With 4 kids, toys have become a way of life at our house. Early on, it quickly became evident that we needed to come up with a way to keep those toys organized or else we would never have a clean house and the toys that had multiple parts would never have all their pieces. Here are some of the things I have learned over the past 10 years to keep the playroom clean(er) and more organized.
1) Limit the number of toys that come in- With my oldest kids, we bought them toys for every birthday and holiday. They also received toys from their grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends, and whoever else attended the parties. We quickly realized that they had way more toys than they could ever play with. We decided that we would no longer buy them toys, or at the very least, severely limit the number of toys we bought. Instead, we sought out other gifts that they would greatly enjoy, such as personalized jewelry or wall decor, clothes, handmade blankets, a book they had been wanting, etc. We also encouraged them to think beyond toys when they created wish lists.
2) Only keep the most enjoyable toys- We then decided to sort through the toys they already had and to donate the ones that they played with the least and throw away anything that was broken. Honestly, how many of us have a Barbie with her head squashed back on so she looks like she has no neck or one who has hair that has been chopped off in such a way that it looks ridiculous? Those were the first to go when we cleaned out. I know of some parents who rotate toys in order to limit the number of toys their kids can play with at any one time. This may work for some, but we are limited on space so this was not/is not an option for us. Also, as new toys come in, old toys go out. This keeps the number under control.
3) Everything has a home- The next step is to make sure everything has a home. Group like items together, such as stuffed animals, trains, building blocks, dolls, etc. Once each item has a home, label it in a way that your child can identify what goes where. This can be done with simple word labels for kids that can read, but for younger kids, try using pictures, either drawings or generic pictures of the type of toys or take an actual picture of the toys when they are all put away and post them for the child to then match up what goes where.
4) Be creative when finding homes- Just about everything can be a home for toys, such as old wipe containers are great for storing extra Barbie clothes or shoes, a clothes hamper can hold stuffed animals, baskets and buckets can hold cars, blocks or other medium-sized toys.
5) Keep pieces together- I am not a fan of resealable plastic bags, usually, but they are invaluable when it comes to keeping little pieces together, especially with board games. I use all sizes of the bags, depending on what is being held in it. I use a separate bag for each type of item in a game as well, so money is in one bag, playing pieces and dice in another, etc. Then I store all the smaller bags in a bigger bag and tuck it into the game box. This has proven invaluable when a child tries to pull a game out of the stack of games and the boxes above it tumble to the floor. The bags may spill out, but their contents do not.
6) Label the parts- In addition to storing the game pieces in bags, I use a permanent marker to label each bag with what should be in there, even if all the pieces are not in there at the time. I also keep a running list of missing game/toy pieces so that if we find one laying around somewhere in the house, we know exactly what it belongs to and can put it away.
7) Involve the children- Many parents involve the children in picking up their toys, but not as many involve them in the organization process. Let them help decide which toys to get rid of, where to put things and how to organize. They enjoy it and it helps them to better understand why it is being done.
8) Keep it kid friendly- Going along with encouraging the kids to help, make sure that they CAN help when it comes to clean up. When putting things up on shelves, limit the items on the high shelves to those things that you do not want the kids to get into, but do not put anything up there that they may be tempted to climb up to get. Use bright colored containers and make sure they are either easy to replace or fairly indestructible, as often they will become toys themselves.
9) Remember that play time is important, but other things matter to- I know many of my readers understand this, but it needs to be said. A playroom should not be an all-day babysitter. Individual play time is important for growing, but kids should also be reading, playing outside, playing with you, helping with family chores, and doing other kid activities. Just spending less time in the playroom, will help keep it organized and clean. Just make sure they do get to spend some time there on a daily basis :)
10) Encourage passions- When a child develops a great desire to build with blocks, encourage that. When they are asking for gifts, they can then ask for more blocks or accessories that go with the ones they have. These can all be stored together and keeps your child from running after every new toy that comes along, therefore decreasing the number of types of toys you need to organize.
What tips do you have for organizing and de-cluttering toys at your house? I would love to hear your ideas and suggestions.
I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Hot Wheels® blogging program, for a gift card worth $40. For more information on how you can participate, click here.