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Sometimes I feel like I live in a Zoo!

Messy house

Has anyone ever looked around at the area that your children play in and think you are living in a zoo?  I know that I certainly have on more than one occasion.  With these DSC8813-1winter months in full swing and outdoor play limited, I have often thought I have all of these wonderful, engaging toys lying around the room and my child would prefer to run around with a roll of toilet paper or hit his sister over the head with any kind of bat-like object he can find.  I used to ask myself why this would happen and then I had the pleasure of being a preschool teacher and I learned why.

The most amazing thing about children especially those between the ages of one and five is that they will find something to do, constructive or destructive.  When a child does not have something new to look at, play with, or engage, they will get bored when they get bored they tend to get destructive.  On the other hand when a child has something new to look at, play with, or engage, they will be constructive and impress the adults around them with their incredible new ability to interact nicely with the other young people around them and entertain themselves.   And what adult/parent/teacher doesn’t want to see children happily playing by themselves or with others?

As a teacher I never ceased to be amazed by Monday mornings when all the sweet little three and four-year olds would walk into my room and could hardly control themselves because they wanted to see what new things had come into their classroom.   Every Friday and sometimes over the weekend I would go through the grueling process and changing out the activities and things to do in my room.  Was it a lot of work…yes, but was it worth every minute…YES and not because I was trying to win best teacher of the year, because the children all got along better and were much more cooperative and constructive when they had new things to engage.

So how do we do this in our homes?  If you have a young child there is somewhere in your house that you have dedicated to their things.  A place where all of their “stuff” lives, it doesn’t have to be an elaborate play room just a place that is interesting enough for your child.   If you are short on space, put their toys into different storage bins, label them, and then put them in the garage or closet out of sight.   Bring out one or two bins each week and let your child explore.  Set up a little playing area.  Let those be the toys of the week.  Then at the end of the week, say goodbye to those bins and bring out a couple new ones.  If the child has access to all his or her toys all the time, they will get bored, and then they will run around the house with the toilet paper roll hitting their sister over the head with any bat-like object.

If you have more space and can have a room or half a room try to set up areas or centers.  I strongly recommend a book center which can be a basket with 4 or 5 books in it and a rug with some pillows or chair to sit on to read.   Have a building area where you would put a small tub of legos or blocks to build and stack.  Try a drawing area (for older children) with an easel or a couple of coloring books and one bag of markers or crayons.   If you have movement toys (bouncers, horses, mini trampolines) put one of them in an area.  The idea is to offer a few different activities to do with just one or two things to do in each area.  Less is more.  Then change it out weekly or every two weeks.  If you go longer than this before you change out the areas I can promise you, your child will get bored.  Also if you have the space, try to change the location of the centers or areas in the room as well.

This was one of the best pieces of advice I was ever given and I just thought I would pass it on.  With more indoor play in your future, you don’t have to feel like you are living in a zoo unless of course zoo animals are the toys of the week.

Have a wonderful day.


About the author

Shannon Glenn

Shannon Glenn is the owner and founder of Sleep Well Children Consulting and a Certified Pediatric Sleep Specialist. She is dedicated to helping parents assist their children and babies in developing healthy sleep habits. With a B.A. in Psychology, Shannon has worked extensively with children and their families for over 15 years in a variety of settings.  She has been offering sleep solutions for over six years.  

Why didn’t we try this sooner?! As we speak he is sound asleep in his crib – and has been since 7:15 pm.

Karianne Wanggaard

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Working with Shannon, I went from 2-3 wake ups every night to 1 or 0. She aligned the plan with my preferred sleep cycle. She was always coaching, never judging. Shannon was great, I have referred MANY people to her! That's the best testament to her work that I can give.

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