Toys Provide Structure

This article is for parents of babies under 1 year. After they are older, they do not need to associate each corner with a lesson plan. At that point, they can learn to keep toys in one area of the house. But before they are ready for that… enjoy the benefits of having different corners for different lessons:

I could think of many excuses why my children have too many toys. I could explain that we received a lot of hand-me-downs. I could justify I just had to pick some new gadgets to refresh the supplies. And of course I would find my house filled with toys after three girls, multiple birthday parties, holidays with generous relatives, and a mom’s civil duty enjoy consumerism to keep her sanity. But those would just be excuses. That fact is that toys can actually give structure, routine, and help with lesson plans around the house. And they don’t have to be store-bought.
All of my baby’s toys serve to give her confidence in the world. When my 3 ms old wakes up, she has the same set of hanging images in her bed to stare at until I come. She enjoys this consistency and sense of familiarity in her world. When I sit her by the rocking chair, we have the same book waiting for us. She learns that after she wakes up, she will have the same talk about the book, with the same songs that go with each image. And when we switch to tummy time, she stares at the same mirror on one side, and ball on the other.
Our house has two levels, so other parts of the house trigger other activities. The sofa is for exercises, the music player is for dancing to classical music with foot massage at the same time, the kitchen is for smelling activities, bathroom—light and dark games, and stairs–learning the word up and down, and in a few more months, counting.
If I did not assign a unique activity per area, it would b more difficult to maintain the routine daily. If I moved the same toys around, or played with toys randomly, my daughter would not have been able to predict what we’ll do where.
I try to do the same thing with my older daughters. I purposely leave the science books in the coffee table’s drawers. We are bound to sit there, so we will have no choice but to reach for those and (learn to) enjoy them. Those darn Barbies tried to topple my order and take over the house. Luckily, after the doll house failed to contain them, we decided my daughter’s room was their castle. Ever since then, we have structured Barbie play time as well.
If I were a better mom, we’d manage to talk about geography before brushing as we stare at the map I hung in the bathroom. And we’d manage to review the presidents’ flash cards right before the good night’s kiss. That’s long buried in the night table. But lately my oldest reads to the others and I think I can let her choose some structure, too.
So don’t feel bad if your house is filled with toys. Keep them diverse to engage different parts of the brain or body. And use them to provide routine. That can be especially useful if your children are off for the summer. Whether you buy or make your toys, remember—they are actually good for you. That’s not just an excuse. That’s scientific!
Tali Lehavi Hamer invented the HeartMark Hop™ toy, which she thinks has many great excuses for being fun. She has no idea what excuses she’ll come up with when her children become teens with too many high tech gadgets and trendy outfits. But it will probably have a positive spin.
How do you structure activities around your house? Write to us to share ideas!

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