Developmentally, I understand that too much visual noise is unhelpful, and sometimes can be hazardous. The average person, and child, can only take in so much visual stimuli at a time. Our brains filter out the extras (different for everyone), and process only what is of value at the time.
For some people too much visual information can lead to anything from mild stress to deep anxiety.
For children, they don't filter or block so easily, and can become stressed. This is why babies are so easily over-stimulated. They're taking it all in - the visual, the audible.
This is partly why decluttering became such a hit. Not only did our homes function better, we realised that part of our home-induced stress was having too much stuff in our line of vision.
The Montesorri method includes a philosophy about the child's environment. In the classroom it's called the Prepared Environment, and Montessori-inspired parents often create such environments at home.
1. Injust Spring 2. Wildflowers and Marbles
3. Sew Liberated 4. Finn's Room
5. berteig.com 6. Montessori at Home
Among other things, the method makes a point about the quality and beauty of the environment - a few, carefully chosen, beautiful, natural, educational, interesting toys rather than heaps of plastic mindless crap. Order, simplicity, calm, accessibility are all key words.
These toys are not kept in large chaotic toyboxes. Instead, they are sorted and separated. Each toy has shelf space, or they're collected by theme in a basket or a tray, or hung on a hook.
And each toy is put away before the next is taken out.
As far as having a few carefully chosen toys, I'm all for that.
Is that my reality? No. I find that being home all day alone with her means that a few toys just isn't enough. Also, we're not wealthy, and good quality toys are difficult to come by here. So, amongst some beautiful wooden and educational toys, she also has some crap. Not much, but it's there. She is young (18mths) so things like empty boxes are still mildly interesting.
However, I'm big on decluttering and I periodically go through her toybox and throw out those tiny worthless bits that served their purpose.
As far as organisation goes, it was one toybox, that became two, and then a few larger items here and there.
I realised that she hardly ever went through the boxes. Although we bought the main box mostly to have a place to put her toys and thereby tidy up at the end of the day, it's also accessible to her and there for her to pick and choose. Yet she wasn't.
So I decided to organise.
First came the grouping.
The same thing that was happening with her toyox, was happening with her books. She had enough that she was taking out the same ones. Too much visual noise. So I put some on a shelf above her eyeline, so that she rarely reaches for one there. Now those at her easy disposal are less. Then I rotate these as well. No set time, whenever it occurs to me or feels right.
I emptied the cardboard boxes we had stored CDs and DVDs in to collect toys by theme - animals, noise makers, textile bits, soft toys.
These boxes now come out one at a time. But they might stay out for a long time. And the floor might end up full of toys by the end of the day. But usually I will put away as I feel like it.
The other thing was to take out a toy and place it on its own. Like a display (very Montessori). And shake my feathers, she played with those toys that day! And I'm rotating which toys I place like that.
The 'after' pics...
I realise it doesn't look like much, you'll have to take my word for it.
She's played with that xylophone on the bottom shelf every single day, as well as brought out the stacking boxes on her own to stack.
I still have more items to sort and have some ideas.
We're living in a small apartment for the moment and haven't bought any purpose-built storage furniture. So I wanted to share my very simple and do-able re-organisation. But one that's made a difference.
I think that for children, especially young ones, rotating toys must feel a little like getting new toys and books every other day or week.
As for the Montessori idea of putting a toy away when you're done with it, that's another matter.
On a practical level, as she plays with things for less than 5 minutes, half my day would be the putting away and taking out of toys.
Also, my care-free side feels uncomfortable with such control, as well as any possibility of limiting or disrupting creative play. If she just stacked some blocks but then goes to grab another toy, does it benefit her to put the blocks away? Perhaps she'll return to the blocks in a few minutes. Perhaps the new toy will be added to the blocks to create a new game.
Many of the examples of environments that I gave above are what I think of as educational spaces. Pure Montessori is a little too
As I don't plan to home-educate in any formal approach, I like to think of Creative spaces rather than educational ones. I love organisation, but I need an environment to feel alive, dynamic, lived in.
My idea of a creative space:
So I think I've struck a balance between going with my own personality, my ideas about how kids play, as well as my understanding of brain processes and developmental needs.