CLEAN YOUR KIDS' TOYS!
I will admit, I don't do this as often as I should, but I try to do it at least once a month. If you can find the time, it's better to do it once a week. If your child is sick, or has recently had a friend over who is sick, clean the toys immediately. The Bean currently has an ear infection. I cleaned her toys last night while she was asleep. I was awake anyway dispensing regular doses of Tylenol and Motrin to keep her fever down. So why not use that time to clean toys, right?
It can be a tedious job, but it really does help keep those crazy toddler germs at bay. This is what I do:
1. Separate out all the toys. Soft, fluffy toys such as stuffed animals go in one pile. Hard plastic or wooden toys go in another. I also have a pile for books because we have a ton.
2. Fill your bathtub with water. Add bleach. I use a ratio of 1/2 cup of bleach for every gallon of water because that is what is recommended by Clorox. Place all the non-porous, hard toys in the bathtub. I usually leave out the wooden toys because Ellie's are painted and while the bleach probably won't hurt the seal, I don't want to take that chance. Also, any toys that are battery powered or have a mechanical device of some kind should NOT go in the water.
Soak the toys in the tub for 5 minutes. Then rinse and let air dry. If you can, just spread a couple towels on the floor of the bathroom and lay the toys out in a single layer overnight. (Don't forget about bath toys!)
3. Now for the fluffies. These guys are going in the washer. My washer has a "hand wash" setting, so I use that, but I'm pretty sure most stuffed animals can handle the regular cycle. Important note: if the stuffed animal has some kind of device I don't put it in the washer. For example, Ellie has a Big Bird that sings the ABCs, he does not go in the washer.
I wash the stuffed animals in warm water, with regular detergent (we use All Free and Clear) and then dry them on the lowest heat setting. You can air dry them, but you might want to put them through at least a short cycle first to fluff them.
Some of the stuffed animals after being washed and dried.
4. Last, the most boring part. Get a container of disinfecting wipes, gather up all the remaining toys and put on your favorite TV show or movie. The next step is simple, wipe down everything. I wipe down all of the wooden blocks, any of the stuffed animals that couldn't be washed, the outside covers of her books and all of her board books. Be careful with the books, don't saturate them too much. If you need to, wait a few seconds to let the disinfectant work and then dry them with a paper towel. Just remember, the disinfectant won't work if you immediately wipe it off. Don't forget to wipe down any large items as well: table and chairs, doll stroller, kitchen set, etc (yours might be more boy-related, but you get the idea).
Blocks and other toys that I wiped down with Clorox wipes.
Most of these could have soaked in the bleach solution, but I ran out of bleach.
Now you just sit back and wait for everything to dry! Or go to bed, because it might be really late...
All clean and put away!
(These shelves only look like this when Ellie is asleep)
This is a big task, but it helps. If your child has a ton of toys and this job just seems too daunting, here are a couple of tips:
- Play in batches. Consider limiting the toys your child plays with. If they are really into a certain group of toys right now, but totally ignoring another, put those unwanted toys away for a few months. Then when you get them back out, it'll be like Christmas morning! (Or if you get them back out and they still don't care, donate them! Less clutter! Win-win!) This way when you do clean toys, you're cleaning less and you know which ones your child regularly plays with.
- The Plastic Bin Method When your child is sick, you should try to clean his/her toys every day, but there is no way I could clean all of Ellie's toys every night for the rest of this week. I need sleep! So another option is to put favorite toys in one big plastic bin and eliminate the others. Just take them out of play. That way at the end of the day those are the only toys you have to clean. I realize this might be a battle, but you can be flexible. If she really wants a toy I didn't include in the bin, she can have it, she just can't have all of them.
- Maintain Healthy Habits This is just a general rule. If you maintain healthy habits, and teach your toddler to do the same, it should keep some germs at bay. Teach children early about washing their hands. I know it's easy to just clean Ellie myself, and I still catch myself doing it when I'm in a hurry. However, she will learn more if I take her over to the sink and show her how to wash her hands with soap and water. In addition, while sharing is an important lesson, certain things should not be shared: cups, silverware, half-eaten snacks.
I hope these tips will help you kick those toddler germs out of the house and keep the doctors visits at a minimum!