I, Amanda, like to think of my dining room, aka playroom, as our classroom. I think about the things that I want my tot to interact with and learn about during his day and make sure that he has the space to do these things. (Don't worry, we still have a table and eat meals together as a family in our tiny breakfast nook area!) Like Kim talked about here, using stations is a great way to stay organized. This month, I am focusing on reading, interacting with books, and pretend play. You can see that I have a kitchen station and a reading station set up in our playroom. The shelf my husband built for our books lets each book sit facing towards the room. It may not hold a lot of books, but the kids are more inclined to read them when they see the covers rather than the book's spine. For all the small kitchen related food and toys, I keep a basket near the kitchen. We tried putting them back in the kitchen, but it wasn't working. A basket to stuff the small items into is suiting our family much better.
Toy Rotation: The kitchen toys rotate every other month. Often, I will just add a new item. This month, we took out some of the plastic dishes and replaced them with a set of Russian Folk Art Khokloma or Hochlama for the kids to pretend with. By adding just this one set of dishes, I can talk to my kids about Russian culture and food while introducing them to a new toy. Because they knew about the dishes background, they used more Russian while pretending! (pretend play AND language learning!!!) We will keep these dishes out until their interest in them fades. Yesterday morning, little fox was served brunch!The books on the shelf also change monthly. I did have Valentine's Day, Groundhogs' Day, Presidents' Day, and Chinese New Year books up, but just took them down this morning and set up a bunch of easy readers for the rest of the month. I was ready for a change! I usually try to theme my book sets and include a couple Russian books as well as mix fiction and non-fiction books too. I have 2 large Tupperware bins filled with book sets. I try to have one plastic bag of books for each month in these bins. Some months will focus on a holiday, others will focus on a theme - like the Farm. We do not have a television, so the kids spend at least 1 hour reading each day.
My two year old's bedroom
We do not have a lot of storage space in our house, so I try to be organized with toys and learning materials. In the ideal world, I would not have toys in the bedroom, but our house is small and there are not many other options. So I try to keep it not too busy in the bedrooms. (This does not always happen!) I try to have a couple toy stations available for him to play with. Using themed bins helps me (and him) to stay organized. For one toy stations, I have bins at the end of his bed.
Toy Rotation: In the bins this month, I have a set of home-made Handwriting Without Tears wooden lines and curves for building letters in the blue bin, balls in the red bin, and vehicles in the green bin. At the end of the month, I put these items into plastic bags and set out a different grouping of toys and educational materials. This limits the amount of toys available, improves interest, and encourages imagination during play. By keeping these items in bins, we can easily move the toy sets to different parts of the house and into the yard as well.
The set of containers below is also in my son's room. Many of you may have a very similar one. After years of teaching kindergarten, I have come to the realization that word and picture labels are the way to go with smaller items. I took a picture of the item and put it into a Microsoft Word labels document using the template size for the labels I had and added words to describe the toy set. Even if the kids choose to take out all the toys, they know exactly where to put them back! It really does work!!!
Toy Rotation: Unfortunately, these labels are permanent. I did label on bin a "This week's lesson" and rotate the toys in this bin. Right now there is a set of wooden blocks and string for beading activities. The kids will go in phases using these bins. I find that by rotating where I have the bins helps keep their interest high. Sometimes I will bring this set of bins out to the playroom and exchange it for the book shelf or kitchen. I also make sure to engage with the children during play and this can enhance and enrich how they play.
How and where do you store your tots toys? What ways do you encourage your children to play with the toys in new and different ways? I'd love to hear your ideas!!!
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