Wednesday, April 21

Sort and Share: Getting Rid of Toys

I have three kids and a small house. My house is maybe 1,100 square feet if I count the dark, creepy space in the basement behind the hot water tank where spiders like to hang out. In other words, I don't have extra storage space for toys. So each spring, we do the sort and share to keep our toy population under control.

Basically, sort and share is dividing all the toys into four piles: 1. keep 2. give to a friend 3. sell 4. donate. Of course, the first year I did this drill with my kids, everything kept getting put in the "keep" pile. But with a little coaching and talking, our other piles grew. Here are the ways we help our kids think about each pile to make getting rid of toys a little easier.

1. Keep Pile: In order to go in this pile, the toy must be played with on a regular basis. If we keep it and no one plays with it for 6 months, I'm allowed to donate it as I see fit. If it's a seasonal toy, we put it in the appropriate box in the garage for that season.

2. Give to a Friend: This pile is the next easiest to get kids to build. It's less threatening than just donating to Goodwill or the Salvation Army because the toys are going to someone they know. We offer toys that we have outgrown to friends with younger children. This puts the emphasis on how big and grown up everyone is getting, rather than giving toys away. Plus, there's always the chance that they will get to see and play with the items again when visiting that friend.

3. Sell: Very few toys fall into this category for us, to be honest. But we do use Craigslist or a yard sale to sell some bigger items. For instance, we sold our old Little Tikes slide and outdoor climbing set. We talk this category up with the kids by pointing out that the money we get will go toward a new toy they are all wanting or a special outing as a family.

4. Donate: This category is a great opportunity to talk to kids about others who are less fortunate. But it still isn't easy for most kids to pack up a toy in a plastic bag and drop it off at a donation center. We helped our kids ease into straight donations by looking for places that were more connected to them. Toys that are in great shape can be donated to the library, a doctor's waiting room, a church nursery, or day care center. Soft cuddly friends can even be dropped off to animal shelters.

If there are toys you're not sure about, create a holding tank. Put them in a box and place that box out of sight. If no one asks or looks for an item in that box for 3- 6 months, you'll feel better about donating them. If someone does indeed go looking for a specific item, you'll be able to pull it out. And if you only successfully get rid of a couple of items, that's okay, too. Each time you do a sort and share, it will get easier for everyone involved. Eventually, your toy population will be under control enough that you won't have to store any boxes in that creepy space with spiders.

Friday, April 2

Outdoor Fun: Give a Jump Rope a Try

I'm afraid to write it. Living in northeast Ohio, I'm aware how the weather can change from sunshine and singing birds to blowing swirls of snow before I finish this post. Yet I'll go ahead a say that spring seems to be on its way! It's time for running and playing outside again.

We get a lot of folks in the store this time of year looking for fun outdoor activities. We have plenty. We have stomp rockets, Beam-os, and kites (oh my!). All of these are fun, active ideas for outside play. But the often overlooked toy is a jump rope. In fact, when I suggest a jump rope, many people literally wrinkle their noses as they ask, "Any other ideas?" Okay, I kind of get it. A jump rope is anything but a new concept. But I'd like to make a case for getting your kids a jump rope or two this season.

1. Jumping rope is great exercise. Ten minutes of jumping rope is equivalent to running one mile! But it's not as hard on the knees as running.

2. If you add music and/or rhymes to the jumping, it's now building the brain right along with those leg muscles. The added rhythm and coordination involved in jumping to a chant or beat gets the brain working more in tune with the body.

3. It can be played alone or with friends. Taking turns twirling and jumping is a great way for kids to play together and encourage one another. A single-length rope is great for alone practice time and speed building.

Still not convinced? Maybe the jump rope rhymes below will inspire you to try. Have a rhyme of your own you remember? We'd love for you to post it! Pictures of your kids jumping? We'd love to see them to help inspire others! Happy jumping!


Down in the valley
Where the green grass grows
There sat ______(girl's name)
Sweet as a rose
She sang so long and she sang so sweet
Along came ______(boy's name)
And kissed her on the cheek.
How many kisses did she get that week?
(count & jump until you miss)

Apples, peaches, pears, and plums
Tell me when your birthday comes.
(Jump to the months until you come to your birthday month and then count to your date.)


Cookies in the jar, candy in the dish;
How many pieces do you wish?
1, 2, 3, 4, . . (count & jump until you miss)

Teddy bear, teddy bear turn all around (spin as you jump)
Teddy bear, teddy bear touch the ground (touch)
Teddy bear, teddy bear tie your shoes (jump on one foot while you "tie" one shoe)
Teddy bear, teddy bear read the news (hold hands up like your reading paper)
Teddy bear, teddy bear go up stairs (alternate feet while jumping)
Teddy bear, teddy bear say your prayers (hold hands in position and close eyes)
Teddy bear, teddy bear turn out the light (reach hand up to flip the switch)
Teddy bear, teddy bear spell "good night"
G-o-o-d N-i-g-h-t (try to jump and spell as fast as you can)

Cinderella, dressed in yella
Went upstairs to kiss a fella.
Made a mistake,
Kissed a snake,
How many doctors did it take?
1, 2, 3,...(Count & jump until you miss)