Toys come into our homes for any number of birthday and holiday celebrations over the course of the year. This constantly challenges us to find a way keep our play areas clean and organized. I think everyone one of us has stepped on that random car or block, causing that ear-piercing scream of pure pain and agony! Developing a system that is easy to use will keep your play areas clutter-free and safe, and it will help teach young children some basic responsibilities. Whether you have a large home or a small apartment, there is a solution for everyone!
Will you transform an entire room, closet, or just add a bookshelf? Do research, take measurements, and carefully plan your attack. Some companies like the Container Store who sell storage solutions will help you design an entire wall, closet or room for free.
Write down a list of categories to help organize the toys currently in your space. Some suggestions might include books, cars, dolls, puzzles, kitchen, and games.
Sort through the toys and discard ones that are broken or have missing pieces that could potentially be a safety hazard. Routinely cleaning out the toy room or box a month prior to the holidays and birthdays will help make space for the new arrivals.
Place your toys into bins or containers and find a new home for them in the closet or on the shelf.
Take a picture of the toy and print two copies. Place one picture on the bin and the other directly on the shelf where the bin will be stored. This will help children remember what goes in each bin and will encourage them to put the bin back in the proper location.
Place game pieces or puzzle pieces inside a sealable plastic bag or container inside the game boxes. If the box opens unexpectedly, small pieces will be organized inside.
Clean-up regularly, such as before lunch and before dinner. Give your child a warning that in 2 minutes it will be time to clean up, flick the lights on and off for a visual cue, and begin to sing a “clean-up” song.
Provide your child with manageable activities to allow them to be successful, even if in the beginning you need to give them a book, hold their hand, walk them to the bookshelf and physically put the book in the bin. As their problem solving skills advance, they will learn to sort by putting all the trucks in one bin and the books in another.
If toys can be accessed all the time, they tend to lose their fun factor. Some people create two bins of toys per age group. They take all the toys from one bin and place them in the playroom, while the other one stays closed and organized on a closet shelf. Every few weeks, swap out the toys in the room for the ones in the closet to provide something new. You might want to rotate toys with friends who have children the same age.
An organizational system for toys needs to be easy to use for it to work consistently. Cleaning up the play area on a daily basis will help teach your child a few simple responsibilities. By taking the time to design a solution that works well for your space, this will improve the longevity of the toys and maintain a safe, clutter-free area where your child can play and expand their imagination.