out this is what he needed. We have three kids and my oldest is 9 years old. So multiply three kids in various stages of toy play x nine years of collecting said toys = house waaay too full of toys. We had just chucked any and all toys our son could play with in his room and starting at 18 months when he was in a big boy bed. He would take forever to go to bed. Go figure. He had a Toys R Us store in his room. What kid would want to go to bed with all those toys at their disposal? But, he also never played with anything. He just dumped everything out, made a huge mess and then called it a day. It was always very difficult to get him to engage in anything and he seemed to move on from one thing to the next after about 30 seconds. Very frustrating for me as a mom who couldn't figure out how to play with her son!

We discovered earlier in 2012 that our son has a speech delay and some sensory processing issues and I realized that he felt more calm and organized with less stuff around him. So we started to clean out all the extraneous toys in his room. As I was doing some online research to learn more about ways to help him at home with his speech, I came across a wonderful blog called Little Stories. It is written by Kim who is a licensed speech and language pathologist. She has some great posts to help parents/caregivers with ideas to help promote language development in little ones. In reading through her blog, I came across several posts on organizing toys and the idea of toy rotation. This idea was BRILLIANT! And really helped me realize this is exactly what my son needs. The whole idea of it is a bit daunting. You pretty much have to gather all the toys in your house and create an organization system.

First, I asked my daughters if they would like to help me organize the play room in the basement. We spent an afternoon one weekend organizing everything into piles. We put things in like piles and put all sets back together with all their pieces. I weeded out any baby toys we wouldn't need anymore. I also got rid of any toys I thought my son wouldn't really be into. We moved most of the girls' toys (the few that were left) into their rooms. Then I did a bit more internet research on toy rotation and came across a nice post on Triple T Mum with a great free printable checklist to help you categorize your toys (into thinking, moving and pretending toys) and keep track of when it is time to rotate the toys.

Our system is a bit more complicated because we really have three areas for my son to play (actually four if you count our light table/sensory bin corner): his bedroom, the family room, and the basement playroom.

So I created a checklist for each space and stuck to 8-10 toys/sets in each area. And one sensory bin and one thinking toy for the light table area. But we didn't really have a place to store all the extra toys when they are not in rotation. We also started this project in November just before the onslaught of new holiday toys. Luckily, I knew most of what the kids would be receiving from other people so I planned ahead to have those toys in the rotations. I told my husband I really didn't need anything for  Christmas this year and that what I really wanted was a "new" organized playroom. So we went to IKEA and bought a bunch of Expedit shelving. I picked out some bins and strapping baskets from Land of Nod because they matched our color scheme. We had some really great retro posters from my husband's company (they were hanging in the office before they remodeled) and I used the colors from these for the room.

The Expedit shelving is great because our son cannot reach the top two rows of shelves so we can store the bins not in rotation there. We can put the bins that are in rotation on the lowest row. And move bins easily throughout the house. I have certain toys that are really only for his room, some only for the family room, and some just for the play room. Then we have a few others that we'll rotate throughout the locations to keep them in the rotation more often but make them newer again because they are in a new location. I also split up his books so there would be a few in each rotation. Some would go with the toys in that rotation (ie: animal books in the same rotation as the Little People Farm set).

The other thing I did to make my life easier with this whole system is that I color-coded the rotations with the bins I got from Land of Nod. So all the red bins are one rotation, yellow is the second rotation and so forth. Then I don't even really have to think about it. I just have to know what color I have to switch to when it's time to rotate.

Here are some before photos of our chaotic play room (and this is super clean for our play room--usually everything is everywhere on the floor). These sort of go around the room in order from one side to the other:
Here's an in progress photo. My husband was thrilled that I was taking a photo. But I had to document his hard work to make my play room vision happen. ;-)
 Now, here's the new and improved play room!
Above: This is pretty much our "thinking" toys corner. There's a magnetic board on the wall, a nice space to build blocks or lincoln logs on. I also put a few books on the shelf here.
Here's the overall storage system. Yellow is in rotation at the moment. This is the "pretend" toy side of the room. Right now we have vehicles in rotation with some wood pieces to build their own roads. The corner with the blue table changes to be the kitchen when play food is in rotation, or a construction site, or a tool bench, depending on what other toys are in rotation.
The swing in the middle of the room is part of our "movement" toys. We have two different swings we use here. We also have a pop-up tent system that is part of one rotation as well as a build-your-own-fort system.

Then just for fun, here is what we have in my son's room now. He has one bookshelf that has about ten toys on it. Here there are some books, our Christmas Little People set, a wooden name puzzle, a magnetic number maze, and some magnetic shape blocks.
 He also has a magnetic board in his room.
And a train table (sorry for the lack of pants on my son. ;-) He had just got up from his nap when I took this photo).
And that's it! We have one bookshelf in our family room where there are mostly thinking toys such as puzzles, blocks, sorting sets, etc.

I have to say this has been fantastic for everyone!!! Everything stays cleaned up more. It is easier to pick up when we do play with something. I will eventually put labels on the bins, but because everything in a rotation is one color and there are so few toys available at one time, it's pretty easy to remember where everything goes. And my son definitely seems to play better. He is much more engaged with the toys that are out. He is able to focus more on one thing at time and play longer with each thing. This has definitely made a huge difference in our house! I am so happy that Kim at Little Stories introduced idea on her blog!

1 comment:

  1. That is an incredible basement! I keep trying to convince Chris to let me hang a swing in the basement. He thinks I am crazy! Hope we can come up and play there sometime soon.