Wednesday, April 20, 2011

toys from home: yes or no?

Toys from home -  Yes?  No?  Sometimes?

At our preschool we allow children to bring comfort toys - a favorite stuffed toy or a blanket - we discourage children from bringing other toys from home.

I've been comfortable with this state of affairs until I read  this post from Kristen over at the wonderful Preschool Daze.

At Kristen's preschool, children can bring a toy and play with it during the day.  She writes: 
some toys are their “lovies” and we don’t expect them to be shared.  but when it is another toy, we invite the preschooler to share it or save it in their cubby.
Both options are just as good.  children are allowed to save their own things in their cubbies and great effort goes into helping them feel empowered in that choice
one of our main goals as a preschool is to ease the transition from home to preschool, from parent to teacher.  quite simply, if bringing something from home can assist in that transition, that’s an easy thing!
Which started me thinking.  Would saying "yes" to toys from home be a way to:

  • Soften the boundaries between home and preschool?
  • Create important links between home and preschool?
  • Encourage conversations about home life that we may miss out on otherwise.
  • Support children in learning all important life lessons such as sharing and responsibility?

On the other hand, hunting for a missing toy is time consuming.  Hunting for 25 missing toys is unmanageable.  A lost or broken toy is distressing for the child.

What are your thoughts?


  1. We say no to toys from home as a general rule. Whilst i agree with a link between home and school as a transition there are other things than toys chn can bring, photos and books are more manageable and still allow the children to bring something treasured to them to preschool.
    Having to ensure toys from 30 chn plus a day are looked after, not taken from each others bags, lost or broken is ridiculous on top of all our other work. We have to be practical too!

  2. I have usually allowed children to bring toys from home, but I set conditions.
    They have to share them. If they don't want to share, they can show them to others and keep them in their bag, but not play with them during class.
    They have to take responsibility for looking after them and understand that they might get lost or broken. I tell them I will not help to find the toys if they are lost or left outside.
    And the toys must not create jealously or conflict. If something is causing trouble, I ask them not to bring it again.

  3. Stuffies and blankets are allowed for comfort, but the child must sit on the couch or in the quiet area with them and when they are done they must go away. other toys must stay in lockers/bags/mailboxes until pick up time, but now we have show and tell so a differenet child everyday gets to show what ever they want to the class at cirlce time and then it goes away.

  4. This is something I so hard!

    I am fine with comforters (though my children are younger than yours) and amazingly we never have fights about comforters. I wonder if it's because of our (the teachers) unconscious attitude to the comforters in that children always have to give them back to the owner.

    As for other toys I have an adaptive set of rules. I'm okay with one off bringing in of toys, but I always make sure children (and parents) understand that if they bring a toy into the centre than we can't guarantee it will survive - if they are very precious about it then we keep it on a shelf that the children can see but other children can't get at. It does lead to conversations about what the children are interested in and what they are up to in home. I also make judgements about the toys – if it is rather large or has a lot of parts then I let the children show it to me and their friends and then it goes back onto the shelf.

    If children constantly bring in toys which they are upset about losing or toys cause fights then the toy needs to go straight into their bag and not come out again until home time.

  5. I've thought a lot about this issue over 20 years of working in toddler and preschool education. Transitional objects are an important healthy part of symbolic representation and self comfort and self identity. Who are we to say a "stuffy" is okay but a "toy" is not? A parent challenged my "no toys from home rule" once when her child carried match box cars and she explained how they gave him comfort/security to enter the classroom. I saw her point! Then, when I became a parent, my boys had different "special objects" they became attached to at age 3 and 4 - odd things like a tiny lego man or a picachu (pokemon) card. I was so thankful the teacher allowed them to enter the classroom with these items and even bring them out at nap time. She appreciated what the objects taught her about my boys. When children spend many hours each day in our care how do we make it their space? How do we make it their second home? There is no right or wrong answer but I have found that sensitive flexible confident teachers find a way to incorporate toys from home - balancing the needs of the individual child and the needs of the group and classroom environment.

  6. I too allow comforters but prefer that chn leave any other toys at home. I am well resourced and there is adequate equipment for all chn to share and play with. I agree that looking for lost toys etc is time consuming and whilst you stress that you are not responsible from past experience if a toy is lost or broken quite often a parent does expect you to replace the item as your were the "responsible" adult..

  7. As well as comfort items, my daughter's preschool allows toys from home for 'show and tell'. The children put them on a special table and talk about/ play with them with the other children informally, and then as part of a more formal group discussion activity. The guidelines for parents suggest that kids don't bring anything valuable or easily broken. My daughter loves it :)

  8. Many nurseries around where I work have "treasure boxes". The toy is put there when the child arrives in nursery and picks it up again at the end of the session. I've never hear a child ask to play with their toy that's in the treasure box. I think it's just a way of children making the transition between home and school.

    I don't think there's a wrong or right answer here. Each child is different. Each setting is different. Whatever approach best accommodates the need of an individual child whilst enabling other children to play happily I suppose is the way to go.

  9. A few years ago, I had had enough of the hunting down toys, the fights, the pushing the limits on what was was actually getting quite ridiculous. Finally one day I said enough was enough, no more toys. A special toy or blanket for naptime only was allowed but that was it. Things drastically changed. Suddenly kids were worried about defending their property. Nobody was trying to one up the other. They were playing more and better with the materials provided. Nobody even brings anything for nap anymore!
    I read that same post, wondered a bit about whether I was doing the right thing...and decided in my situation I definitely am.
    I have a friend that is a home provider, and came up with an entirely different solution. You can bring a toy, but if you don't want to share, then she doesn't want to share her toys, and then that is the only thing you can play with that day.

  10. Food for thought. Like most have said with 20+ children that's alot of toys to get lost or broken. We have a general 'no toys' rule but if a child doeas bring something from home they can play with it & share it with their peers for 10 mins - we use an egg timer to show them when the time is up. It works.
    I also had a child who had a favourite soft toy that she wanted to bring in with her (I know my niece had one & it caused such heartache when lost) so we took a photo of it & the photo stayed in school while the toy stayed home - safe n sound.

  11. I work with 2 year olds so its a bit different. I only have a few children in the class that choose to bring in home toys. I allow them however my parents also know anything that comes in may never leave and if it does it may not come back home in the same condition it was brought in. We try and teach respect for each others belongings but things do get lost or items such as sunglasses or a necklace sometimes do get broken (often by the child whom it belongs to).

  12. This is a topic that comes up regularly at our Centre, and our thoughts are mixed. Yes, children's toys can get lost or broken and cause great distress. There's also a lot of work generated for teachers as we educate parents in what kind of toys are acceptable and what toys are not. But bringing a toy from home but be just as comforting for a child who doesn't have a cuddly (or a lovey), it can build their confidence and be a great way to enter play for the very shy child, and loss or breakage can be seen as another great learning opportunity...and the debate goes on!

  13. This has been a recent topic that I have had to address as well. I really would like for them to be able to bring toys from home. I agree with the points mentioned in the blog post you listed and with others who have commented. However, with the group I have right now, I recently put my foot down and said "No Toys From Home." I do allow a nap toy and we have show and tell weekly. But the issues we were having were multiple boys bringing cars (sometimes a backpack full)and not knowing whose was whose. A select child used her toy as "power" over the other children. She would bring really cool things and ask the others if they wanted to play with it and then "change her mind".This would end in tears day after day.
    Overall, I found toys from home distract from quality play with neutral toys. So in my situation and with these particular children, toys from home do not add to the program but detract from it. I think this discussion is important because as early childhood educators we need to evaluate our practices and be thoughtful about our choices. Just because someone is doing it successfully does not mean that will be the case for everyone.

  14. I'm not a teacher, but I'm the parent of a child in a play-based preschool. There are ten children and two teachers. They do allow the children to bring in a toy or book or whatever they may feel like bringing in. I don't have too much of an opinion at this point because my own daughter has actually never asked to bring something, so I haven't given it much thought. I will say that it hasn't seemed to have gotten out of hand. Most kids don't bring anything most days, I don't think. Some bring something more often than others. It's a small center, with a small number of kids and a low teacher/student ratio, so maybe that helps.

  15. When JDaniel has talked about taking a toy to Sunday school, we have discussed that he would have to share it. He has always decided to leave whatever it was at home.

  16. We often say no to toys from home because it creates situations to where children disengage from getting involved in classroom materials, and often it can be an item that can get stolen, broken, or lost. However when a child has a hard time transitioning into preschool during morning drop off or at nap time, we might make exceptions. But in a case of drop off we will tell the child "Ok 5 more minutes then we will need you to put your toy in your cubby till it is time to go home." Or in some cases if it is a soft toy such as a stuffed animal we will allow it to come out for nap time as long as it isn't a distraction from sleep. In my opinion I think toys from home should stay at home to lesson the distraction. Also if you begin to allow toys from home, where to you draw the line? And is it sending a mixed signal if some toys are allowed and others are not? We do encourage families to bring pictures of their families for us to display, as well as asking the children if they would like to write a note to mom or dad or brother or sister to help them during drop off. I have found that writing a note with a teacher's assistance has been the best technique in comforting children during transitions.

  17. I know this is an old post, but i did a search specifically for this, as it's always been an issue for the 15years I've been working with children. It's interesting to me that it comes in spurts, and we're in another spurt! I want to be easygoing about the toys that come from home, but I just struggle with it. I've gone back and forth on this issue, and had even set up special treasure days for these toys, but since opening my new centre I decided not to do treasure days and see if it was needed. I don't know how many times i've had to regretably tell a family that the beloved toy is broken or lost, even though we do try to keep track! It's interesting to me that the special 'stuffies' from home do not seem to get lost. I often wonder if my lack of excitement from these special toys from home is that we try to uphold a certain level of quality in the items that the children play with at daycare, and the toys that come from home are generally the marketed toys from movies and such and as much as I try to embrace them, I just can't seem to!
    I don't know what the answer is, and I'm honest with the families about my struggle, and I do think they respect that. I wish I had an easy answer and I wish that i was more easygoing about it!

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