How to Organize Children’s Toys

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Toys, books, and other kid stuff make a home fun and playful. Yet sometimes, it can become too much stuff. It’s hard to manage it all and still give your children a fun atmosphere to live and play in. 

Today, as part of Zone Defense, contributor Prerna shares some tips for Toy Management.

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Ever wonder how kids’ toys just seem to multiply and take over the house? Add books, sporting equipment, board games and other random stuff to the mix, and we’re talking about BIG trouble.

Here are some tips to organize and contain children’s toys and stuff:

1. One In, One Out

We have this rule at our home where whenever we get a new toy, we look through the old ones to see which one we can donate or give away. The same is true for books and clothes.

The one-in, one-out rule not only helps keep kiddie clutter under control but also make buying decisions more thoughtful. Kids, especially kindergartners, tend to not want another toy when it means they’ll have to give up one they already own. We call it the Buy Less, Give More rule.

“Mama, I want another doll”
“Sure, sweetie. Which one do you want to give away then?”
“Umm… I wanna keep them all”
“Then, baby, you can’t have another doll. Because when a new doll comes in, one of your older ones has to go to another baby.”
“Oh.. okay.. I no want then.”

See? Clutter control and save money too!

2. Give Everything a Home

Yes, let kids know where things go by fixing a ‘home’ for them. Books in the shelf or cabinet, toys where they belong and bags and sporting stuff on hooks. Make the ‘homes’ easy-to-access so that kids, as young as they are, can easily put away their stuff when they’re done with it.

3. Think Creative for Small Toy Storage

Generally, the bane of our lives as moms is not the big toys but the small ones. You know, Lego pieces, cars, dolls’ clothes and so on. Get the small stuff organized using boxes or buckets, Ziploc bags and even, egg cartons.

Empty egg cartons, for instance, hold my daughter’s dolls’ accessories. Kid-sized, beach buckets are what we store her cars in. Keep the small toy clutter under control and you’ll have a much neater room.

For more inspiration, check out these fun ways to stay organized as a family.

4. Use Toy and Book Rotation

Finally, and this again, is a biggie. Rotate toys and books. Don’t keep ALL the toys out ALL the time always.

Have a stash in deep storage and bring it out every two weeks or maybe every month and put the old one away. Not only will this keep clutter under control but will also boost the novelty factor for kids. It keeps things fun without being out of control.

How do you keep kids’ toys organized and clutter under control?

Prerna Malik posing for the camera.

— Prerna Malik is a mom, a wife, a writer and woman who believes in parenting with love, being postively productive, and creating a home that invites you to put your feet up and relax.

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  1. My absolute most favourite tip is a very cheap one. Use an old sheet for toys like lego, Barbies etc, things that have loads of little bits and are always played with together. We spread sheet out over the floor and most of the playing is done on the sheet. When its time to pack up, all my daughter has to do is pick up the few pieces that have ended up around the room and put them on the sheet. Then I pick up the four corners and dump it all, sheet included into a large crate or wheelie bin which is then put out of sight. So quick and easy to clean up. It has saved us so many tears since we started doing this. I also have a rule that the floor has to be tidy before we get out a set like that.

  2. My parents had a great way for keeping stuffed animals in check. My dad took a long board/post that went from floor to ceiling (looked kind of like a coat tree) and added dowels sticking out from the sides at a slight upward angle. My mom sewed white rings to the top of all our animals and they then got hung on a dowel. You could only have as many stuffed animals as there were dowels.

  3. One thing that really helps kids is being able to see what goes in which bin. Clear bins labeled with a picture and the toy name on the outside are great ways to help them be more independent in cleaning up while also building language skills. Labeling the shelves also helps them know which bin goes where and where to put items that don’t go in a bin. If you do a lot of rotating you could use shapes and make a key on the side of the shelf/wall as to which item currently goes in which bin.

    I also like the small rolling stacking drawers. I can fill the drawers and then move them around the house. This helps if I want the kids to play in the living room but I don’t want to have the toys constantly out.

    Diaper boxes and wipes containers are great for storage both in their room and tucked away. I also like using wipes containers when traveling and taking toys with us. Most small toys (little people, little pet shop, cars, legs etc) fit perfectly and you can take a small # that is just enough.

    For things like doll/barbie clothes we use a backpack, once it is zipped up you don’t have to see it can can use a hanger or hook in the closet to store. We also use a backpack to store barbie dolls and other dolls.

    Empty zip bags from items like carseats or bedding sets are great for storing stuffed animals. We rotate animals so always have a bag stuffed with animals and this keeps them fresh, clean, contained and stored in a manner that can be easily placed on a shelf or in a corner.

  4. We’ve begun using large plastic coffee containers, etc. to sort and store small toys. I’m not crafty at all, so my labels are just construction paper taped on the canisters and handwritten with marker. The way they’re labeled also helps my little guy with his sorting skills — deciding whether the piece goes in the “people” or “animals” bucket, etc. I agree, though — it’s those little pieces that are such a hassle. Still, I know we are blessed that our little one has toys at all. 🙂

  5. This is a perfectly timed post for me… I’ve been trying to decide how/where to put my 2-year-old daughter’s toys etc. as we prepare for baby #2. Some stuff is in her room, some in the living room, some downstairs (unfinished). This gives me inspiration, especially for small toy storage!

  6. I just finished going through our daughter’s room and reorganizing and rotating toys this morning. We rotate toys every month(ish) so it’s a great time to find missing pieces under dressers and get everything to match up again.

  7. I babysit my grandson. I have to monitor my grandson’s toy usage when I watch him. Now that he is almost 3 he cooperates much better at putting something away before the next toy comes out. I have bins and boxes to hold stuff and would even use rotation system more if I could get his mom to go along with all this. Unfortunately she would rather just let him drag everything out and not help him put things away one at a time. Oh well.

  8. I made homes for everything and she still just shoves her things wherever. I ask her to pick up her stuff in the living room and I find it all stuffed on the bookcase! It means she has to pick up everything and put it away again, but double the work apparently doesn’t deter her! 🙁

  9. Great list! But be prepared for more discussion on the “one in, one out” rule. My clever daughter dug out a pile of her brother’s toys and asked “So how many new toys can I get for this?” ; )