Ask any parent, and they will confirm the extreme discomfort of inadvertently stepping on a tiny toy, often with a loud sound and one or two words that cannot be repeated. How do we avoid that?! Cleaning up the toys! Which is always easier said than done, am I right?
Toys bring our children so much joy, foster their imaginations and create hours of fun. Yet, storing them can be such a pain in the you know what. This is an endless cycle of conversation that has happened between myself and my mom friends over the years. We all struggle with it and there truly is no perfect system of toy wrangling. However, there are little things that we can do to make things easier on all of us. Things that make it easier for our children to find what they’re looking for and easier for us as parents in cleaning up and maintaining some semblance of order in the play space.
Today, I’m sharing what works for us, and our go-to system of toy storage and organization. After eleven years of tweaking to get it right, we always come back to the same few basics that seem to make all of us content. This system isn’t fancy and most of it comes from scouring Pinterest and my kids’ pre-school classrooms. But it works and makes life a tiny bit easier!
Now, I know that this kind of organization isn’t for everyone and I completely respect that. I’ve learned that when my kids cannot easily find a toy or a group of toys they get frustrated. It’s also much easier for clean up on them and anyone else who comes to our house. I try to make this similar to how I see my kids’ preschool teachers organize toys in their classrooms and stick to general categories. When it comes to really small toys, I stick to very clear groupings. Larger toys can go into larger categories. The smaller the toy, the smaller the category break down.
Now, let’s break it down, shall we?
I like to empty everything and group them into categories to start. Yes, it will be messy and overwhelming, but it will work! Here are the categories I sort into:
1. Books – As much as I would love to go all Home Edit and organize the books into color groupings, that just doesn’t make sense for us. The kids have a hard time putting the books back on the shelf properly, so there is no rhyme or reason to the them. I just go through every couple of days and make sure they are even and none have fallen in the back. We keep these on the top shelf so that little hands don’t rip them apart.
2. Large Toys – Large toys go on a shelf, the top of the bookshelf or on top of the smaller drawers. I spread them out and give them space so that they bring color into the area. As much as my kids love their large toys, they are also the ones they play with the least. Therefore, I keep them up higher.
3. Stuffed Animals and Dolls – I have such a love and hate relationship with stuffed animals. They’re adorable but they take up so much space! I keep smaller ones in soft sided baskets. Larger ones go into the kids’ rooms. I also keep Riley’s baby dolls and their accessories in the soft sided baskets, but in separate ones.
4. Miscellaneous Toys – All of the random toys that don’t necessarily belong in groups go into hard sided baskets. It makes for easy clean up as they are the most frequently touched toys. For easy clean up, we throw everything that fits into these baskets. I go through these baskets every week or so and take out anything that doesn’t belong. If I have art related toys, I will use clear shoe bins or binder bins to store them on the shelves. I try to find things we have on hand for these as they change frequently!
5. Large Groups of Toys – This is where we divide! I group the toys by category (tea party, Shopkins, characters) and keep them sorted as such. It makes life so much easier when the kids are looking for something in particular. When they’re Riley’s age it makes playtime very easy. I can pull out a drawer and she will be occupied with it for a few minutes, then we clean up and move on to the next. This helps so much with teaching clean up skills as well!
What To Use
Let me fully clear about this – Ikea is your best friend when it comes to toy organization. Kids are so hard on furniture and bins, and there is no reason to break the bank on these things. Ikea has such basic pieces that can be multifunctional and aren’t completely hideous. The Kallax has been our go-to for years, as well as the Trofast (the drawers.) Both Amazon and Target have bins that can fit the Kallax cubbies and cost less than $10 each. We are currently using Ikea Branas baskets on the bottom shelf and old soft sided baskets from Land of Nod on the second shelf. I found almost identical ones here though!
Again, you do not need to spend a fortune on storage items! Check Target, Walmart, Amazon and Ikea for awesome bins and baskets. I highly recommend using the Kallax as your base and working from there filling in as you go. If you’re not near an Ikea, don’t fear! Target and Amazon both have similar versions of square cube shelving! I’m going to link everything in sliders that is similar from both retailers. And if Ikea is too overwhelming (I get that, trust me) then make sure to use their online order and pick up system. It is more than worth the $5 to avoid going into the store and dealing with the crowds. Also, shop your house! I often find bins we are using elsewhere that work perfectly for toy storage!
Finally, the last step and possibly the most important – labeling! Do we need labels for our toddlers who have no understanding of the alphabet? Probably not. Do our older children follow the labels when they see them? Again, probably not. But, and this is a big but, they work! When we have friends over it makes things easier for everyone. There is no asking if we may have a certain type of toy or wondering where something goes when we are done. When I’m in a rush trying to clean up, a glance at the labels saves me a few minutes searching for the right place to put a particular toy. Plus, they give everything a nice finished look.
The labels I’m using are from Michael’s, but I don’t love them so I’m not going to recommend them. I’m going to replace them in the very near future and will let you know what I find!
. . . . .
Thank you so much for letting me share this with you. It’s my little labor of love (constantly) and a semi-tidy playroom makes us all a little happier!