I’ve found that as Wyatt gets older, the toys he plays with have more and more parts and pieces to them. We were doing a pretty good job of keeping them off the floor by throwing them in baskets and bins, but I found that when they got mixed up, Wyatt had a hard time pulling all the parts of a particular set together and he would get frustrated looking for missing pieces.
I was looking for a way to help him pick up his toys and keep them sorted on his own so I decided to try putting picture labels on his toy bins. The first thing I did was dump all of his toys on the floor and sort them out into different bins. I came up with several broad categories:
- trains and train tracks
- train set “destinations”
- play food and kitchen stuff
- stuffed animals
- plastic animals and safari toys
- construction toys and tools
Next, I photographed a few toys from each of the bins. I took two photos of the toys from each category with different toys in each. I wanted to give Wyatt lots of clues about what went where. Then I printed the photos out and glued one to each side of a piece of chipboard. Wyatt helped me punch a hole in each one and then I tied the tags to the handles of the bins.
The next step was to teach Wyatt how to use the new system. As I was working on the project, I explained the idea behind it to him and then when I had the bins all finished, I pulled some toys out of each bin and mixed them in a pile on the floor. I told him we were playing a “game” and handed him each toy one at a time and asked him where it went. He had a couple of false starts at first, but he quickly got the idea of the “game” and started putting the toys in the correct places all on his own.
I didn’t have very high expectations about how long this whole sorting thing would last, but I have to say that I’ve been pleasantly surprised. Wyatt still isn’t putting his toys away on his own, but he’s a lot better about keeping them all together and we have fewer missing pieces floating around the house. I think it’s also been a help to Zach and I, prompting us to keep the toys more organized.