As a professional organizer, I work with a lot of families, and invariably I get asked how to organize kids’ toys. Ho boy! Can I relate! In my own house, I can see how fast my kiddo can make a mess and how quickly he can cover a surface (floor, table) with a project. So here are a few tricks I have found over the years that work:
Weed out the toys the kids have outgrown. The best way I have found to do this is to let kids have a garage sale where they can sell (and keep!) the money from the toys they sell. The more they let go of, the more money they make. Be sure to promise to take them to a toy store pretty soon after the garage sale so they can reap the reward of letting go of their old toys.
Categorize the toys to be kept, and give each category its own bin or shelf. Categories can and should be simple enough for a preschooler to understand. For example, all the toy vehicles go in one bin, all the toy people go in another bin. If you try to get super organized and separate out Playmobile from Lego Minifigures from Disney people, your kids will probably find that too difficult and time-consuming to maintain.
Don’t bother with lids for bins. Lids only get in the way. Instead, plan to store the bins without lids on long, open shelves or in a cubby system like the Ikea KALLAX.
Don’t cram the bins overly full. If things only fit like they are arranged like puzzle pieces inside the bin, your child will find that too hard to maintain and won’t use it.
Label each bin or shelf so kids (and helper adults) know where to put things when it comes time to clean up. This is what teachers do in preschool classrooms when they are teaching children to clean up after themselves. Your labels can simply be pictures of the toys you find online, print out and tape to the front of the bin. No fancy hand-lettered chalkboard labels are needed.
Only keep an amount of toys in the playroom that can be cleaned up in about 10-15 minutes. If you have 30+ bins of toys in your playroom, your kiddo could make a mess that requires an hour or more of clean-up. That’s an hour’s-worth of tears and frustration you have to listen to when you tell your kid to pick up their mess! Save yourself from that pointless agony by putting any extra toys into rotation. This means you get a big box, write an “open by” date on the box 6 months from today’s date, box up an assortment of toys, and put the whole box out into the garage, away from curious kids. You can set an appointment in your phone’s calendar to remind you when to open this box.
By following these 6 guidelines, you will be well on your way to creating a more manageable playspace for your kids that they can maintain themselves. On Thursday, I will write about how to create a daily clean-up routine for the kids so the playroom stays reasonably picked up and orderly.
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