Preschool and Kindergarten

Whether you have one child or a minivan full finding places to put all of those new Christmas presents can be overwhelming. Here are some tips to help organize the influx of Christmas toys before kids return to school. First, take stock of what each child already has. Bring three paper bags and designate one for donation, one for hand me downs to pass to family and friends, and lastly one to throw away broken and damaged stuff.  As you start to sort  handle items only once, make a decision and stick with it . Remember schools, churches, childcares and other local organizations can put to good use your gently used puzzles, books, and games. If your child has outgrown or lost interest in a toy/activity it is time to find it a new home where it will be played with and loved.

Out with the Old, in with the New

Now that you have made room and have a good idea of what you have consider how the new things will be used. Is it a toy or game for one child/person, or can more than one play at a time? Family fun should be convenient and easy to access. Designating  shelves or baskets in the family room is ideal for group activities that will be shared and done together. Toys for individual use may be stored in each child’s room for independent play. If kids share a room designate and label shelves, baskets, and bins for each child so they will know where to find their toys when they want to play and where to put them away when they are done. If they are outdoor toys store them in a bin or organizer in a closet, garage, or basement where they are handy when you head outside.

It’s All About Preparation and Presentation

In our Montessori classrooms at North Star we decide which work space lends itself to each activity. Kids like to spread out puzzles, building materials and geography materials on rugs. Art projects, science experiments, writing and coloring work best at a table. We want the child's experience to be comfortable and  we want them to be able to do the activities with ease and success independently .Think about the details, for example, if your child receives a new all in one art kit but has never used a paint brush, markers or scissors they will need to be shown how to use them to practice these new skills. Set ground rules  before the activity, for example explain that paints, markers, crayons, and scissors should only be used on paper at the kitchen table. Establishing clear boundaries will allow children to have fun and be creative with messier activities.

If your child received new books but your shelves are already overloaded consider focusing on Winter themed stories in January to go along with some of your child’ other favorites. Store the remaining books for upcoming months. Then create a cozy book nook were children can choose to read and look at picture books. We like to rotate books each month at school based on themes that we are learning about and display them on our Library Shelf with a couple of comfy chairs for kids to enjoy them. This space is so inviting even if reading books isn’t your child’s first choice it soon might be!

With a little thought and preparation integrating new toys and activities can set the stage for many hours of positive play experiences.

Tips to Turn Holiday Clutter into Positive Play Spaces


By Barbara Barnes