Toys are one of the hardest areas to deal with in the home as a parent. The littler your children are, the bigger the toys. As they get older, the toys get smaller. At least you have that to look forward to.
But what can you do now to manage all these toys and create a home that doesn’t feel over run with them?
- The ideal situation is to have a “playroom” for the children. This means that ALL toys are kept in this room. If you do not have a designated playroom, then designate a certain part of a room that the toys are to be stored. Now that doesn’t mean they cannot take a toy and play it somewhere else in the house. They just need to know it must go back into the playroom when they are done playing with it. When my daughter was a toddler, we lived in Miami. Our home had an open staircase, which meant there was a place under the stairs that was useless for any other thing … but her toys. It worked perfect because she could stand up under there and have great access to her toys. I purchased plastic crates and stacked them up on each other. The toys fit nicely there.
- Hold them responsible. No matter what age they are, when they are done playing, they must put the toy away. You can start very young with this. As soon as they are playing, they can begin putting away. Obviously a 6 or 9 month old cannot physically do this. But you can pick the child up with the toy and show them that it must get put away. While you are doing this, explain that it’s time to put the toy away and very soon they will be able to do it themselves. Instill this skill in them from the get go.
- As summer is coming upon us (that means more out door time), it’s a great time to being the purging process if you feel you are on overload of toys. The kids are used to being outside and playing that not much focus is on inside toys. They hopefully will feel a lesser attachment to these toys and can willingly let go. Gather all the toys throughout the house. Check everywhere, closets, under the bed, under the furniture, etc. Have four large containers: Donate, Recycle, Fix and Sell. Begin to sort through all the toys and put the ones they are no longer playing with in their appropriate box. Recycle the broken toys … unless you sense they can be fixed … and fixed soon. Otherwise, discard. You don’t need to hold onto toys that are broken and won’t be fixed in a reasonable amount of time.
- Consider sorting alone. Or at least let them be involved in the initial sort. If you don’t see them letting go of toys that should be let go, let them know you will do one final sort through and since you are the final authority, more toys may go. If you determine there are toys that should go, box them up and put in a holding place. If a number of months go by and they haven’t asked for the toy, know you did the right thing. You can then remove it from the house.
- Set some limits on stuffed animals. This is one area that can over take your home. What grandparent or aunt doesn’t love giving a stuffed animal? My daughter had more than she could ever play with. I wanted to put them in a good home or to good use and tried donating them to the children’s hospital. They wouldn’t take them. Had to be brand spanking new with tags on. Even though I explained they were never used. They still wouldn’t take them. I did eventually find a home. I gave them to a Pregnancy Center. When a new mom would come in for some assistance, they would give her a “goody” bag. One of the items would be a stuff animal. I was delighted. What are some ways to store them? You can put them in a large bin that does not have a lid. This way they would have easy access to them. There are nets you can purchase that enable you to pile them in. Or you can purchase a plastic chain that hangs from the ceiling. You clip the animals to the chain. I actually took a wooden closet rod and fit it from floor to ceiling. We put screws sporadically on the rod and hung the stuffed animals from there. That worked well until she had more than the rod would hold. But we moved by then and that’s when I found a good home for may of them.
- Organize the toys by type. For example put all the puzzles in one spot. Legos go all together in another. Board games pile nicely together. You can take all Matchbox Cars and place in a nice clear plastic container. You get the idea.
- Label all containers to make for easy clean up. Obviously, if you child is not reading, they will not be able to read the container. This is where a picture of the item would work well. Adhere it to the outside of the container. I usually do one on the side and one on the top.
- A great way to store your containers of toys could be a bookshelf, built-in cabinets (having no doors is best), or put the smaller bins in larger bins. AVOID at all cost using a toy box. This is nothing but a dumping bin and a very hard way to keep toys organized.
- When it comes to books, my recommendation is to have them low, easy to access and one of the first things they reach when they want to play. It’s good if you have enough room to display the books by the front cover as opposed to the binding. But that does take up a lot of space. You can have a few displayed that way and rotate them. Reading is great first option and should be encouraged. When my daughter was still in a crib but old enough to look through a board book, I would put a couple of board books in her crib before I went to bed. When she woke up in the morning, instead of calling for me first, she would pick up the books and look them over.
- Consider setting a toy limit during playtime. I know there were times when I was busy and glad my daughter was enjoying her time playing in her bedroom. Unfortunately, I let her play a little too long (unattended) because every toy she had in her closet was in the middle of her room. What a mess. It was even overwhelming for me to clean up. There was no way my 4 year old would have accomplished this on her own.
- Teach your children how to be organized. For some it will come naturally. For others they need to be taught. But it is a skill that can be taught. If this is an area that’s even hard for you as a parent to manage, consider hiring a Professional Organizer to help transfer this skill to both you and your children. It’s worth the investment.
- Be sure to designate times throughout the year where you do “toy maintenance.” This means you go through the toys and determine what needs to go, what needs to be fixed, what to toss or recycle and what to give away. At least do this twice a year. This will help keep the toys at a reasonable amount and you won’t feel the overload.
- Consider having a greater portion of the toys be “educational” as opposed to something to just play or be entertained with. Learning while playing is always good.
I hope these 13 “Tips” will help to create more organization in your home regarding your children’s toys. Know that this season of life will pass and the toys will go away. Enjoy this special time with them and all the fascinating options that are out there for their education and entertainment. Just create an atmosphere of organization. All will be happy.
If this seems to overwhelming to you and you yourself could use some guidance, I’m here to help. Transferring the skill of organization is a fun teaching time for me. I’m just a click away. Even if you are not local to me, we can do “virtual sessions” to get you from “chaos to order!”
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