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When Brayden was young, I had a good friend with a boy just a few months younger than he was. I was sure we owned every toy worthy of owning at the time (which is funny to look back on because we didn’t have many). When we would visit her, it would amaze me that we had basically completely different toys, and they toys they had were all great and fun, also. How could that many toy options exist in the world!
As kids get older, the toy collection grows and grows. You don’t want to just get rid of the toys when your oldest is too old for them because there will be younger siblings to play with those perfectly good toys. But we only have so much storage and so much space. Decisions must be made and organization must take place. Here are some tips for organizing toys, complete with tips from fellow blog readers.
Only Keep What You Have Space For
This seems so simple and obvious, but it is very easy for us to get to a point where we just have more stuff than we have space for. Once you are out of space for toys, it is time to make some decisions.
I have a very hard time getting rid of perfectly good toys. I was raised by parents who didn’t have much. Their parents lived through the depression and were savers. You save, save, save.
But they didn’t also live in a time like ours where there was major consumerism. They didn’t have the volume of stuff that we have. You just need to have a logical talk with yourself and say, “When we are out of space, it is time to donate or sell our excess.”
Emily said: “We don’t have a perfect system, but the one thing I love is an old dresser (that I refinished) that we use as our TV stand. Each of the large drawers holds a category of toys (trains/tracks, blocks, cars, etc.) If a drawer can’t fit everything it’s time to donate! I love that it’s an easy storage system that doesn’t scream “toy storage.””
Ask For Experiences for Gifts Rather Than Toys
You won’t have a relationship with everyone where you can make such requests, but for those you do, ask for experiences rather than toys. I am one who finds it tacky to tell people what gifts to get unless they ask for ideas. If “the thought” is what counts, when you take the thought away from the gift-giver, you are making it the “thing” that counts.
What you can say, though, is “We are out of space for toys in our house! If you would like to give a gift, an experience would be fantastic!”
You can alternatively ask for no gifts or ask for smaller items or items that can be added to collections so there is not more space needed.
Emily Ann said: “we don’t have a ton of toys in our house and ask that ppl not give our son toys as gifts (we would rather have experiences like going to the zoo and what not). we have a small wooden box in our living room and a wire basket thing from target in our sons room to hold toys. in our basement there is a play area with a toddler slide, swing, small ball pit, a discovery kids tent and some toys. we live in the country and its really muddy so we needed an indoor play area. i watch while hes playing with toys and if its something he doesn’t have interest in after a few times i usually give it away”
Get Creative With Toy Storage
There are so many ways and places you can store toys. Under bed, in dressers, in drawers in your family room…an obvious great source for good ideas on toy storage ideas is Pinterest. I have some ideas on my Play Room board and some in my Organizing board. You can do a simple search on “Toy organization” and find a lot of great ideas and find ones that make sense for your space.
Use Totes or Bins for Storing Toys
This post contains affiliate links. A good old reliable form of toy storage is to put the toys by groups into plastic rubbermaid-type totes or to use baskets in the IKEA type bookcases or something similar. We use both of those methods for books and toys frequently.
The tricky thing with the totes and bins method is you either need to commit to being present when all toys are cleaned up or you need to commit to remaining calm when the items are put back in the wrong bin. You can label and that can help, but things will get put away wrong and you will need to go through them every so often to re-organize. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing; re-organizing is a good chance to get rid of things. It does take time and it does add to your to-do list.
Erin said: “My son has hundreds of little trucks. To stay sane, they are all sorted into separate plastic bins (tractors, hot wheels, diggers, monster trucks, etc). He’s allowed to have 2 bins out at a time. If he wants a different type of truck, he has to clean up and trade one in. Keeps me from having to see hundreds on the floor at the same time, and him from spending 2 hours cleaning them all up. “
Donate (or Store) What Isn’t Played With
Like I said, it is easiest to keep things clean when you have less stuff than you have space for. That means you need to get rid of things when you run out of space. If you run out of toy space in the house, but you have storage space, doing toy rotation is fantastic (see below for more).
If you don’t have space for storage, donate your toys. You could also sell them on classifieds. Get them out of the house and into someone else’s house.
There just isn’t much point in keeping out something that rarely gets touched. Getting it out of the way will keep things cleaner and will likely keep your child more engaged in what IS there since there won’t be too many options.
The concept for rotating toys is simple. You have some toys out that can be accessed. You have some toys stored away somewhere that is out of sight and out of reach. Every so often, you take the toys out of storage, add them to what can be accessed, then put away other toys. This keeps toys interesting and fresh. It is like Christmas every so often. You can decide how often to rotate. I usually like 2-4 weeks.
Elizabeth said: “For my little girl, her obsession is books! We have three ‘loads’ that I separated carefully balancing it out (fiction, non fiction, a kipper book in each pile etc) and I rotate them every 3 weeks or so. That way, her book shelf isn’t a constant mess and she can actually see almost all her books at a glance.
I’m about to redo our craft cupboard. But I did recently buy new drinking glasses and the box it came in made a perfect ‘craft caddy’ for my three year old. She got a stash of crayola for Christmas but I didn’t feel good about her using everything at once. So I chose a selection of things and now she has a jar of 8 markers, 12 crayons, glue stick, scissors etc all in one caddy. I don’t have to hunt for lids or missing things because there are only a few things to keep track of!”
Tips For Keeping Things Clean
1-Limit how much is out–this is when toy rotation comes in handy.
2-Have clean-up rules–have a rule that toys have to be cleaned up before they move on to a new toy. You should also have your child help. Children are more likely to be careful about what they get out if they have to help clean up.
3-Don’t buy too many–When it comes time for Christmas or birthdays, be aware of your available space when buying new toys. There are a lot of fun toys out there! You probably don’t have space for all of the ones your child would love, and that is perfectly okay!
2-Toy time out–If your child won’t keep things clean or help clean, have a consequence. Take toys away if your child won’t help clean up.
Christina said: “I use a ton of 31 bags to organize toys. I also have a TOY TIME OUT BAG that gets filled with the toys left on the floor for my daughter to earn back. I do frequently purge toys as well by donating them or saving them and rotating them out, but since I don’t have much time to rotate toys, they are either organized and put away, in time out, or gone. LOL”
Diedre said: “All our toys are sorted by type into plastic boxes with lids. These are placed on a small shelf in their playroom. Depending on the size of the toys (some things are in slightly bigger boxes) the shelf will fit 6-8 boxes/items. They also get to have 4 larger items (think dress-up box, doll house, etc) that just stay on the floor around the room. Anything that doesn’t fit on the shelf goes into a closet. This gives the kids a variety of things to choose from without having too much to clean up.
Any time they clean-up without whining, or do an extra big job around the house, or anything else I decide is worth it, they get to trade one item from the shelf/floor of the toy room for one out of the closet. This way I get willing helpers, the toys get rotated, and everyone is happy.”
Toys definitely have the potential and power to take over your home, but it doesn’t have to be that way! You can utilize these ideas to keep control over the toys and not let the toys control you.
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