Let’s talk about toy storage. I know, I know, some days it may seem like your kid’s toy box exploded all over every room of your house. Maybe some of you stepped on a LEGO this morning (And before morning coffee! is there anything worse?!)
Toy storage can be a battle. You need a place for everything, but all the bins are overflowing, and nothing ever gets put back the way you want it, and you’re tired of your living room looking like a kid’s room and….and….and….
Slow down, mama!
Toy storage is something you can handle, and I’m going to show you how. You can watch my video below to see how I organize my own home, or keep reading to hear all those little tips and tricks.
TOY STORAGE: HOW I IDID IT
The first thing I did when figuring out exactly how I wanted to organize all the toys for my kiddos is figure out where I wanted the toys to be. Who knew the first step to perfect toy storage was figuring out where to store the toys?
This may seem like a no-brainer, but I encourage you to take some time with this decision. My kids don’t have a designated play room and I didn’t want their toys to have different storage places all over the house. Instead, I found one centralized location where all their playing could be contained (well, as contained as any 4 and 6 year old can be.
For us, that room was the living room. I didn’t originally put the toys in the living room, but the living room is where we all spend the most time together, and so toys were migrating there anyway. When I wasn’t keeping toys in the living room, I realized at the end of play time or at the end of the day, we were just picking up toys in the living room and taking them back to other locations around the house. It got quite exhausting (especially when you have to make a couple trips up the stairs! Whew!)
So, I decided to embrace it and just keep all the toy storage in the living room! And I actually found that I love having the toys right where we are and where we spend the most time. It’s also super easy to keep an eye on my kiddos as they play. Our living room is right next to the kitchen so they stay in my line of sight even if I want to clean up the kitchen or do some cooking.
But my favorite thing about toy storage in the living room is that it contained the mess! There’s really only one place they play with toys and it’s right by where I keep the storage bins, so clean up is a breeze.
As my kids have gotten older, they have some toys in their bedroom, so not every single toy my kids have is kept in the living room, but the majority of them are. The toys in their room are primarily toys that are specific to that child. For example, my son, Timothy, loves trucks and trains, but my daughter, Savannah, isn’t too into them. So, I have bins for trucks and trains in Timothy’s room and if some of those toys migrate into the living room bins – that’s fine! The important thing is that the toys go back in a bin.
I know what you’re thinking! “But, Laura, I don’t want my living room to look like a playroom!” Don’t worry, I don’t either! I actually made my kid’s toy storage happen with cube shelves and baskets from IKEA. The baskets don’t even look like they would have kids toys. I actually have guests who are surprised when one of my kids pulls a toy Noah’s Ark out of the baskets in the living room!
I have a shelf that allows room for 8 baskets. The baskets I purchased for toy storage are perfect squares – meaning I don’t lose any space! Some baskets or bins curve in at the bottom so that they are stackable, but with toy storage I needed all the room I could get!
I also don’t have any labels on my baskets. What?! You all know how much I love labels, and if I thought my family needed them, they’d be there! But toy storage in this stage is a little different. I don’t have a perfect spot for every toy in my home. Instead, my kiddos just know that their toys go in one of these 8 baskets. If they need to search through a bin or two to find what they’re looking for, it’s not a huge deal. The bins aren’t perfectly organized all the time, but that’s okay! They don’t have to be. The best thing for me and my family is that the kids know where to find their toys and where to put them away. We can all use a little flexibility!
The only thing to really note about the baskets is that they aren’t completely full. I have a basket or two that have bigger items (like our Little People Big Helpers Home that takes up a whole basket on its own!) but for the most part, the bins remain about halfway filled. The reason for this is so that it’s easy to add to the bins or shift them around so the kids can easily find what they need. If the bins were completely full to the brim, it would require a lot more work on my part to make sure they were in perfect order so they could fit back on the shelf.
That’s all there is to it with my system! This is a system that works for me, so you may need to tweak it to fit the needs of your family. And, if you’re ready to get started, let’s jump right into the 4 steps to organizational bliss.
TOY STORAGE: HOW YOU CAN DO IT
Step 1: Take Everything Out If it seems reasonable for you to tackle in one day, take all the toys in the house and put them into one place. This step is really for seeing exactly how many toys your kids have and how much of each type of toy there is. It can be shocking exactly how much there is! We buy our kids toys, they get toys from other people, and sometimes they even bring home toys from a school craft or a play date. Before you can really organize your toy storage, you need to know all the things you’re storing!
Step 2: Sort Toys into Categories This is the step where you really dig in and decide where you want to keep the toys. Do you have a playroom where everything goes? How much of the toys will stay in the children’s rooms? Do you want to try for living room storage?
As I said before, I keep toys in the living room. But there are a couple toys in their rooms, in craft closets, and even some games and books on a rolling cart. So, while it’s true that most of the toys are in the living room, there are a handful of places my kids can go to find their entertainment. Dividing your toys into categories is going to help you decide which spaces you want to keep kid friendly and what spaces you want to clear out.
This is also a good step to see exactly how much of each type of toy your kids have. Maybe it is even a good time for some downsizing! There’s only so many toy trucks a kid can have, am I right? And that leads us right into step 3…
Step 3: Get Rid of Unwanted Toys Go through all your categories of toys and decide what is good to keep. If you or your kids come across anything that they don’t need, put it right into a donate box – don’t wait! This is a good thing to do as you’re doing step 2. If you pick up a toy you know your child doesn’t play with anymore, no need to sort it! Toss it right into the donation box instead of moving it twice.
If this is tough for you (or your kiddo), here are a couple good questions to ask:
Is there room for all the toys you have? If not, work toward narrowing it down to the child’s absolute favorites.
Has the child played with the toy in the last 3-6 months?
Are you keeping this toy for sentimental reasons? Is there a friend or family member you could pass it on to?
Is there another toy the child likes more? Comparisons work great for younger kids! (example: would you rather have this truck or this truck? Would you rather have this action figure or two trains? etc)
Step 4: Give Every Toy a Home Now that you’ve decided where everything will go and what to keep, it’s time for every toy to find a home! Oftentimes, the reason clutter happens is because an item doesn’t have a proper place. This is even more true for kids! Establish where toys go, how cleanup time works, and encourage your kids to do these steps on their own!
The home for every toy doesn’t have to be extremely specific. Again, my kids are a little younger and so our toy bins aren’t 100% organized. But they don’t need to be! They know their toys go in those bins and that’s what they do. As long as our little family is healthy and happy, what more could I ask for?
Lastly, a couple more tips and tricks to keep your toy organization looking top notch!
Be flexible: At one point in time, Timothy was really loving a couple puzzles that were in Savannah's room. He would bring them down to the living room to play with them so often, that eventually I just rolled with it! The puzzles now stay in the living room instead.
6 Month Check In: About every 6 months, or once a year, go through the toys with your kids and see if there is anything that can be donated or passed down. This is also a great time to check for broken toys.
Monthly or Every Other Month Check In: Every couple of months, I take everything out of the bins and reorganize them. I use this time to think about the goals I want to set with my kids. I don’t care if my kids put things away in the right baskets, I only care if they clean up. As they get older, I may work more at having specific bins for specific types of toys, but for now, I’m okay just teaching my kids the basics.
Keep Books on Every Level: My kids love snuggling up with a book – and I do, too! I like to keep books on every level of the home. I mostly do this so that they have easy access to reading – a habit I want to encourage! If there’s a habit or toy you want to encourage your kids to invest their time in, consider having it in multiple locations.
Toy storage can sometimes be overwhelming, so my biggest tip to you is to stick with it! Invite your kids into the process, get a spouse or friend for backup, and get going! The best thing you can do is start. Remember, you don’t have to figure it all out today, but you can start thinking about how you want to approach toy storage and use these strategies to help you out!
I can’t wait to hear all about your own toy storage solutions! Tell me all about your process (and how these tips may have helped you) in the comments!
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