When my son was a toddler, I vowed to keep his toys organized. I would segregate them according to type, keeping all the game pieces with each game and puzzle pieces with each puzzle. I wasn t going to let his toys turn into the unrecognizable piles of junk that I d seen in so many other homes. But now, six years later, as I look around my son s bedroom, I see an old coffee can full of trading cards, glow-in-the-dark stars, rocks and toy cars, and multiple plastic tubs overflowing with action figures, cowboys and Indians, dinosaurs, comic books and more trading cards. My son s desk is even littered with action figures and other little boy treasures. How did I let it get this out of control?
In all fairness, I ve done a pretty good job of keeping game pieces together and I can honestly say I ve never lost a puzzle piece, but what do you do with the rest of the toys to keep them out from under foot and easy to find? Clever planning and imaginative solutions are the answers.
Kids don t like messes any more than adults do and are usually willing to help you get things back in order. They often come up with wonderful organizing ideas as well, so don t be afraid to ask them what they think. Here are some tried and true toy management ideas.
Keep like items together. See-through storage boxes are an all-time favorite for keeping toys organized. They come in all sizes, and since you can see through them, it s easy to identify what s inside. Plastic zipper lock bags in various sizes work well for keeping small sets of toys together, such as army soldiers, zoo animals, etc. A really big plastic tub with rope handles on either side is good for holding basketballs, soccer balls, baseball gloves and balls, jump ropes and other sports equipment.
Be creative in finding ways to keep the craft/paint supplies in order. This can be a fairly large amount of paraphernalia: paper, markers, paints, crayons, scissors, glue, tape, pipe cleaners, glitter glue and pens, etc. Depending on the age of your children, you may want to keep these supplies out of reach or easily accessible. If you have a young child who likes to get into everything, you may want to keep the craft supplies on an upper shelf or in a locked cabinet. On the other hand, if your kids are older, you may want to set up a craft area they can access anytime. If space allows, provide an old table for crafts one that won t mind a little spill of paint or extra glue now and then. Try using a tall, narrow stack of drawers to hold craft supplies. Label the outside of each drawer, so items can be easily and quickly returned to the proper drawer.
For artwork, whether done at school or at home, hang as much of it as you can, if only temporarily. Kids are proud to show off their handiwork and rightly so. Bulletin boards are always a good way to display artwork. Designate one strictly for artwork and rotate the art with the seasons. Hang the bulletin board in the kitchen or family room, so the entire family can enjoy and comment on the budding artist s work.
Another good idea is to keep a few inexpensive picture frames on hand and let your child choose which pieces they d like framed. Rotate the artwork within the frames as new creations appear.
If you have a hard time throwing out your child s artwork, pick up a few plastic tubs and store it. Christmas wrapping boxes also work, as do magazine sleeves with the clear plastic covers. Once a year, go through the art collection with your child and put the best pieces into a scrapbook. Then label it with the grade or year your child created the art. You ll find it fun to look back over the years and see how their talents have developed.
Now that you ve got a good working system for organizing the toys, the trick is to keep them in their place. That will take persistence. But the easiest way to remain in control of them is to train your children to put toys away when they re finished playing with them. Sure, you ll have to remind them daily, and you may need to pitch in to get the job done, but with time, it will become second nature to them and you won t be stepping on or tripping over toys quite as often.