The shelf pictured above is nothing fancy. If anything it needs a paint- something I have been wanting to do for literally about four years now. Yet still have not managed. Oh well! This shelf is their dedicated space they turn to time and time again to find an activity to do. Kids LOVE things to do and we love it when they are doing stuff! If you want to limit the screen (which often causes tantrums and grumpiness) and keep them busy, you have to create a space for them in your space where they have something to choose and play with, at all times. Consider if we, as adults were placed within a children's playroom without anything “adult” to do. It would be incredibly boring. Same goes for them. They live in our adult homes, with all of our neat adult stuff around. We cannot realistically expect them to play with their things in their rooms - this just does not work. Children long to be near you. If they can be near you and have a space within which to play, you can juggle say cooking and them at the same time. It also provides something for you to do together. My boys are a bit older now so the things on our shelf mainly consists of game type activities. Puzzles and UNO are a hit atm however when they were little, it was more organized with only three or four things per shelf to choose from. To this day they turn to the shelf to find something to do – and they now do this together.
Keep the things on the shelf to a minimum. Three or four items per shelf on display at a time. If it`s too cluttered children tend to turn away. Baskets / drawers of toys in a room is difficult to manage and children will not go dig in it. Rather use these for storage.
Choose open ended “toys” when buying stuff (honeslty less is really more in thei regard) - open ended toys are toys that can be played with in multiple ways. This is a game changer as your four your old can play with it in one way and so can your 8 year old. Examples- a big set of wooden blocks, Lego (Duplo is great for under 6), animal figurines, magnetic tiles, a ball and bat, simple puzzles (google more ideas here.)
Rotate the shelf items every few weeks. Toy rotation will change your life. They get bored of it, put it away, bring it out again 4 – 6 weeks later. It is rediscovered! This also means you don’t need to carry on buying. Get into this habit and toys you had at two years old will still be in use four years later. I have a cupboard in my spare room where we store the toys, which get rotated out.
Having this space really helped us when we were deep in the trenches of them being very small and we still use it today. I still find them sat together in front of it, finding something to do. This really brings us joy!