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There Is No Correct Way to Play With Any Toy

There Is No Correct Way to Play With Any Toy

In one of our forum threads Blackcat31 wrote: I do want to mention that there is no “correct” way to play with any toy. Children should be allowed to do as they please with them and we should never limit them to playing with something in a manner in which adults decide.

I think the operative word here is PLAY with any toy.
I think children can mishandle toys. I have very strict rules of play of what they can and can’t do with toys. There are many natural play behaviors that I don’t allow.


Here’s part of my list of indoor toy play rules

Blocks only at the block table. NO other toys on the table.

No toys above the shoulders.

Block towers.. build wide then build high. No tower height above shoulders.

Take block towers down don’t knock them down. Don’t take your friends down.

Don’t take apart your friends “lined up” anything

One hand on cars or anything with wheels. No two handed walking/running behind cars. One car in one hand at a time. No running two cars at one time in each hand.

No feet on toys.

No feet on top of toy and no feet to move toy across floor.

No toys to be used as a step stool

No toys in mouth on 2.5-5 year old side of room. (If they want to suck or chew toys they have to be bumped down to the little kids side of the room where the toys can be chewed.)


NO climbing on toys

No playing with or moving toy bins.

No sitting on toys

No bogarting toys my friend

No resource guarding (collecting most prized pieces and then body guarding them while doing nothing else but guard them)

All toys belong to ME. NO “mine”

Feet on the floor when playing at larger fixed toys. No bellying up the toy and lifting feet off the floor.

No moving table trays attached to big toys.

No crawling under block table (dangerous)

No picking at toys (fingernails to pick at any glued on label or to pick at seams of toys).

No repetitive clicking of toys.

No throwing

No hard pushing a toy across the floor. If it crashes into the fixed toys or walls you have pushed it too hard.

No carrying around heavier toys. Pick toy out of bin and pick a piece of floor to play with it.

No arm swinging toys front to back toys while walking with toys.

No toys in the face of your friends

No toys on or around your neck (see no toys above the shoulders.)

Two kids only on each big toy (like kitchen or doll house)

No swinging doors on kitchen or putting body weight on the doors of the kitchen on block table.

No cross contamination of toys from little kid side to big kids side.

No pocketing

No “roar”ing or other loud animal sounds or monster sounds.

No toys on the walls or storage cabinet

No “stacking” large heavy toys on top of small toys. Stacking needs to have the base be broad and the top not be top heavy.

Play all “non fixed” toys on floor. Fixed toys are kitchen, doll house, tool bench, block table and the toys that are with those sets.

No toys on or in/down the vents

No touching the baby’s anything ever

No shutting doors of any toy your friend has open.

No stealing toys

No dropping toys. When you get them out PLACE them on the floor. When you put them back PLACE them in the bin or slot.

No vulturing toys (thou shall not covet they neighbors toys)

No body blocking your friend from toys or toy bins

No using your friends body to play toys

No playing with puzzle pieces. Puzzle pieces just for putting puzzle together.

No toys on or around gates.  No toys dropped over the gates.

No paper books on the floor unattended.  Cloth books may be left unattended.

Children can use toys inappropriately… but when they PLAY toys then yes… that can’t be done wrong. I get to define “play” though.

  1. Blackcat3105-24-11

    Nicely defined Nan!!! That was EXACTLY what I meant about playing. There are certain rules that should be implemented for safety reasons (and the protection of the toy itself) but stifling creativity is not necessary. If a child wants to use his toy car (on the floor using one hand) as a time machine that whisks dogs that talk away to a magical land then that is fine by me. It doesn’t need to stay in the right lane on the road mats and use it’s turn signal. 🙂

  2. Hunni Bee06-06-11

    I LOVE IT. I thought I was overbearing and mean for having “toy and play rules”, but now I don’t feel bad anymore. Can I add a few of mine?

    No having more than one of the exact same thing (unless its a set).

    No playing with things that aren’t toys as if they are toys (crayons, pencils, etc.)

    Certain types of “house” play are not allowed (No rude “phone conversations”, no beds or “sleeping”, no “showers or baths” or “using the bathroom”, no “giving birth”, no “crimes”, no “boyfriend and girlfriend”)

  3. Terri VH06-12-11

    How do you get them to only be 2 at a time in a place when you have a certian amount of space to use and more than 1 activity goes on in the area. i am talking about my basement area, i have a kitchen area, play house area, cars, tv, coloring table, quiet reading area and block area. i have a hard time keep only 2 at a time and keeping noise level down. i have some that are very loud talkers(parents are too). looking for ideas

  4. Me06-15-11

    Seriously? OMG. This is so over controlled, it’s “rEdiculous”. I’d hate to be a kid in that house. Every little move they make would be critiqued and criticized. No thank you. I understand safety, but this is control freak.

    • torifees06-27-11

      The good news is that you can see these play rules are rediculous and not good for kids so when YOU decide play rules you can make sure you don’t include these. You understand safety and can keep everyone and everything safe WITHOUT these rules. I admire that and encourage you to go with what YOU feel is right. Provide an environment that YOU feel kids will love not hate. Excellent!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • joy11-28-11

        No child enjoys being told what they cannot do. Why not focus on what they can do? This is connected to your comment about how special each child is. Each child is a miracle, a unique person who is unlike any other. If that is not special, then what is?

        • torifees11-28-11

          I’m not writing a blog about what they *can* do. This blog is primarily about the things they can’t do. It’s okay to tell children what they can’t do as well as what they can do.

    • joy11-29-11


      • joy11-29-11

        i said amen to the “me” comments about who would want to be where there are so many rules?

        • torifees12-02-11

          Joy you are welcome to write your own “no rules” rules. We would love to see them. If you REALLY look at my list.. and flip them around to be “positive” you will still end up with the same basic rules. The vast majority of them are pure safety rules. The others are either “be fair” rules or “don’t suck the life out of the adult” rules. They aren’t complicated and they don’t harm the little self esteem of the young child. They are very simple to teach and net a VERY peaceful day to day for everyone. Kids like simple and calm. It’s the adults who think they need special special when they are really designed for a “yes” “no” and as they age a “why” to them.

  5. Jennifer09-14-11

    Nannyde, I so appreciate how mature you are with your responses to some of these less than mature comments. That alone makes me want to take everything you say to heart. I’m opening up my own daycare next month and will be reading through ALL of your blog posts. Thanks so much!

    • joy11-29-11

      it is unrelated to maturity, it relates to knowledge.

  6. MommyMuffin09-27-11

    I would love to include these rules of play at my home. The problem I have is how? I lose my voice saying the same rules over and over. Do I try time outs? What is a way to get the group to abide by these rules?

  7. joy11-28-11

    First of all, rules should always be simple, and never stated in a negative way. No this, no that. This is not appropriate. You are communicating too much, and using negativity does not promote a positive environment. Say what a child CAN do, not what they can’t. Research indicates that this creates a more positive environment. Please, before you implement these suggestions, do the research.

    • torifees11-28-11

      Can you please site the research you are reffering to?

    • torifees11-28-11

      Joy when you are driving to the end of the street do you see a sign that says “You can go to the left, you can go to the right, you can go straight? NOPE You see a sign that says STOP. Simple one word… STOP. Then YOU can decide if you go to the left, go to the right, or go straight. My rules are the STOP sign in their play. What they choose to do after “stopping” is up to them. I don’t have to explain to them all the things they CAN do. It’s creating too much energy and comes into the kids brain as white noise. Kids really WANT simple.

      I highly encourage you to read “Generation Me”. It will give you real research on the generation of children who were raised with your philosophy and what the books say to do. This generation is now entering the workforce and it’s not working out well at all. Employers, educators, and businesses are struggling very hard to deal with the entitlement that comes along with a generation of kids who have never just been told “no” because it hurts their little egos and self esteem. When you are done with that read The Narcissist Epidemic. Both are by Dr Jean Twenge.

  8. joy11-29-11

    your analogy is unrelated to what research knows about the way young children learn appropriate social skills.

    • torifees12-02-11

      That’s not the research I asked you about. It’s a great story but not really applicable to a home setting where there is one provider with multi level aged group kids under one roof. “Staff are qualified early childhood educators, and the centers accept early childhood education students in practicum placements.” Their examples of “no'” were silly… “no blowing on food”, “no licking the door”. If you are consistent with your rules there is little effort put into constantly enforcing them. Their inate dilema of having adults who were stressed constantly because they were always enforcing rules and children who constantly broke them isn’t something I see in my busines AT ALL. When there is an expectation that the kids actually DO as you tell them to do then that behavior does not constantly re-occur. We aren’t the least bit stressed about telling them what they can and can’t do and the kids easily adapt to it. In fact, we spend little time with basic rules once the children have learned them between the age of one to two.

      • Cheryl03-13-12

        I know these are old posts but I am new to your site. I have learned so much reading your articles. Thank you for posting. I have an associates degree in child care and I have to say this is not how they teach you. I think that is why so many providers struggle. The classes and books basically say… Let the child do what ever they want whenever they want and coddle to their every whim. Well… That just makes for a miserable provider and parents. The rating scales (FCCRS) are a joke. They are infuriating when you read that trash. Kinda have to be able to do whatever they want to all day! I am so glad I found Nannyde’s site. One day of implementing so of her ideas made for a wonderful day with the kids. Thanks

        • torifees04-04-12

          Well we are thrilled that these worked for you. I tried to make them as basic as possible and then the reader can pick and choose what works for their setting.

  9. Macy10-17-12

    “No Monster sounds” ha. love it.

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