Do you cringe when you walk into your kids’ messy bedrooms? Does your family room resemble a disaster zone toy store? Well, believe it or not, it doesn’t have to be that way! Organizing toys is fairly easy – teaching the kids how to keep them organized is the hard part.
Additionally, I bet you’re feeling even more overwhelmed after a holiday or birthday because many fun toys were left behind for your little ones to enjoy. But they already had enough toys before the holiday, didn’t they?
I highly recommend involving your kids in the organizing process as much as they can, depending on their age. If they are involved, they will have more buy-in for the end result and maintaining the newly organized spaces. If you don’t involve them, they may resent your efforts, or the system may not work that well for them because their personalities and preferences were not considered.
Let’s take a look at how to tame all those toys. There is a basic process I follow for almost all organizing projects.
- Assessment – Assess what’s working and what’s not working. I know you probably think NOTHING is working! However, if you look around, you may just see a few systems in place that do work for you and your kids. Make note of these key points so you can circle back to them later.
- Goals – Determine what your goals are for the area where the kids play with their toys. Do you want everything to be put away and/or can some things be in plain sight? Do you want your kids to put away their toys daily, weekly?
- Sort – Sort like items into labeled boxes or bags. Use sorting categories that make sense to your child and the way they play with their toys. You’ll also need sorting boxes for donations, recycling, garbage and items that go somewhere else in the house. Donate, recycle or toss if there are broken or missing parts, it has been more than a year since you have seen it or used it or the kids have outgrown the toy. I know that letting go of toys can be challenging for kids, although you may be surprised by how easily they let go versus how the adults let go! For more on how to get the kids involved in the sorting/purging process, read this post: Helping Kids Let Go.
Below are some examples of toy categories:
- Action figures
- Dress up
- Musical toys
- Video games
- Zones – Now that you’ve sorted things out, you will need to determine where the kids like to play with the various toys so you can make new homes for them in those areas. Reference back to your assessment and see if you can utilize something that was working well before. I like to keep items close to where people naturally use them because this facilitates using them and putting them away. Some examples of this are crafts in the kitchen, books in the bedroom, big toys in the basement or outside and board and video games in the family room. Next, you’ll need to move your sorted boxes to the zones you have assigned.
- Containerize – This is the fun part you’ve been waiting for! I bet you didn’t know there was so much that happens BEFORE the container part. Here’s my checklist of container ideas:
- Keep it simple
- Easy Access – Low & light!
- Motor problems? – Easy open containers, handles
- Label everything – Can’t read? Use pictures!
- Baskets are great for holding small items so they won’t fall over or roll away
Here are some fabulous container ideas to get your juices flowing!
Customizable Storage From IKEA
Legos are a challenge to organize. I suggest not overthinking this. Typically, the kids don’t really care if their Legos are sorted in some meaningful way. It’s the adults who want them sorted and are annoyed with Legos laying around everywhere! If the bricks are not kits or are kits that are now taken apart, I suggest shallow containers that make it easier to sift through to find a specific size or shape of brick. Any organization further than that is usually an exercise in futility!
Video Games and DVDs
Stuffed Animals or Big Blocks
Clean Your Room!
Now that everything is organized, how do we keep it that way? We, as parents, need to say more than, “go pick up your toys!” Kids don’t always have the skills to visualize what picking up and cleaning means. We need to teach them what it means for a room to be organized and picked up. A few ideas I like are:
- Be clear about how frequently you expect toys to be put away
- Make putting away toys a part of their chore chart
- Provide them a step-by-step task list or provide them with picture visuals of the steps, which may work better than words and will teach them the valuable skill of visualizing project steps
- Hang a photo or two of the “clean room”
Remember this disaster room? Feel better?
What’s your biggest toy organization challenge or your greatest solution?