Thursday, January 12, 2017

Toy Rotation + Organization that WORKS

You guys.  I finally found a toy organization system that works for us.  

Please cue the light bulb ding and some “aha” beams of heavenly light…

I have always been annoyed by the millions of toys scattered around every nook and cranny of my house, but lately it’s reached a new level of horrible.  The older the kids get, the MORE toys we obtain and the more TINY PIECES they have.  
This is been a really pressing issue because of two things…

Do you remember that scene in Home Alone?  With the matchbox cars on the steps?  Yes.  Yes you do.  And you know what happens.  Serious, practically life-threatening injury.  

I like to think my children are appropriately sheltered for their age.  We don’t watch scary movies and we monitor their screen time.  We are careful about the things we say in front of them.  But let me tell you.  When you are on a mission to get out of the house in a hurry and you step on Queen Elsa’s tiny but extremely sharp crown with your bare feet…  Words come out.  They come out of your mouth without any filters.  And then suddenly, my kid is the one at preschool that teaches all the other sweet, innocent children what the s-word really is.  AND, I am a pastor’s wife, so there’s that…

As you can see, toy organization has been a real priority for me.  I haven’t the slightest clue if this same strategy will work for you, but I will pray for your “aha” moment in toy organization all the same, because, let’s face it… Toy organization changes lives, friends. 

First off, STORE MOST OF THE TOYS.  A handful of takeaways in this category...

1) Store toys in drawers, if at all possible.  At first, I bought cheap stacking tupperware from Wal-Mart with lids, hoping to save a buck, but found out quickly it wasn’t worth it.   Stacking tupperware with lids means unstacking, restacking, messing with millions of lids and, overall, lots of hassle.  Drawers make for quick and easy clean up!  

2) I store at least 3/4ths of our toys.  The more toys I have out and accessible, the more mess, and the LESS my kids actually see, notice and play with them.  And, you guessed it - the LESS toys I have out, the LESS mess and the MORE my kids stay occupied and interested in playing with them.  Rotating toys also helps a lot, but I will cover rotations more in depth in a little bit.  Please hold.

3) Don’t label the drawers.  I know this will drive some of you nuts-o, but for me, it works.  I am constantly reworking drawers, so a NO label system promotes flexibility.  Case in point: A month ago, I devoted a tiny drawer to some of Will’s Daniel Tiger toys, but after Charlotte and his birthday, we were gifted several more Daniel Tiger-themed toys.  Because I didn’t have labels to mess with, I could easily switch up some drawers and opt for a bigger one.  Now that I think about it, it probably helps that my drawers as see-through, so even without labels, I can pretty quickly see what’s inside at a glance.

4) Lock those toys up!  Pretty early on, my kids realized I was storing most of their toys and got curious while I was busy doing something else.  I should have known.  I came back and saw every tiny piece and toy scattered throughout the whole toy room.  And, of course, they weren’t PLAYING with the toys, they were just having fun THROWING the toys and emptying out every blessed drawer.  I bought cheap locks at Wal-Mart and never looked back.  Bam.

And now, TOY ROTATION...

As I mentioned earlier, I store about 3/4th of our toys.  25% of our toys are rotated in and out for the kids to actively play with.  I don’t really have much of a system for this - it’s not really rocket science.  About every couple of months - either when I have the time or when the kids seem to be getting bored with their current toy selection - I go down to the basement, put the “old” toys away and bring out “new” ones.  

It’s so fun for the kids to have “new” toys out.  I always look forward to the first couple of days after toys have been freshly rotated - they play so well independently and are so excited.  It’s like Christmas morning!  The toys really seem completely NEW to them, even if they’ve played with them last just a month ago.  Hooray for short-term toddler memory!  
I have four “areas” I rotate toys into.  

  • Large basket for free-play toys.  These are the bigger toys that the kids play with and clean up independently.  Bigger tractors, Charlotte’s dolls, balls, stuffed animals, etc.  There are no small pieces and no need for categorization.  Just dump them all in together and let the kiddos help themselves.
  • Book basket.  This basket usually includes some of our own books and a handful of library books.  Because my kids are still young and hard on books, I usually only include BOARD books in this area.  Again, these are books they help themselves to and usually read/look at independently.
  • Chest of drawers for small piece toys + special activities.  These drawers are where I rotate smaller bins full of smaller-pieced toys.  Sets of magnet dolls, sets of cars or construction vehicles, Daniel Tiger play sets and figurines, sets of blocks or shape sorters, etc.  This is also where I keep puzzles, play-dough sets, any sensory bins, games, and art supplies.  Overall, these drawers store things that need a little bit of guidance or assistance.  The kids ask for “special” toys, and it’s extra fun to pull out a new playset or bin day-to-day.  I stash another basket of regular books (books with paper pages vs. board books) in our closet too.  These are books we read together, or they play with and look at while I’m around.  This seems a little over-controlled, but I am SICK of paying for ripped books at the library.  My kids are crazy.  I’m telling you.

  • Toy room.  Our toy room is in our basement and is just a more “free for all” area to play.  I usually rotate some centers and small groups of toys here, too, but am not as worried about organization.  It’s usually messy, and we leave it that way and shut the door.

Phew.  That was a lot.  It was a long time coming, but I’m so glad I found something that works for us.  What works for you?  Have you found any tried and true ways to organize and strategize your kids’ toys?


1 comment

  1. Love this! I've written about toy storage/rotation too. I love rotating Norah's toys. Makes clean up so much easier, it's easier for her to help clean up when there's less, and they are more actively entertained with only a few choices and love when new stuff comes out!


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