Legos. Matchbox cars. Puzzle pieces. Sports balls. Game pieces. Transformers. Baby bottles. Crayons. Legos. Baby dolls. Tonka trucks. Did I say Legos?
These are items which have caused injury to my feet after stepping on them; items which can often be found beneath my couch cushions, in my garbage disposal, in the toilet, in my closet, in my bath tub, in the car, in our coat closet … need I say more? I know I paint the picture of complete chaos – but much of the time, this is the case. My kids do play with toys … LOTS of toys, in fact. Like many families, we have lost a few Legos to the garbage disposal and had to plunge the occasional toy from the clogged toilet – but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love my babies! I love their toys and the happiness these toys bring them. (Well, I DO have a love-hate relationship with the Legos!)
What I DON’T love is my house being overrun by these toys.
It is important to me that my home be comfortable for all members of our family, as well as all who enter it; as a result, I’m not crazy about toys being out in the middle of the living room when they’re not being used by our kids. Sure, I catch flack from friends – “does your house EVER get messy?” – but I can assure you, it most certainly does. Enter Exhibits A and B:
In spite of the chaos pictured above, I do think it’s important to teach my children that toys – just like everything else – have a place. I try to make these places easily accessible and plentiful around my house so it doesn’t end up looking like my kids run the place (though I can assure you, when they are awake and active, it DEFINITELY appears that that they do!).
I have often been asked by friends how I keep our toys organized; here are some tricks that work well for my family:
- Storing unopened toys: We don’t always have out every toy we own. Many times, brand new toys are put on a shelf in our kids’ closets and pulled down on a fun occasion when a new toy won’t get lost in the shuffle. When that new toy comes down, we try to put a toy or two away or pick one or two toys that we no longer play with that can be donated to someone else.
- Toy box that doubles as an ottoman: We have a storage ottoman in our living room. There is absolutely NO rhyme or reason to what goes in it – we just throw toys in it when we are picking up (enter the “pick up, pick up” song … anyone?). Ours was a wedding gift that used to house our board games and slowly morphed into a toy box. Thank you, Target!
- Book boxes: We have a “book box” which is also kept in our living room. My kids love to read and they typically leave books in the living room; I’m fine with that, but, they have their own place just like my magazines do. I bought ours at Good Ju Ju, but any old box will do. Make sure that the kids know the purpose of the box! We also have a basket downstairs which serves a similar purpose.
- Bookshelves: Each of my children has a bookshelf (like this) in their bedroom. I love an organized bookcase – who doesn’t? – but I also know that my five- and two-year-olds are not concerned with the spines facing out or the heights matching up. Right now, I’m just happy they know that a book goes on a bookshelf. 😉
- Toy bins: Both kids have at least one bin in their bedrooms for their toys. Again, no rhyme or reason as to what gets tossed in them; the funny thing is, they are almost always able to find the toys they want to play with. I picked the bins up at Target during a post-summer clearance sale, but bins like these are often easy to find and cheap!
- Made-with-love toy box: We have one giant, made-by-Granddaddy toy box in our basement. (Thanks, Dad!) We absolutely love it! It houses all of the toys which are too big for the bins: the tractors, automobiles, wooden horses, airplanes, Little People … you get the idea. If you are fortunate enough to have the space for something like this, then I highly suggest that you do!
- Use bigger toys as storage: My kids love their Tee-Pee which we also keep in our basement and which houses yet another bin of toys. The tee-pee is easy on the eyes (it’s quite cute, if you ask me!) and carefully hides the toys inside.
- Coat hook: A cute mirror/coat hook (like this) which was previously used for coats in our entryway is now home to all of our dress-up costumes, hats, etc. The kids love their little dress-up area and I love that these items are not thrown on the floor anymore.
- Food storage containers: We are a family that loves snacks, and I quickly figured out that some food storage containers can double as some pretty nifty toy storage containers!
- Kid-only closet space: We have a small, finished, closet-type area under our steps to the basement which we have designated as a “kid-only space.” We pretty much just toss their toys, etc. in it and shut the door! They always seem to find what they need and they love having their own little space, as well.
In addition to these fun storage ideas, I also like to put my own personal stamp on things around our home. For instance, I love the idea of cute little labels on everything and adorable drawstring bags for the smaller toys, but those are Pinterest ideas I haven’t gotten to just yet! I’m also currently loving these super cute storage bins but don’t necessarily have a ton of money to shell out for “cute” storage containers all the time. My son is just now to the point where he recognizes that most things have a place; my daughter, on the other hand, is really proud of herself for throwing her toys in the toy box! Therefore, I’ve found that if nothing else, our toy storage “system” needs to be simple and practical for all involved.
So, these are the tips and tricks that work for my family. They are definitely not fancy, but completely doable for the little hands that I’m trying to teach to “pick up, pick up …” I would love to hear what works in your house!