I wrote an article on solutions for toy organization and storage some years ago, Nanny Robina also posted it on her site. I am going to revisit this article as I think it’s a good time with everyone still having to stay at home due to the current global health crises. The fallout from the virus has meant that families are now at home all the time; working, living, playing, remote learning, cooking, exercising, and sleeping. 11 months into the pandemic and though there is light at the end of the tunnel because of the vaccine, it is tempered by the fact we are not out of the tunnel. We are still going to be working and learning from home for a while yet. As a professional organizer here in Toronto I have had a number of clients call me for help with organizing the storage of their children’s toys. They were getting overwhelmed by the constant clutter of it as they work from home.
Play allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength. Play is important to healthy brain development. Shonkoff JP, Phillips DA, eds. From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development. Washington, DC: National Academy Press; 2000
Having your children’s toys and hobbies organized isn’t just about having a clutter-free home; it helps with their development. Their playtime activities enhance their cognitive, physical, and social development along with giving them hours of pleasure. In adult life, we focus and multi-task on countless things throughout our day. The ability to be efficient and productive allows us to follow our dreams and succeed, particularly in this day and age. Children learn these skills with their toys both by playing with them and putting them away. Playing with a train set is very different from painting and draws upon different parts of their brain and teaches different skills.
Children like to help, and organizing their toys and games is an opportunity for them to learn more about sorting, counting, categories, and letting go. When they let an old toy or game go or donate it, they learn to share. Whether your home is big or not, whether you are able to have a designated play area or not, there are always solutions to storing toys in a manageable, affordable way and I am going to discuss some of my favourites with you today.
Toy Sorting Tips:
- Round up all of the toys, crafts, books, and dolls in the house.
- Have a friend or partner to help you. Having two minds involved in the sorting process is more efficient but more importantly, it’s a second perspective.
- Group all “types” of toys together and collections (if any) of each type of toy (i.e. toy cars, hot wheels, trucks).
- Purge (pass on, donate, recycle) anything that they have outgrown or is broken. Focus on keeping their favourites.
- Take an inventory of what is left. By having everything separated and categorized you will know the type of organizing solutions to install, size of containers you need, and where to best put things.
Toy Storage Tips:
- If you don’t have the space for a playroom then create a toy storage zone in one part of a room that is exclusively for storing their toys. Children need to know where and how their toys are kept and that each type of toy is put back in the same place each time.
- Store according to age. Younger children like storage to be in open bins on low shelves or the floor for easy cleanup and storage. Older children can use drawers, under-bed storage, shelves, and hooks.
- Store according to the level of supervision required. Low shelves for toys they can play with freely. The middle shelves for items that require some supervision (like board games, craft games where more than two people are needed), and the highest shelves for things that absolutely need adult supervision (like complicated or fragile games or your child’s science experiment kit).
- Rotate their toys. Store half of them away (in clear storage bins and labelled!) and every 3 months change the selection. They will be thrilled and excited to play with them again. And you won’t have so many toys at the one time to tidy up. It’s a win-win.
- Have at least one storage solution that is accessible and maintainable by your child with their favourite plaything. If your daughter loves playing with and dressing her dolls then have a storage solution that can store the dolls, the clothes, and accessories separately, but in one place. She needs to be able to access it herself, organize it herself, and be able to put it away safely too.
- Set limits on quantities in collections. Your child might like Hot Wheels or Barbie but that does not mean they have to collect every one of them. “More” is not better – it’s just more.
- Label storage bins/bags/drawers – always. Use a picture for younger children.
- Store books higher up. Toddlers love books but they don’t always understand that they are for looking at and reading and left to their own devices will quite happily tear, draw over, or stick things on the pages.
Types of Storage for Toys:
Below are some of my favourite go-to’s for storing toys. It all really depends on the type and size of the space you are working with. I have more ideas on my Pinterest page under Toy Storage.
The Swoop Bag is another great option for toy storage. A storage bag and mat all in one! Ideal for Lego, Playmobil, Lincoln Logs, Action Figures, Barbie dolls, Matchbox Cars, Stuffed Animals. It can be stored on a hook so is a great space saver too.
Shelves: Ikea Trofast, Kallax, and Besta
Trofast and Kallax . I like the Trofast and Kallax units for storing toys because they are very flexible in how you can configure them and what can be put in them. I use Besta units for when you want the toy storage to be out of sight. Besta units are deep enough for most toys. But you can find equivalents in Walmart and Wayfair and most stores selling furniture.
Freestanding cubby systems: They are great for the storage of toys and games because they are so flexible in how they can be used, where they can be put, come in many sizes and colours, and are reasonably priced. Wayfair has some great selections to choose from.
Over-the-door storage pockets and racks. These are great for dolls, toy cars etc. I found some nice ideas on Wayfair.
And don’t forget window seat storage, under the bed storage bins, toy chests, and storage ottomans for “invisibly” storing things.
Ultimately, your decision for what storage solutions to use will be determined by the size of the space you are working with and your child’s play style. It might also be helpful to think about what Organizational Personality Type you and your children are so that the solutions you choose stick and are easy to maintain. If you are a Piler, then most likely baskets and bins are going to drive you mad unless they are organized on a shelf. If your child has Nester tendencies then it might be a good idea to get creative with how the storage is labelled – using pictures and colouring pens. While if your child seems more like a Filer then they are going to want things clearly organized and will need support with setting limits on just how much they can collect.
Remember to check out my Pinterest board for great Toy Storage Solutions!
And if you need to declutter first before you organize (always recommended!) then my blog about how to start decluttering by seeing your clutter … and my blog with your easy step-by-step plan to help you declutter your home will get you motivated.