In today's addition of Nicole is a crazy obsessive borderline tot school hoarder, I'm sharing what I call "learning toys." And I'm using the word "learning" loosely here. Almost none of these toys teach a skill in particular on their own, but they are all solely used for learning. Therefore, these are things that Henry would never be allowed to play with on his own. Many are dollar store finds and too small for him to play with otherwise.
And, to be clear, these aren't the only toys we ever use at tot school -- far from it -- but these toys are ONLY used at tot school.
As you can see, some of these could also be called "little crappy playthings that are used for activities." Others are legitimately nice toys -- wooden matching game, foam letters. Some are nice quality, but others aren't. Either way, many serve an important purpose from time to time in sensory bins or as a manipulative on a tray.
Others have specifically been made to teach a skill -- mostly matching games.
As far as organization goes, I organize these all with baggies. Then throw them in a bin. If I need a specific color or type of toy, I can quickly search the bin to see if I have it. The matching toys are stored together, away from the little things. I pull these out when they fit a particular theme, or when I think Henry would appreciate some matching work.
Some tips for picking out these types of things:
1. Have a theme in mind -- especially for the junky little stuff. There is so much of this out there, only buy it if you really need it.
2. Don't be afraid of things that are too small for kids to use on their own. Its fine to have toys that are just used at tot school.
3. Be creative -- things don't have to be used for their intended purpose. Example - yes, my kid is playing with wooden animal shaped napkin rings, and that's great!