Messy playroom

Introducing new toys… or, heck… I should just call this: Getting rid of hurricane season in the playroom 🙂

Here is a common sight that I’ve encountered without fail on days following a child’s birthday party or the holidays even for the most organized families and their star picker-uppers little humans! Year after year, family after family, when these two dates approach, I brace myself for the work that will follow – and I am not talking about the cleaning up!

I have worked mostly with the 0-3 crowd over the last decade, and without fail, I’ve observed kiddos leaving their fully stacked playroom to play with pots and pans in the kitchen, or, take all of their toys out of bins and shelves, not spending a single minute actually “playing” with them. When many toys are suddenly handed to children, well, after the initial curiosity and excitement wears off, be prepared to find their pieces all over the playroom! The game is to throw things around or just take them out. And that’s when I start getting messages from parents 🙂

Interestingly, some parents have shared they think their children are bored when they make a mess and throw things around. Most of the time, however, in my experience in nearly two decades, the reason is quite the opposite – the children are overwhelmed! 

There is just too much stimulation! So many toys, they don’t know where to start nor what to do with them all!!!! We can’t give a one-year-old a puzzle and expect them to know how to solve it! Or even a car, a doll, etc. As simple as it may seem to us grownups, it is not that simple and not all toys and games are that intuitive to our littles. Unless they have seen us modeling playing a number of times, it is very, very rare that they will pick up the new toy and play “nicely” right away. 

Now, hold your horses if you’re part of the crowd that will say we shouldn’t make play “structured.” I agree that play should be open-ended and children should be free to explore. However, I feel it is equally important to have some guidance, especially when a new toy is introduced. The goal, however, is not to teach a child the “right” and “only” way to play with a determined toy or game.

Ideally, when little ones are given a new toy, a grown-up would dedicate some time to introduce that new toy and let the child explore it. You would be sitting next to your child and explore it together. Give them a chance to hold it, play with it then you take a turn and show a step further. When you introduce one toy at a time – and make sure the playroom is clean, so you can have your child’s attention with that single game – you can guide your child to how it works, show different ways to play, etc. This is a process and not just a one-time thing! It will probably take a few exploration sessions, so don’t expect them to nail it right away.

If you notice your child’s attention drifting after a few minutes, or if they start throwing the toy, take the cue and say “All done! Bye-bye toy!” and stow it away and bring it again some other time, following the same process. When you start noticing your child’s focus expanding with hat particular toy or game, you can use the “engage and retreat” method, which consists of you sitting down first to “start” the play, but as soon as you notice your child engaged with the game, you remove yourself slowly. When you are able to do that and observe that your child will continue to play independently, give yourself a great pat in the back because you nailed the technique!

Don’t forget to drop me a note to let me know how it goes because I want to celebrate with you!



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