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Kids that Won’t Clean Up: The Magic Toy Library

Last year I told you all about my daughter (then six) and her fantastic talent for what we call ‘Poopcrastination‘. Since then, not only her allergy to tidying become worse, her baby brothers have become mobile and impressively destructive. Yep, my name is Mom… and I have three kids that won’t clean up. After a couple of months of swinging between embracing the chaos, and chasing them around like a headless chicken with a sponge and trash bag in tow, I’m done. I’m worn out and have come up with a plan of action.

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I touched on this a few weeks ago… I am in purge mode, in a quest for mild minimalism. But the household is working against me… Between Husband, addicted to buying random junk from Walmart, and my three kids who have gone wild with Arizona-summer-cabin-fever, it feels like two steps forward, one step back.

I continue to work on the ‘tidy up game’ with the twins, they’re totally into it but unfortunately it’s so much fun they insist on throwing everything they’ve just tidied away in order to clean up again… the video explains what I’m talking about:

 

They’re only 20months old so for now we’ll cut them some slack on the tidying. But do they really need to throw everything? I swear I’m bringing up two olympian shot put throwers. However, my real problem is my darling Elsie. She has many talents, but tidying up is not one of them. No exaggeration here – many times we have spent an entire day trying to get her to tidy a few toys off the floor. A five minute job becomes a five hour job. 

Tried, tested and failed remedies for kids that won’t clean up:

  • Share the tidying up – results in Mom tidying and Elsie playing while pretending (badly) to tidy up;
  • “If you tidy up we can go out to crazy golf!” (She loves crazy golf… who doesn’t). Results in tears and no crazy golf;
  • “Tidy up before lunch please,” Ten minutes later… “You’re not having lunch until your play area is tidy.” Results in rolling around on the floor, screaming and crying due to extreme hunger… even though it’s not even lunch time yet. (Don’t mess with Elsie’s food… she’s like her father).
  • The trash bag method… “You have 10minutes to tidy up, then I’m coming up with a trash bag. Anything still on the floor goes in the bag.” This method worked a few times, until she called our bluff. Everything went into trash bags and she had to earn the toys back through the following week. Trouble is, the toys were in such a jumble, Mom had to spend ages sifting through the bags to find out what went with what in order to return ‘the box of Shopkins’. Plus the drama caused by American Girl doll Julie entering the trash was quite traumatic for all, including Julie… ugh, back to the drawing board.

It doesn’t happen very often, but occasionally the words of my mother-in-law pop into my head. Some time ago, when I was talking about tidying up, she said

“When we were children, we were only allowed to play with one toy at a time.”

In that moment I didn’t think much of it, after all, some of the best games are those involving a Shopkins/Barbie/Toy Kitchen mash-up. I often see Elsie creating a picnic for all her toys, or allowing My Little Ponies to sinfully shack up with Calico Critters. I consider myself a creative, and I hate the idea of dampening my daughter’s imagination… but I’ve reached the end of my tether. 

Kids that Won’t Clean Up… Enter the Toy Library

Elsie loves the library, always has done. So rather than telling her all the toys were going to be separated and shut into a cupboard, I told her we were going to create a toy library.

“What do we do when we go to the library? We take back the books we’ve finished with and check out new ones.”

kids that won't clean up magic toy library

Elsie was instantly sold. No more sea of toys on the floor, no more open boxes for the twins to take handfuls from and throw across the room. 

Two Weeks Later

I’ve tried so many things, I’m going to be honest… I didn’t hold out much hope for the magic toy library. But, it has worked wonders and delivered unexpectedly positive results. The toy library came just in time too, because I managed to trip over the dividing baby gate in our playroom and demolish it in the process; so the twins are now on the loose full-time. They love it; because there’s more stuff to throw, whoop! But, slowly we are removing more and more stuff, to allow one big space for simple games… all three bouncing on Elsie’s bed together has become a favorite.

A slightly unexpected side effect… all three are playing together; a total mom win,  even if some of their activities are questionably dangerous. It may be a coincidence; the twins are just reaching a more playful age. But I would suggest that removing Elsie’s toys from the play room has encouraged inventive, creative play that works for all ages. Perfect for kids that won’t clean up because there is minimal mess to tidy! The dress up box is still out, because all three love dressing up and it’s much easier to tidy up than Shopkins and Barbie’s wardrobe.

So, we may have lost the opportunity for a toy mash up, but we’ve gained the opportunity for siblings to play together, awesome result I’d say. Now when Elsie checks out a box, she tends to bring it to her brothers… they love seeing what she’s going to pull out!

And the checked out toys do make it back to the cupboard… most of the time.

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Toys for Twin Toddlers or Young Siblings

When my twins turned one something happened. Suddenly they discovered that sensation we all experience from time to time… The overwhelming ‘I have to have it now’ feeling. Yes, at the grand old age of one my boys have started tug of war over pretty much anything cool. If you want to see a real fight, give one of them my phone, the TV remote or their personal favorite… the baby monitor. I’m pretty sure it’s illegal, or at least immoral, but if it wasn’t I’m sure twin toddler fighting would make a great sport. So, what toys for twin toddlers (and of course young siblings) can help avoid the fighting? 

toys for twin toddlers

How to shop toys for twin toddlers and young siblings:

Whether you’re buying one present for them to officially share or a present each, twins and siblings will want the other one’s toy, so you have a few options:

  • Buy two of everything and watch them fight over one of them anyway;
  • Assign them each their own toys and optimistically try to teach them about sharing and being kind to each other;
  • Separate them;
  • Just let them work it out between them, they’ll soon learn and respect which one is more ‘Thug Life’.
  • Buy toys they can use to play together. No fighting, it’s actually MORE fun to get along and share.

I would recommend the latter choice. Buy toys for twin toddlers that encourage sharing and interactive play. Those are best toys anyway aren’t they?

My thoughts on toddler toys that are boy/girl defined:

Slight side note… the best toys for toddlers are unisex. If you read ‘Boys Playing with Girl Toys‘, you’ll know that I am not a fan of limiting my children to the girl or boy isle of the toy shop. It’s ridiculous and totally goes against everything we teach them as teenagers about equality of the sexes. Just a short pep talk but I had to get it off my chest.


*This post contains affiliate links. This means I get a small commission from Amazon if you decide to purchase from them. This does not affect the price of the item.*

Top Ten Toys for Twin Toddlers and Young Siblings:

Kiddey Children’s Dual Play Tent with Tunnel

It’s massive… I hear you. But it’s awesome, and they’ll love it. It does break down into pieces too, so you don’t have to have the whole thing out at once if you want to still access the rest of your house. My twin boys have a similar set up from IKEA which you buy in separate pieces and they absolutely love it! They love chasing each other though it… even the cat likes it. Not everyone has an IKEA at hand, so if Amazon is your thing I’m certain the Kiddey Children’s Dual Play Tent will be a hit!


LEGO DUPLO My First Deluxe Box of Fun

It’s a timeless classic… everyone loves Duplo. I would recommend a big box of classic blocks over a fancy school bus or the like. My boys have my daughter’s hand-me-down Duplo airplane and they fight over the crate of bananas and the propellers, apparently they’re the best bits. However, they also have a LEGO DUPLO My First Deluxe Box of Fun and even at age one, they love just carrying the blocks around and smashing down towers built by their big sister. There’s plenty of blocks to go around, no arguments.


Anatex Deluxe Mini Play Cube

My boys are really enjoying their smaller bead maze at the moment. They play together with it well because there are multiple bead runs to interact with. The only trouble is, occasionally Arthur decides he wants it to himself and tips the whole thing over. They stand together very well at their Fisher-Price Learning Table but as they get older they are now less interested in the sounds and buttons. The Anatex Deluxe Mini Play Cube would however prevent the bead maze sabotage and work well for a wide age range. Plus it’s wooden and a bit retro, gotta love that.


Little People Wheelies Stand ‘n Play Rampway

It’s a classic and still going strong… long live the Fisher Price Rampway. Who doesn’t love to run cars down ramps? And don’t even go there if you’re going to tell me this is a boy’s toy. My brother is five years younger than me (to confirm: I am a girl) and I remember playing together with something very similar. It’ll last for years and it has two ramps – you know what that means? RACE!


LeapFrog Learn & Groove Musical Mat

I have seen kids play together with something similar in an indoor play park. They love giggling over the sounds together – it is definitely more fun with two! The trouble I would have is my six year old would love it too and I’m not sure there’s space for three! One Amazon reviewer says her two young children love the Learn & Groove Mat “because sharing is out of the question for them.” You see? The struggle is real and you are not alone.


Step2 Finding Dory Swim & Swirl Water Table

It may be a little cold outside for water play at the moment, but in case you’re in the market for some summer fun, check out the Finding Dory Swim & Swirl Table. Water play is one of those activities that is more fun when you have someone to splash, and there’s plenty of space to move around it without getting in each other’s way. And who doesn’t love finding Dory?


Playmaker Toys Turtle Family Floating Bath Tub Toy

My boys were given the matching Shark Family for their birthday which they absolutely love. But I couldn’t resist featuring these cute turtles… might be filling the bath with yet more toys at Christmas. The babies are matching so they can have one each without arguments, and there’s even a spare one for big sister. Of course if you’re shopping for triplets this is beyond adorable and perfect!


Play-Doh Cookout Creations

My boys are little young for using Play-doh molds, but I’m including Cookout Creations because… well I want a go! It looks so much fun, and creating the perfect BBQ together should keep them busy for some time. There are plenty of different molds to allow sharing, and the set comes with one burger bun and one hot dog bun. As long as your siblings can agree to swap every now and again things should run smoothly.


Foam Building Blocks – 104 Pieces Different Shapes and Sizes

As you can probably tell, I’m all about timeless toys. You really can’t go wrong with building blocks, and these foam blocks are great for a wide age range so big sister can help too. You can buy a 52 block set or the 104 block set but the larger set is considerably better value.


Aquadoodle Draw N Doodle Mat with BONUS Pen and Cap

This one was picked by my six year old. She thinks it is the perfect present for her twin brothers, and I’m sure the choice has nothing to do with the fact she is desperate to have a go herself. Do note that Aquadoodle make the Classic Mat and the Classic Mat with BONUS Pen. If buying toys for twin toddlers… make sure you get the bonus pen!


So there you have it… ten unisex toys for twin toddlers, young siblings, or just about any kid that likes to have company! And in case you’re looking for some twin cuteness… here’s a short video of the boys hanging out in their tunnel!

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Boys playing with girl toys? Careful now…

When multi-million dollar corporations start sending me free stuff to review my boys can have some boy toys. But for now the poor things will have to do with big sisters hand-me-downs. Yes, I’m officially going to risk turning my boys into transsexual perverts by allowing them to play with girl toys. In the name of science and mom blogging I will allow identical twins to review and pick their favourite girl toy, which I can only presume will be the most blue, macho looking toy because that’s what boys like, apparently. But don’t worry, as a precaution against instant limp-wristedness they are wearing their football themed outfits from the boy section of Target…

First up: My Little Pony Equestria Girls v Barbieboys playing with girl toys

Stage 1: Overview. George ponders whether he wants to play with Equestria Girl… “well she is blue, so I suppose its OK. But is it wrong that I kind of like her shoes?” Arthur, well he’s in total shock… “This is definitely a girl toy Mom, its wearing a pink glitter skirt, are you sure it’s safe?”

Stage 2: The shake test. Pretty standard testing for any new toy – shake it to see what moves and wobbles, and check if it makes any cool noises.

Stage 3: Close inspection. Poke the eyes, scrunch the clothes and stroke the hair in as manly a way as possible. Can I pull anything off? is it edible? So far so good.

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Stage 4: The boy test. George proves he’s-the-man by getting Equestria Girl to do the splits and looking up her skirt. Arthur looks on in horror, he didn’t know girl stuff could do that! He needs Equestria Girl immediately to redeem his sense of masculinity – George, sorry buddy.

Winner: Equestria Girl… probably because she’s blue and a bit slutty.

Next: American Girl Doll v Corolle Doll

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“Mom… er… you gave me the pink one again. And George’s is bigger, and us boys know size matters… this is SO unfair. I think I need to wash my hands, this girl stuff is starting to rub off.”

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I could see where this was headed so I thought I’d intervene and give Arthur one of American Girl’s slippers, afterall, even boys wear slippers. It turns out slippers taste pretty good so George wanted a piece of slipper action too. I tried swapping the dolls over – you know, to make it a fair test, but by then it was all about the edibles.

Winner: American Girl Slippers… because even men where slippers.

Last but not least:  Elsa from Frozen v Calico Critters

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George is stumped “Mom, this one is definitely a girl’s toy and Arthur looks like he has something dressed in a men’s blazer.” Arthur is very pleased indeed for he has scored a male Calico Critter, it’s so macho it’s practically a Ninja Turtle.

Shake test… check. George looking up Elsa’s skirt… standard. Then Arthur decides he’s escaping with Mr Critter while he can. George is definitely going to want to steal it afterall.

Winner: Calico Critter… because its wearing a grandpa blazer.

But hang on, what’s happening here? George couldn’t care less he’s stuck with Elsa and her disappointingly long skirt…

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Turns out George is man enough to play with the snow princess… screw you Grandpa Ninja Critter.

I do have a point to make here.

I don’t stop my daughter playing with Barbie and Elsa, she loves all things girly, pink and purple – especially if they have glitter and unicorns that fart rainbows – and that’s OK. She also loves Paw Patrol, Skylanders and weird Manga cartoons on Netflix. She was disappointed when Party City put Paw Patrol in the boys isle. She was disappointed when Ronald McDonald put skylanders in the boy happy meal. I’ve talked to her about it many times and she’s coming round, but I can tell shopping in the boy isle still feels a little ‘dirty’ in the same way she refused to borrow a friends T-Shirt because “its a boy t-shirt.” To be six and feel tainted by wearing a boy t-shirt to splash about in the yard is sad; and I only hope I can help her to become free-thinking and independent in the future.

But why is Lego City in the boy isle in Walmart? When I was young (yes I did actually just say that) all the lego was ‘Lego City’ and it was unisex in a non-intentional kind of a way. Why when you drive through McDonalds (not that I ever do that…ahem), do they ask you if your happy meal is for a girl or a boy? Why don’t they just ask if you want SpongeBob or Monster High? Or better still just give everyone SpongeBob? It boils my blood everytime! Grrr…

As for the boys… now they’ve spent the afternoon playing with girl toys I don’t hold out much hope for them. It’s high school musical and guy-liner from here on in.

 


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