Toy clutter used to completely overwhelm me. To the point that I’d spend hours of my time, as in countless days worth of hours, trying to organize all Hannah’s toys. Sometimes staying up until the early hours of the morning coming with ideas to keep her toys organized.
Maybe you’ve had a similar experience, or maybe you feel defeated and have decided there’s no point in trying to organize toys.
After years of experience as a mom, Kindergarten teacher and professional organizer, I can promise, it’s possible.
How to Organize Toys
Reduce Toy Clutter
- When one toy comes in, one leaves. This one takes some discipline; discipline I didn’t have as a parent. When a child has outgrown a toy, consider storing it as a hand-me-down for younger siblings or cousins. Other options are to re-gift a toy if it’s in good condition, or donate it to your favorite charity.
- Rotate toys so that not all toys are available for play at once. You might be surprised how an old toy can seem new again when it’s been out of the rotation for a while. Store unused toys on a top shelf of a closet, under the bed in the guest room, or in the basement, attic or garage. You’ll know when to change out toys once kids stop showing interest or start misusing their toys. Be sure to exchange toys rather than add to the available ones.
- Simplify clean up time. I dreaded clean up time as a mom and as a teacher. Why is it so hard to get kids to clean up? Well, looking back, I have some theories about that.
- The mess is too overwhelming. Just like adults, when the mess is big children can face overwhelm and not know where to start. A couple of ways to address that are to give specific instructions. For example, reinforce skills by having them pick up toys by shape, color, or type. Give one instruction at a time until everything is put away. You can also introduce a rule to put away one toy before getting out another one. That one change should eliminate some of the mess at clean up time.
- Clean up time is rushed. Be sure to allow plenty of margin time between clean up and whatever is next. If you’re in a hurry, you risk impatience which can add stress to an already challenging chore.
- Give cues before clean up time. Whether it’s a flicker of the lights, or a making certain sound, use a cue to let your children know clean up time is soon. Tip: It takes children approximately thirty minutes to enter into productive play. Allowing at least that long will give them time to make the most out of this very important part of their day.
- Establish a routine. Knowing what’s next is a big comfort for young children. So, having a pattern to your day can prevent upset children at clean up time.
Toy Storage Solutions
- Organize toys with designated areas (bins, baskets, shelves) so kids know where to return them. Optional: Label the areas with pictures of the toys, matching stickers (same sticker on both toy and bin or shelf), or use the outline or shapes of the objects. Get the kids involved in label making so they understand the system. They can trace toys and baskets, place stickers on shelves and toys, draw pictures… It doesn’t have to be perfect, just functional. Labels aren’t necessary with see through containers or when the kids are already very familiar with where the toys go, like in this kitchen space where my client’s children do a lot of crafting. They know exactly where to find what they’re looking for.
- Keep an empty basket in secondary play areas for a quick clean up. For example, the kitchen is a primary hang out spot for this mom and her children. So, toys that started out in the playroom or living room often end up coming with the children into the kitchen. As a solution, we designated a basket just for those toys. When the basket gets full, or on a weekly basis, whatever works best for her household, the family will return the toys where they belong. We also put a basket at the bottom of the stairs for toys that need to go back upstairs to the playroom.
- organize toys using what you have. We pulled baggies, seasonal tins, and unused portion control containers from my client’s pantry to store kids utensils and craft supplies in kitchen drawers.
- Reduce visual clutter. Sometimes the way you store toys or put them away causes visual clutter. In that case, it’s a matter of rearranging. For example, this playroom had plenty of shelves for storage bins and baskets. Even so, my client felt like the shelves were just too busy. So, in under thirty minutes and without spending a dime, we reduced the visual clutter…just by rearranging the toys and bins.
Toy Storage Organizers
Animal Canvas Toy Storage Bins, as pictured above
Pro Tip: Be sure to declutter the toys and then sort them by category before buying bins. Buying bins first is one of the top organizing mistakes people make.
With these storage solutions under your belt, you’ll be able to organize toys with confidence. More importantly, you’ll be creating a nurturing home for you and your family. For my client, that means a sense of calm for her, an inviting space to play for her children, and a space that tends to this young family’s hearts.