An untidy jumble of broken and unloved toys scattered around the house and garden offers few real benefits to a child. Well-chosen toys that are neatly organised and properly looked after, on the other hand, will allow your kids to derive maximum fun – and educational value – from them.

Here are our expert tips for choosing, maintaining and organising toys:

Choosing Toys

  • When buying toys, make sure they are age appropriate. Always check the age recommendations on the box. This is so important when buying toys for toddlers in particular, because small pieces, batteries and strings are a safety hazard for little ones.

  • If a friend or relative gives your child a toy that isn’t age appropriate, let your child open the gift, then sneakily put it away in a cupboard, without making a comment. Chances are she’ll forget about it quickly if you distract her with another exciting activity.

  • Children don’t need expensive, flashy, noisy toys to keep themselves entertained. Try to avoid ‘passive’ toys that do everything for your child. A child will often be as happy playing with the huge box a toy (or appliance) came in than with the toy itself! A box can be a house, a shop, a fort, a puppet theatre, a hiding place… the possibilities are endless.

  • Good toys are highly interactive ones that challenge children’s imagination and creativity and keep them active, such as building blocks, toy trains, dolls and doll’s houses, push-bikes, skipping ropes, craft sets, board games, puzzles, books, and so on.

  • It can be expensive to buy new toys all at once for a big occasion. You’ll save money if you ‘collect’ toys throughout the year – look out for bargains and sales, and keep the goodies safely tucked away until the special day arrives.

Managing Toys

  • Kids love novelty, and the excitement of a new toy can quickly wear off. Keep things interesting by swapping toys with friends who have children of a similar age.

  • Another good strategy, particularly when a child seems bored with all her toys, is to hide some of them away, and then whip them out a few months down the line. She’ll appreciate the toy with new energy when she ‘finds’ it again.

  • Keep toys clean and in a state of good repair. Showing children how to care for their toys is a good way of instilling in them respect for their belongings. Put fluffy soft toys through the washing machine every few months, and repair any tears – or missing eyes or noses – with a needle, thread and buttons. Check toys for sharp edges, splinters or dangling strings that could be a safety hazard.

  • Use your imagination (and save money) by creating fun activities from household objects. For example, fill a suitcase or trunk with clothes, hats, scarves, sunglasses and shoes, and encourage the kids to play dressing-up on a rainy day. Spread a blanket on the floor and throw a tea party for all the dolls and soft toys. Build a ‘tent’ by draping sheets over a table or back-to-back chairs, add cushions, books and snacks, then let the fun begin!

  • Search the Internet for ideas for wonderful old-fashioned games and toys you can easily put together, such as hopscotch, finger puppets, skittles, pick-up-sticks, playdough, French skipping, ring toss and so on.

Organising Toys

  • Show your child how to sort and organise her toys from time to time, and she’ll have so much more fun playing with them.

  • Provide her with the means to organise her toys, such as…

  • Buy a few huge, lidded plastic containers for storing toys. Containers with wheels, or toy wagons, are ideal because they can be pulled around the house.

  • Repurpose plastic ice-cream boxes or our big NutriDay yoghurt tubs as storage containers for small items such Lego, dice, cards, beads and so on.

  • Glue long strips of Velcro to a bedroom wall. The kids will have so much fun flinging their soft toys at the wall and seeing how they stick there!

  • Build long, low shelves for storing books, board games and puzzles. Fit pull-out baskets into the shelves and clearly label each one to make sorting easy.