Organizing with Your Kids: Practical Suggestions

This blog post is the last in a series on how to organize toys with your kids.  I’ve received several questions about organizing toys, and I’m happy to offer you some tips and ideas here.

Clean-Up Time – As They Play or Once A Day?

It would be nice if the kiddos cleaned up one toy before starting with another, but it doesn’t happen without some prompting from you.  My personal opinion is that children’s play is like a stream of consciousness, and interrupting it repeatedly to clean up can impede the flow and satisfaction.  (Remember, I’m a preschool teacher and consider playtime as the “important business” of children.)

My suggestion is to clean up before every transition in your daily schedule.  If your little one plays for twenty minutes before lunch, save a few minutes before lunch to clean up.  If your child plays for two hours before bed, give a little more time before you start the bed routine to clean up.  This ultimately leads to more meaningful play for your child as well.  Starting a play time later in a messy area will only inspire messy play.

If your child only plays for a short time AND if there is a system in place to make clean up easy, it won’t take more than a minute or two.  Longer playtimes will require 5-10 minutes for clean up.

(Remember to always give your child a warning a few minutes before clean up.  “Five more minutes until we clean up for lunch!”  You are much more likely to have a cooperative clean up if you child knows when to expect it and isn’t expected to suddenly quit playing in order to clean.  See more suggestions for cleaning up on my first post.)

What to do with all the stuffed animals?

They may be bears, dogs and dinosaurs, but they multiply like rabbits.  Where to put them all?!? Here are a few ideas for storing the stuffed animals:

  • Toy box – this is one of the few times a toy box is a good idea, especially for larger stuffed animals.  Toy boxes can be large plastic bins, boxes with lids from the office, or wicker baskets.
  • Hammocks – these can be hung at any height in the corner of the room.  If hung up high, they’re a good place to put stuffed animals that are sentimental or rarely played with.  You can buy them or make them yourself out of a large piece of fabric.
  • Shoe holder – the kind with clear pockets that you hang over a door.  This is good for smaller stuffed animals and beanie babies.

When the stuffed animals have bred too much, it’s time to find some of them a new home.  You can read more tips about weeding toys on my third post.

And all those teeny, tiny parts and pieces?

Have you ever stepped on a lego or a Barbi shoe in your bare feet?  That pain is incentive enough to find some easy way to keep all the little pieces off the floor.  Some ideas:

  • Shoe holder – again, clear is best.  All of Strawberry Shortcake’s accoutrements can go in a pocket or two; the Star Wars dudes with their lightsabers can go in another, etc.
  • Plastic shoe boxes and bins – If your child’s collection of Littlest Pet Shop toys is on the large side, give it it’s own clear box.  These are also good for science kits with lots of parts, Barbies and their clothes, and legos.  You can find clear boxes with lids at the dollar store.  The trick is to find the right size.  You don’t want the container to be completely filled because then it will be hard to find anything without items spilling out.
  • Zip-lock bags – they’re not just good for that yummy snack!  These are great for small craft supplies, really tiny legos, and other small pieces.  Put the ziplock bag in the container with its friends.

You can read more tips about setting up the playroom in my second post.

Another idea for legos:

For those of you with moderately sized lego collections, I wanted to let you know about a fantastic product that sorts and stores your child’s legos: Box4Blox.  Clean up and storage in one step!

I hope this series of posts gives you ideas about how to conquer the toy clutter in your home.  If you try any of these ideas, let me know how it goes!

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