Do you feel like your house is overrun by heaps of toys, yet you find yourself practically begging your children to go play with them? Here are 5 easy (and FREE) ways you can get your kids to play more.
1. Less is more.
My kids never play with the toys they have, so I should go out and buy them some new toys, right? Think again. Sometimes the sheer mass of toys in a cluttered playroom is such a turnoff it actually makes kids not want to play with anything. Cut it down (way down) and you’ll find they have more interest in the toys that are there, as well as more physical space to engage with those toys. An empty playroom with some toys along one wall is an inviting space for kids to move around and use their imagination. You’ll also find that with fewer toys, kids are great at coming up with new and creative ways to play with the same things.
2. Don’t make screens an option.
If kids have access to TV, tablets, and video games, they are not going to be inclined to go build or create. Screens are too tempting, not to mention addicting for kids to resist on their own. It may be a tough habit to break if your kids are used to coming home from school and going straight to the couch to watch those favorite shows, but a change in the routine and the house rules will be worth it if you put the effort in. Set some new screen ground rules and build play time into their routine. Here our after school routine is: outdoor time (if weather allows this is a MUST so they can burn off some energy that’s been pent up all day at school), snack, homework, play time, dinner. If they have accomplished all of that before 7pm, they may have some screen time before bath and bed. Typically they either don’t have the extra time for it, or they end up choosing to continue whatever they were playing before dinner instead.
3. Keep toys in sight.
Out of sight, out of mind. If the kids don’t see the toys they aren’t going to play with the toys. That is why inside of the big toy box (aka toy dumping ground) doesn’t see the light of day for weeks at a time. As much as we all want to reclaim our living spaces as adult space with no trace of kids living there, it won’t help your cause of getting kids to play more. Would you rather have clean adult spaces and whiny, bored children or several designated play spaces strategically placed throughout the house to encourage kids to entertain themselves? It can be as simple as a hanging dress up clothes on some kid-height hooks in your mudroom, keeping paper, markers, scissors, and glue sticks out near your kitchen table, and rotating some puzzles and board games on the coffee table.
4. Get organized.
No one wants to play with one single matchbox car or a teapot with no teacups. Take the time to get organized and keep toys together as sets. We use clear plastic bins that are clearly labeled to show what’s inside. This works for sets of toys like blocks and legos, toy animals, puppets, play food, musical instruments, and more. We even organize our art cabinet this way so that everything is visible and easy to find.
5. Rotate toys.
This one takes a little dedication but it is so worth it. After you’ve gone through the toys and organized them into bins and thrown away extraneous junk, you need to take this important next step. Take 2/3 of it and put it away where the kids can’t get it. We put ours in the basement boiler room which is blocked off from the finished area of the basement. Now, wait a few months. You will see the kids play with the remaining 1/3 of the toys more than the did before and they will get creative and come up with new ways to play with them. When this slows down (or if there is a long rainy day or any other reason that you think it’s time), put those away and bring out a new 1/3 of the toys. Since the kids haven’t seen them in months, these will yield excitement as if you had gotten your kids all new toys! And the best part is, you still have the last 1/3 that you can break out a few months later and repeat the process again.