17 different women, 36 crazy children, 0 babies in utero
Adventures, Advice and Questions from a group of Mormon women who met in Queens, NY and have now scattered all over the place.

Friday, September 01, 2006

From the Tales Inbox: The 5 O'clock box

Thanks to Tales reader Julie P. for sending in this great Sanity Saver idea!

I have in my house what I call a 5 O'clock box -or Table Toys. It is a dishwasher tub full of little tactile thiings for kids to do at the table. The inspiration was that at our house we have a 5 O'clock meltdown. The kids are tired and hungry and crabby and I needed to make dinner. So this box lives in my pantry and when we hit that point they can go and choose one thing from the box. Then they can be in the kitchen near me- but be involved in something at the table. The toys that go in the box are usually separated into bags so they can just grab one. They may only grab one at a time. The critera for a 5 O'clock toy is that it must be small and the children must be able to do it with limited supervision- if it is too complicated it defeats the purpose. That said, it is the kind of toy I had lots of around my house- too small or too many pieces for the regular toy box. Too noisy or messy for a Sunday bag. Here are some examples:

  • A one person chalk board (dollar store .99)

  • Play dough (rotate a small amount with cookie cutters, stampers, rolling pin etc)

  • Small magnet board with magnetic letters

  • Puzzles- any type (hint: label the back of all the pieces with a letter

  • or number to keep sets together)

  • Tiny building blocks, pattern blocks, tangrams

  • Small collections of anything with cups to sort (bottle caps, glass blobs, plastic animals)

  • Paint with water book

  • Coloring book

  • Magnetix or other small magnetic toy

  • Flashcards

  • Magnadoodle

  • Blank cards and crayons so they can write to someone

  • Silly Putty

  • Lacing Cards

  • Any Craft

The list goes on- Santa brought all kinds of stocking stuffers which got appropriated for the 5 O'clock box. The trick is that they can't play with it all the time, and I rotate different bags into the box. Most of the things I choose are dollar store type things, and sometimes things that got demoted from the Sunday bag because they were too noisy at church (i.e. micromachines). It has really saved my skin when the kids can't go outside, and a nice switch from watching TV. It also has proved to be a useful place to keep all of those little toys that don't quite fit anywhere else in my house. It is also good training for school. (I hope!) When older kids bring home homework everyone will be in the habbit of sitting at the dinner table and doing something. So the younger kids can sit there while the older kids work and I can get dinner done!


  • That's a great idea. I'm just about to go through my son's toy box, and get rid of stuff, and that's a great idea for the little stuff that gets lost in the bottom that he still loves. Thanks!
    posted by Blogger Erin at 9/01/2006 11:00:00 AM  

  • I like it! I think I might throw in a baggie full of those annoying Happy Meal type toys. They're basically classified as junk, but might be good as a once-in-a-while toy. And it sure would be great to have them out of the toy basket! Thanks Julie P. :)
    posted by Blogger Katie at 9/01/2006 11:36:00 AM  

  • Julie P, though I love these ideas, reading through your post made me tired....and I think I will stick with my dinner technique: Ok....everybody sit down and watch this movie.
    posted by Blogger Kage at 9/01/2006 03:02:00 PM  

  • I love this idea --I've been trying to get out of the TV habit because #2 will fall asleep, even though bedtime is still a good 2 hours away. Then she is up all night...grrr....

    Anyways, I like this --at least the concept of it --hmmm...I'm thinking I'll have to implement this somehow...
    posted by Blogger Cheryl at 9/01/2006 07:47:00 PM  

  • Thanks for this great idea. It will be nice to have a place for all the "little pieces" toys to go. And I know this sanity saver will come in even more handy as my kids get a little older.
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 9/04/2006 01:52:00 PM  

  • NICE. Much better than turning on the tv (my usual relief) during the time I'm fixing dinner.
    posted by Blogger Julie at 9/04/2006 04:22:00 PM  

  • I love the happymeal toys idea, another prime contributer to my box is small favors the kids bring home from parties. (ie silly putty)
    posted by Blogger julieP at 9/06/2006 02:25:00 PM  

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