This post is part of a series of posts about the systems I use during the summer to help keep our days simple, fun, educational and productive. Being organized has allowed me to be prepared to deal effectively with the excitement and fun summer brings. You can find all other posts in the series here: Stress-Less Family Summer System.
Quick note: Being organized is a talent of mine. Being crafty is not. My system is organized and works well, but it isn’t overly cute. (-: If you are crafty and decide to use some or part of my system, I’d love to see some pictures of it “cute-i-fied!” Email them to me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I’ll add them to the post!
I NEED Quiet!
Our quiet room time bins have actually been floating around for about a year now. They aren’t new to this summer. But how we are using them during the summer is new.
I created the bins last year when my youngest stopped napping. I still needed an hour or two of “quiet time” each day in order to be a happy patient mommy come dinner time. So, I created a bin for each child for each day. The idea was that they would play with their bin by themselves in a room alone and be very quiet. Ha!
Well…..it worked well for a few days while the bins were completely new, but once the newness wore off, the kids had a hard time staying in their rooms. They wanted to show me everything they were doing, which honestly, I could understand. And I enjoyed looking at their creations and getting excited with them. But, I wasn’t getting the quiet time I had hoped for.
After a month or two of trying, the quiet room time bins sort of ended up just sitting on the on a shelf and we rarely pulled them out.
This summer I decided I wanted to pull the bins back out. But instead of having each kid play alone, they would play in teams. Each of my older (almost 7 yr old) twin boys would be paired up with one of their younger (almost 5 and 3 1/2 yr old) sisters. Each day we would switch who they were paired up with.
Now, everyone had someone to play with and to share their excitement with. Plus, the boys were put into a role of actually teaching and helping their sisters. They read to them and teach them their letters and math facts with various flash cards etc.
Now, they still sit on a shelf in our hall closet, but they have been condensed into 10 boxes (two for each weekday) instead of 20. And they get used! We’ve used them every single weekday (that we’ve been home) this summer!
The kids rarely come out of their rooms and tend to get along really well. They will sometimes play for a full 2 hours! It is fun to stop at their doors and listen to the boys reading to or teaching and helping their sisters. It is fun to see the various creative things they decide to do with what is in their bin. They actually very rarely fight during this time. It truly feels like a huge mothering success!
What is in each bin
First, the bins I’m using are the Sterilize brand latch boxes. They are sturdy and have lasted well. Mine are the 7 Qt size, which works for most of the boxes (the 6 qt would work for most), but for a few of the boxes, I wish I’d gotten a slightly bigger size.
I wanted the bins to be full of quality toys that encourage imagination, critical thinking, and growth. We have 10 bins so each pair only gets the same bin once every 2 weeks. Each bin includes one thing from the following categories:
- Pretend Play
Since so many friends and family members have requested it, I’ve included a list at the end of this post with links to various items from each category that I’ve included in our bins.
In addition, we have four bins and a wagon full of different kinds of blocks. I also have a bag of simple paper bathroom cups that I count as “blocks.” Each day, both pairs get a set of blocks. So, they get each type of block every six days.
I also give each pair two coloring books (we have 100+ so we just rotate through them) and a bag of crayons each day.
Some of what we have in our bins are typical puzzles. We’ve really enjoyed these Melissa and Doug puzzles. But others are a bit different than you might expect. I was a bit broader in my definition of what a puzzle was. I wanted things that made my kids think about how to put something together / take it apart. Here are links to a few of the non-traditional “puzzles” we’ve got in our bins:
- Lauri Stacker Smart Shapes
- Quercetti Junior Pegboard Set
- Mindware Block Buddies
- IQ Twist
- Goobi Construction Set
My kids (ages 3 1/2 – almost 7) LOVE all of these. They all spend hours playing with them. The Quercetti pegboard set is a bit young for my boys, but they still enjoy it, just not as long as they do the other items on the list.
I love pretend play! I love to hear my kids coming up with stories and pretending they are someone or something else. I love to hear them interacting and talking to each other. Some of our “pretend play” items are basic: we have dolls, cars, and dinosaurs. But some are a bit different:
- Magnetic Robot Figures
- Mini Doll Set (this one in Cinderella…my kids have seen the play and love it!)
- Animal Finger Puppets
- Family Finger Puppets
- Magnetic Dressups
- Super Mario Brothers Figurines
Most of the education items in our bins came from the dollar store. They have lots of flashcard and workbooks. I bought a bunch. Most of our bins have one set of flash cards (addition, subtraction, letters, sight words etc) and a workbook. The workbooks vary from Pre-K to about a 2nd-grade level. Some are too advanced for my girls and others are too simple for my boys. But it is fun to listen to the boys “teach” the girls the things they already know.
Most bins have two books: a simple one that my boys can read to the girls and a chapter book for the boys to read if they’d like. I rotate these through often, and many times they are just library books. But here is a list of some of the most well-loved books that we actually own:
- Are You My Mother?
- Chicka Chicka Boom
- Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you See?
- Goodnight Gorilla
- Mr. Brown Can Moo
- Goodnight Moon
- Dr. Seuss’s ABCs (I think our whole family has this one memorized)
- 10 Little Monkeys
- Big Dog, Little Dog
- The Monster at the End of This Book
Other Simple Books My Boys Read to My Girls:
- Anything by Mo Willems (these are honestly some of my very favorite books ever. We own almost every one)
- The Llama llama books by Anna Dewdney
Chapter Books My Boys Have Enjoyed (they just started reading chapter books this last year, so we haven’t gotten through too many yet):
We have five sets of blocks that are part of our quiet room time program. I also have a bag full of small bathroom cups that we count as “blocks.”
- Textured Foam Blocks
- Colored Wooden Blocks
- Thistle Blocks
- Mega Bloks
- Wooden ABC Blocks
- Bathroom Cups
How About You?
I would love any suggestions you have for high quality, purposeful toys that your kids have enjoyed and/or books your kids love! You can never have too many books!