Natalie Oman, LA based mom of two daughters and a yorkie, encourages moms to take 5 minutes (or less) to improve their lives at her Instagram @5minMommy. Below are some tips to help you organize your playroom.
Can’t live with them, can’t live without them. Where do they come from? How many do you actually have? Why do they seem to multiply at night?
As moms, nothing can be more frustrating than wrangling toys. At least for me anyway…
Do you struggle with the toy-multitude like I do? I have been searching “toy storage,” “toy organization,” “playroom hacks,” and “purging toys” since the day my first kid was able to hold a toy.
So what do we do? All of us exasperated moms that clean up the puzzles only to turn around and discover a mess of toy cars, so we clean up the cars only to turn around and discover a mess of crayons and coloring books…. and so it goes. on and on.
Well, it has taken a lot of trial and error, but I have come up with some ideas for you on how to minimize the clutter and maximize the play. Free printable checklist below.
Designate a Play Space and take stock of how much space you have. The space can be in their bedroom, in a playroom, or in part of another room (like the living room). Make sure this space can only be used for playing and it is a “yes” zone for the kids- free from breakables, adult decor, etc. If you are designating a spot in their bedroom, make sure there is still ample space for bed and sleep- putting toys too close to the bed can cause some little troublemakers to stay up and play all night instead of going to bed… not that my kids would do such a thing *ahem* Figure out how much storage you have- 6 bins? 2 book shelves? one wall of cubbies? It is important to take stock of the space you have instead of falling into the “I bet it could fit here” syndrome of packing things in. That’s not what this is about. This is about streamlining and organizing to maximize FUN and PLAY and LIFE- don’t you want that for your kids and yourself?!
Compile and group ALL the toys into categories and decide what to keep and what to give away/throw away. Taking stock of all that you have can be really helpful when you are deciding what to keep and what to toss/donate. So get them ALL out. Every last one. This process is gonna take some time so give yourself time to do it- don’t try to do this with only 15min of spare time and a whiny toddler following you around…unless that’s all the time you have in which case it’s better to start asap. Categorize toys into groups- building (blocks, legos), Figurines (dolls, action figures, plastic animals), Puzzles, Stuffed Animals, Dress Up Clothes, Home (play food, play plates/cups, play cleaning supplies), Arts/Crafts, etc. Immediately purge the broken toys. Next purge all the toys with missing pieces. Next purge all the toys that you dislike (I cannot stand certain toys that my kids play with so now I just toss them and save myself the aggravation. Somehow I think my kids like having a mom that doesn’t say, “Mommy doesn’t like that toy, can you play with something else?” cause what’s the point of having said toy if you can’t play with it…) Next purge all the toys your kids don’t play with- this can be hard for us adults. I’ve asked my 3 year old a few times to fill a box with toys to donate and every time she will toss something in that makes me cringe. I keep thinking, “Well, what if your Grandma comes to see us and asks about that toy?” or “but that toy probably cost your Aunt $100…” Stay strong, mama. If it is truly something you cannot part with because of family obligations or whatnot, set it aside for a toy rotation bin for the future. If they get something for Christmas that they aren’t into, save it for July and see if they like it then. Take a look at what you have left and continue to purge until you are comfortable with the amount of stuff taking up space in your life/house.
Find a spot for each category of toy and label it. Try to think in terms of ease of use, frequency, ease of cleanup, etc. It might make sense to keep puzzles higher up so they are out of reach of smaller children and put stuffed animals in bins on the floor. Then LABEL each area (with pictures or words depending on kids age). You can search Pinterest for free toy labels with words and pictures. You really want to make sure you label in a way that your kids understand- my 3 year old can put her own toys away as long as there is a picture on each bin! If the spot gets full before you put all the toys of that category away, do some more purging. Seriously, if all the stuffed animals don’t fit into the bin unless you sit on the lid while trying to close it, can you realistically expect your kids to do the same when they clean up the room? No? Well those 3 extra stuffed animals strewn about the floor does not a clean room make. In our house we have a chest of dress up clothes, two small plastic bins for stuffed animals, one bin for legos and building toys, one bin for small hard toys (birthday party favors, animal figurines, hard plastic alphabet letters), one bin for dolls and accessories, one bin for books, one drawer for puzzles and there are a couple free standing toys in our empty cubbies. Everything has a place.
Toy Bin Rotation (optional). Some moms find it easier to put a few of each category of toy into different bins- one for each day/week/month. So a bin for December might have a few building blocks, Holiday books/toys, a puzzle, and one musical instrument whereas a bin for July might have bubbles, swim toys, summer-time books/games/etc. (unless you live in the southern hemisphere). If you do a daily/weekly/monthly toy rotation, label bins with number in rotation or a month and decide that when one goes in, others go out. This works especially well for seasonal books/toys- ie. Christmas books go in December bin, Pumpkin books go in October, etc. It also works really well if you have incredibly limited play space, short toy attention spans, or you have too many toys to keep out all at once. I confess that the first time I tried monthly toy bins was just after a move to a new house. I had already purged the heck out of most of our belongings. When I started putting toys/books into the bins, I had enough toys to stock their room with the basics (legos, dress up clothes, etc) PLUS a monthly bin of seasonal toys for 8 months!!! Can you believe it?! We live in 1200 square feet and the girls play space is in their bedroom… What?! They were only 3 years and 6months old at the time. How do such tiny humans acquire so much stuff?! I clearly had more purging to do, LOL. ea
Teach your kids what goes where. This is one of the most important steps. Don’t expect their little brains to understand your organizational scheme without walking them through each bin/shelf. Show them the labels- if your child can’t read, make sure there are pictures. Open each bin so they can see exactly what toys are in there. If the label shows legos but you also want them to put in the building blocks in there too, open the bin and tell them both should live there. Show them what a clean playroom looks like and tell them that at cleanup time, this is what it needs to look like. Help them at clean up time the first few times as they learn how/where to put things away.
Create a plan for new toys. Giving gifts is a joy- especially giving toys to children. So it goes without saying that there will be more toys coming. Make a plan for how your family responds. Maybe you do “one toy in, one toy out” rule. Maybe you make a habit of “Holiday season donations” and mark the purge/donating on your calendar. Maybe you decide that at holidays and birthdays you need to ask for experiences, memberships, playdates, or cash for savings rather than toy presents. Whatever you decide, make sure the entire family knows the rule and is on board with the implementation.
What are your tips for the playroom/space? Comment with your tips and tricks.