Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Devil in the Toy Chest

In case you were wondering about the long silence on this blog, I apologize. Things got a little hectic. First there was Stake Conference = Break from Nursery, Hurray! Then I came down with the flu. Then I got in a car accident. Nothing serious, but it was thoroughly unpleasant. This string of bad luck has me thinking of all the stories about temple attendance. You know, how everything in the world will rise up to stop you. It has felt like everything in the world has risen up between me and my one, tiny, righteous desire to clean out the nursery toy cabinet.

I have spent weeks looking forward to this Tuesday. It was the day appointed to sort clean and organize the jumbled, mangled, and disfigured mass of toys inhabiting our toy cupboard. Sunday after Sunday the kids pull out every single piece of junk, throw it on the floor, step on it, trip on it, and smash it in order to find the three or four decent toys that all 12 kids want to play with. I was SO ready to get rid of the germy junk.

But after swells of nausea and the car collision, I was not in the mood to wade through infested mounds of plastic. With the assistance of my angelic friend who came along to help, I went anyway. It was a pretty good time. There is some sweet satisfaction in throwing out some of the toys that have haunted me. We ended up with four very large trash bags of junk. (I'm sorry great North Pacific Gyre--that's the oceanic vortex where plastic trash ends up) I wanted to bring my camera to document a few of my favorites but forgot. Here's a description of a few of the highlights:

Child sized baby doll: This thing might actually have survived the cut because baby dolls are so loved by the kids, but I hate it. I'm fairly certain it was used as a CPR dummy before becoming a "toy." It's just about as large as the kids, has on a pair of raggedy cut off shorts that are way way too small for it, and has these suspiciously hideous scratch marks on it's scalp. The really terrible thing about this toy is when seen out of the corner of my eye, lying prostrate on the ground, I have mistaken it for a crumpled child and rushed over to "save" it. Sadly, I have made this mistake more than half a dozen times.

Second most hated doll: She has hair the color of red jolly ranchers and neon blue eyes, a kind of neon blue that can look into your soul and fill it with a feeling of florescent doom. I would be fine if I could keep my distance from her, but one very kind little girl in my class always tries to get me to hold her. I do not know why. It's started giving me bad dreams.

Over a hundred magnets: I love magnets, but for some reason we had a huge bag of them--each a little smaller than a marble. PERFECT choking hazard. Is someone trying to kill these kids?

Every ugly figurine ever given out in happy meals in the last forty years. Some are fine; most made no sense. I liked the purple and yellow green octopus. Didn't like the Polly Pocket whose hair had all been pulled out.

There were a lot of really wonderful others but it's hard to remember them all. Still, by the end of the night we had made a lot more room, organized the toys, and wiped everything down with disinfectant. I think play time and clean up will be a lot more fun.

We do have a few really wonderful toys that are staples. They are:

Large wooden puzzles with pieces large enough for the kids to handle.

Very large hard plastic car and truck. These are just big enough that the kids try to sit and ride on them. It doesn't really work but the kids love them.

Balls. The kids love balls.

A toy kitchen. Great for fun and fights. Three kids always try to play with it at once, it's so much fun.

The baby dolls. No matter how ugly, they are cherished.

The baby stroller. The kids love filling it up with anything they can find and wheeling it around.

Fisher Price Cash register. I played with this thing when I was a kid so it warms my heart to see it still in action.

I have a little money in the budget to make a few responsible purchases. Any suggestions for toys for 1-3 year olds?


Michelle said...

Do we have the same closet? Seriously, over the last year I have found something new to toss in the trash each week, but they are BREEDING in there. Something scary/filthy/totally inappropriate always shows up week after week.

We have bought some new toys over the year as well. Here are some favorites in our nursery:
- Books of course
- Wooden puzzles
- Playdoh (for the older kids)
- Jack in the boxes - we have two and all the kids LOVE them
- Telephones - we have an old real phone and a couple of fake ones, the kids actually "call" each other on them, too cute.
- Wooden blocks
- Fake food - which we have to clean regularly for obvious reasons
- Baby dolls, bottles and pieces of fabric for their blankets
- Balls and cars are hits with the boys

jen said...

I just stumbled upon your blog and I love it!! I am in almost the exact same situation as you except I am a little older and I have only been in the calling for 3 months so I am loving all the ideas you have on here!! I have 7 kids in my nursery class but they are all very young, under or barely over 2 years. But they are fun but the lessons are so hard to get them focused. Lets just say the lesson is usually very, very short.

jeans said...

A great one is the Fisher Price Little People nativity set. Don't just save it for Christmas. Our nursery had one that Hallmark made a couple of years ago - a cute stable, with simple wooden figures, and it was a real favorite with the kids. You can leave the batteries out and it will still be as fun.

We also got a lot of mileage out of a simple battery-powered bubble machine.

jeans said...

I agree with Michelle - I think people (maybe well-meaning, maybe not) "donate" all kinds of broken & inappropriate toys to the nursery closet. Um, no thanks, folks. If your kid doesn't want it, why would anyone else's?

jeans said...

Sorry to leave three posts in a row, but I keep thinking of stuff. Another thing that worked really well in our nursery were a couple of really big floor puzzles. They weren't out every week, but they really looked forward to them. Another great one was a tumble track - a wooden tower that a little wooden person would come clacking down. Kind of like this one (except that one has cars). It never failed to cause a crying child to stop and watch.

Also, a bin of decent-quality plastic animals, and a play barn.

KT said...

My nursery kids really like the lego/blocks that we have. They are large and stack really well. The only thing with the blocks is that there is always one kid who wants to kick the towers over and that can end in tears. However, we play with the blocks every week and everyone is excited to participate.

I love your ideas. Thanks for sharing.

Here's one for you: Last week for the night and day lesson, I brought black paper and shiny star stickers and that was our "craft." The stickers were a huge hit and so easy to prepare. I think they might make a more regular appearance around here.

jenmomrn said...

I had missed reading your posts. I think some clothes for "dress-up" can be fun. A cape, a hat, and maybe some robes, a crown...those are all fun.

M said...

Welcome back!! I have missed you.

No toy suggestions. I really hate our toys, and a while ago we went through and culled the most awful ones. But it would still be nice to get some new things, not a bunch of electronic stuff that no longer works, combined with broken relics from the seventies.

Sarah said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Disco Mom said...

What a fabulous post. When I was called as primary president, my second week I went into nursery with a big trash bag and we emptied the cupboards, only keeping baby dolls, COMPLETE puzzles, and a few, very few decent toys. Then we took $80 (I had proposed a large primary budget for our small ward, half of which went to new stuff for nursery - way overdue!) and bought some new things. I also have 2 nursery age kids so my recommendations are:
- I second the Little People nativity set. We got it for Christmas and both girls LOVE it - play with it all the time!
- I also second the bubble machine. Big hit at beginning or end or any transition time, like after cleanup/before lesson or whatever.
- Second the fake food, especially velcro wooden food, which is more expensive but so nice and make a great "crunch" sound when "sliced."
- Toy tool set - I found a nice small fisher price or something work bench with tools at a child consignment shop in VA, and the kids like it.
- Small musical instruments, like egg shakers, rhythm sticks, maracas , jingle bells, etc. that can be brought out and used during singing time (can also be homemade)
- Second a farm set.

Ok then, I don't seem to have any original ideas except the tools. It's pretty basic at this age. But if you have the $ I'd go for the natvity set!

I lined some shoe boxes with quilt batting and fabric to make little beds for the baby dolls. I was going to cover the boxes with pretty contact paper but never did. The kids love to put the dolls to bed.

Poulsen Family said...

I just have to say, good for you for throwing the magnets out...not only are they a choking hazard, but if by chance more than one is swallowed they can join together in the intestines and cause death.