Toy Organization 101: 5 Tips for Organizing Toys
Updated: Aug 13
If you have kids then you know that keeping up with the toys and books and games that accumulate in your home can often feel like a full time job (on top of all the other things parents do all day!) However, toy organization doesn't have to be stressful! We've organized many playrooms and have learned a few things along the way. Here are some tips to help you declutter, organize, and simplify the toys in your home!
Start with a solid plan in place! This is probably the most intimidating step for any parent but set aside several hours to really dedicated to going through the toys your kids have. We suggest that you put it on your calendar just like you would any other appointment or an important meeting. Sometimes just carving out the time and starting a project is the hardest step!
Before you get started, set out the following items:
A bag for trash (all those broken pieces, kits with missing items, and toys too used and worn down to merit keeping).
A box for items you will donate
A box for items to keep for sentimental reasons OR to save for when kids are older
Now it's time for what we like to call a ruthless edit! Let's face it...you only have so much storage space and kids do NOT need as much stuff as most of them have! If you have young kids, we recommend doing this part without them around because they often have a hard time parting with things.
Start by gathering all the toys in your house or in a room (if you prefer to break it up into smaller projects) and start going through each item. This can feel overwhelming but just start somewhere! As you pick up each item, decide which to keep, donate or trash. If your kids no longer play with the toy, if they've outgrown it, or if it's not age appropriate (i.e. a puzzle too complex for your 5-year old) then start sorting items into the categories we outlined in step 1.
This is the part that takes the longest! Remember: Only keep what you absolutely know your kids will play with. Our motto is less if often more! Kids tend to actually play with toys when fewer choices are presented to them. Just like adults, they get overwhelmed and crave order and simplicity. So don't be afraid to purge anything that no longer serves its purpose. We promise, you'll feel so much better after this process!
3. Toy Storage
Once you've gone through all the toys, it's time to sort what is left. The best way to do this is to simply create catgorized piles or use empty bins for sorting. Some common categories are:
Games and puzzles
Dress up clothes
All other toys (Barbies, cars and trucks, GI Joe's, Little People, Paw Patrol, etc.)
Once you've categorized all the toys you have, it's time to contain them!
Here are some of our favorite storage solutions for each of these categories.
Consider desigating a cabinet, drawer or even creating an art cart for containing art supplies. Keep them near the space where the kids will actually use them (such as near the kitchen table or art room if you have one). We love this art cart from Target and these acrylic containers from The Home Edit to contain all the supplies.
Instead of letting the stuffed animals pile up on the floor, use a few deep baskets or fabric bins to hold them. We love these fabric bins from Target and also these HomeGoods baskets. We always suggest purchasing several of the same type so everything looks simple and consistent.
Games and Puzzles:
We love these Amazon zip pouches to hold any small arts and craft kits, games with little pieces, and even puzzles. Once you take things out of boxes, you'll be amazed at how much space you can save! Other storage options are inexpensive stackable bins with lids like these from Target.
Dress Up Clothes:
Just like laundry, dress up clothes can be contained in a simple laundry basket such as this Brightroom Target laundry bin. When it's time to clean up, kids can easily toss the clothes into the basket.
All other toys:
Because toys come in multiple shapes, sizes and we love a cube shelf like this one from Target which utilizes vertical space and also has divided sections to help with simple organization. We often get asked what bins fit into the Target cube shelf. The opening is 13x13 so there are lots of options! Some of our favorite bins are these Target y-weave baskets and, the Target Brightroom Acrylic containers and the multipurpose bins from the Container Store (can sit side by side in a cubby for more sorting options).
Once you've contained everything, it's time to create a sustainable system by labeling each category. It's not neccessary to get overly specific here (green trucks, red legos, etc.) but rather think in broad categories (Cars, My Little Pony, Princess toys, Legos) The goal here is to create a clearly labled "home" for every item. This not only helps kids see what they have, and find what they want to play with but when it's time to clean up, kids know where to put things.
So you've sorted, contained and labeled and now you just need to keep things this way! Maintaining an organized system is often what stresses parents out the most, but we promise, your kids can learn to tidy up and follow a routine. Have you evern noticed that in a preschool classroom, kids are willingly picking up toys and putting things away when the teacher asks? There's a few reasons why this works and you can use these same principals in your own home.
First, routines are key! Pick a time each day for clean up and make it part of the daily routine. For most families, this is after dinner and in preparation for bedtime but it can be anytime kids are finished with something (for example: if all the art supplies are on the kitchen table and your kids are about to go outside to play, tell them they must put the markers away before they can go. And stand firm! There will be protesting but simple tasks like this only take a couple minutes).
Remember that younger kids will need some extra coaching but all kids can put things away when asked. In the evening, all toys in their room or the playroom should be put away as well. Forming the habit of doing this is key! Tidying up toys and clothes should be right up there with brushing teeth and putting on PJ's! Once kids get used to this, clean up will be easier for everyone.
Make it fun! For younger kids, this might involve a "clean up" song and for older kids it might involve a rewards system of some sort. One idea we've implemented at times is to give each child an empty bin, set a timer and say "GO!" Whoever collects and puts away the most toys wins. Kids thrive on a little competition and some simple rewards!
Set realistic expectations: Remember, the end result doesn't have to be perfect! Be patient and, most importantly, model the behavior you want your children to imitate. As parents, we often forget that they are constantly watching us. If you want your kids to tidy up, you have to set a good example in putting your own things away. And most importantly, be consistent and don't give up! Change is always hard at first, but if you stick with it, we promise, your kids will learn new habits and how to stick with them!