Episode 29: Toy and Playroom OrganizationOct 02, 2023
Hey everyone! Welcome back to Elevate Motherhood Podcast!
Today we’re talking about organizing kids toys. Not only toy storage organization but also organizing toys currently in use in the playroom or wherever the toy areas are. And as mine have grown from babies to toddlers to now my son is five so I’ll share how we have adapted and changed throughout the years.
I overall like a more minimal, simple home and that sort of applies to kid toys. I say sort of because I really don’t control it as tightly as the rest of my house. I want them to be kids. I see their eyes light up with they get that cheap and breakable party favor. It’s great. We are here to live our lives not to have perfect homes! My daughter has like 10 baby dolls and she knows each one and loves them all. And that’s great. I want her to have them.
My son has about 400 toy cars and he knows every single one, how the wheels work, who gave it to him, and if it’s faster than his other cars or not.
So. You know I’m minimal-ish but hear me say I’m a mom first!
That being said. I really can’t focus or do things when our house is completely unruly and I do like having order for our physical belongings, including toys.
Also things have changed quite a bit over the past 5 years so I’ll talk through all of that and give as many tips as I can for each stage that I’ve experienced.
So first, I feel like when my son was under 1 year old I literally had a *basket* of kids’ toys. Just a few little rattles!
One thing I did at that time which has been amazing was to get an upholstered coffee table that opens up for storage. I started doing that when he was under one and I had a little basket in there of toys and a little basket of diapers and wipes. So when we were playing in the living room I had all the things I needed! Now that my kids have a full blown playroom we pretty much use that storage ottoman for blankets but it has been a great find. I found it for like around $100 at Marshalls I believe. We used it for diaper storage until my kids were both potty trained. It’s just so great to have what you need right in the middle of the room but also it closes up and is completely out of sight.
As he got older and I feel like the kids’ first birthday is kind of when your house explodes with toys or at least that’s what it felt like for me, I started having a need for more space for toys. We ended up turning our formal living room into a playroom which was 100% the right move for our family. Technically right now we have a small sunroom which we have converted to a playroom. It’s not completely ideal but it works great. If I didn’t have a designated room, I would make a designated space in the living area or children’s room for toys. I’d do some type of bookshelf with storage cubes or bins that can be put away. I really love our ikea Kallax shelf… it has 8 square cubbies and right now it’s on the ikea website for $89. I use it horizontally not vertically and it’s cute as open shelves or it’s perfect for any square storage cubes. I’ll talk through how we’ve used it in a minute. There’s also a similar one at Target.
So how do we manage all these toys?
My first bit of advice is- and I mentioned this on last week’s episode, you don’t need to keep every part of a set. You just don’t! This goes for baby onesies, if you love 4 of them in the pack and dislike the 5th one, don’t put it in the closet. Put it straight in the donation pile. Would oyu still be happy with the gift or the price of the set when it doesn’t include the one thing you really don’t like? Probably. So just tell yourself that is what it is.
But as it relates to the topic of this episode- you don’t need to keep all 125 pieces of a wooden train set if your child is 1 year old. If some of the pieces look like junk- and let’s be honest some pieces are- toss them. You can donate some unnecessary pieces but a donation place isn’t going to want some random pieces that have a function on their own. But if you think your kid will play with them when they are older, save them, away from the toy. I have a big plastic ziplock bag in the garage that holds tiny spare pieces to toys. Things I think we would probably want someday but are a pain to clean up OR are a choking hazard. Which is also an issue at those young ages. Then you don’t have to worry about keeping them away from your one year old every time you pull out the toy. And you don’t have 30 extra pieces to pick up each time you play. Just use the pieces you need. You don’t have to keep or use every piece of a set.
Next. I think the Montessori style playrooms are super great for toddlers. If you have never heard the term Montessori – it is basically those shelves that are mostly empty and have just a couple of toys on them. And they are low enough on a child’s level so that a child can easily reach them. And the toys are things that don’t have lights and buttons and batteries. They are things that must be played with for it to be a toy. Little cars, trains, buckets, scoops, balls, blocks, dolls, pots & pans, animal figurines, stuff like that. The Montessori playrooms also usually have things that kids can climb or balance on.
I love these playrooms for reasons that include fostering creative play and skill development without overstimulation. But as it relates to the topic of this episode, I love them for efficiency too.
In my experience, there’s a rule among toddlers that - if toddlers can reach buckets full of toys, they will dump out these buckets of toys. All of the buckets of toys. Onto the floor. No playing involved, just dumping. Even, or especially, if those buckets were carefully organized and separated.
So back to the ikea cube bookshelf I love in my kids’ playroom. When my kids were 4 and under, I only left a few things on each shelf, Montessori style. I kept a toy rotation and had several plastic bins in my garage (or in our old house, we had a big storage closet attached to the playroom). All the toys not in current use were stored in these bins. My organization tips for storage is- don’t store more than you can manage. All the toys in these bins were easily accessible and easily located. If you have so much that you have no idea where anything is, it’s probably too much. But if you can store some things that you want to keep separate from toys that are currently in use- I actually do recommend that!
Along these lines- in my opinion, toys that do require a LOT of pieces don’t have to be accessible at all times (unless of course it is your child’s very favorite or something of course let them play with it every day) but at our house, a few things with a lot of pieces stay in the storage bins and then when we decide it’s time to play with them, we get it out and it becomes the main toy for a few days. For example, lego duplos, we have a ton of those and my kids love them. But if all 300 pieces were strewn across our playroom at all times every day, I don’t think my kids would play with them much and I think they would create a huge mess all the time. So, I have a storage bin of lego duplos and they usually are in that bin, but when we get them out my kids LOVE THEM and they stay out in our living room or playroom for a few days and it’s the main thing they play with at that time and they love it. And then after a few days we put them back away. Other things we do this way are – wooden train tracks. Hotwheels tracks. Magic tracks. Also things that are particularly messy like both my kids have absolutely LOVED that little kids’ sink you’ve probably seen by now on amazon, I’ll link it in the show notes. For $25 it’s seriously such a fun toy. But you have to fill it up with water and as we know water makes a mess. So I don’t really want that water toy out and available at all times. It lives in a storage box and when they ask for it, I get it out and keep an eye on the water and then when they’re done playing with it we clean it up and it goes back into a storage bin. Same for playdoh. I know playdoh is polarizing and some moms really don’t like playdoh. I do love playdoh because my kids love it but I know it can become a mess. So I don’t really let my kids have unrestricted access to it. Our playdoh lives in storage bins and they ask me for when they want it and then I can keep an eye on it.
The things they don’t have access to at all times usually stay a more “fun toy” because it’s not available all the time and when it is- they love it and play with it more!
One thing as the mom of a playroom with little young kids who don’t really have a lot of responsibility yet. You may need to help them realize which toys are unusable. If a toy car track has cars but they are all out of batteries and you don’t have batteries, the toy is actually kind of junk when it’s unusable. Or if a toy is missing an essential piece and it can’t be used, it’s junk. These kinds of unusable toys are definitely clutter. So as the mom, it’s our job to kind of keep an eye out for these things and fix them or get rid of them. If the kid can’t play with it, it’s junk. Or if you can maybe still have fun with that car, but not the broken tracks, keep the car and get rid of the tracks. But unusable toys are usually clutter and need to be dealt with and not just live in the playroom forever.
Another thing I hope gives you some permission and freedom- your kids don’t need to keep every toy they’ve ever received. Birthday party favors, bring-home craft toys from school, presents from family and friends. It is pretty easy to accumulate toys, at least in my experience.
So the first bit of advice is- you don’t need to keep every toy you’ve ever received. Especially if they aren’t attached to it and don’t care about it- it can have served a temporary purpose and then it can move on to another kid who will play with it more! Or if it’s super temporary like birthday party favors they can serve their purpose by being fun for a short time and then it will usually break and then it becomes trash! And that’s okay.
And so far from birth to age 5, in my experience, the amount of toys they can handle is directly related to their age.
A one year old needs toys, yes, but do they need toys with 100+ pieces? No? Do they really need access to a billion toys at one time? In my opinion, no.
So like I said, when my kids were one through 4.5, I set up our playroom more like a montessouri playroom. They don’t really need a lot of quantity of toys at that time. There are actual real studies that show kids having less toys in front of them actually furthers their creative play.
And having less toys helps them start to learn where their toys are so they can find what they’re looking for and clean up when they’re done. Especially as kids get older like 3-4, they can have more responsibility for putting things back where they go. But if their toys don’t even have a place to belong and everything is always everywhere, when you say “go clean the playroom” they are going to be like what in the world do you mean? It’s chaos in here! But if they have less toys and things have a home where it belongs- they will know what you mean. So set your kids up for success especially if you want them to be helpful with putting things back where they go, as the mom, you help them set it up in a way where things actually even HAVE a place where they go when they are cleaned up. Like we always love to say- foster independence and responsibility for your kids, but we have to teach them this and set them up for success.
And as kids get older like 3, 4, 5 they really start to remember toys they can’t see right in front of them, they have more of a sense of ownership of their toys and are capable of using more toys more often. So for all these reasons, as my son was getting out of the toddler stage, I really felt the need to make more toys available to him at all times so he didn’t have to ask me to get out his toys out of our toy bins and he could more independtly find what he wanted. So I got storage cube bins for our ikea shelves and sorted more toys into bins. I printed off black and white clip art labels with pictures and put them in some clip on bin clips. This way my kids could easily see where to find the toys they are looking for and learn where to put them back when it was time to clean up. My son particularly loves legos so I didn’t want those to be an “only get out sometimes” type of toy, I knew it was important for him to have access to them all now. I found the cutest little lego table and set it up in his room for him to have all his legos in one area. I know of course all families and all kids are different and you shouldn’t do it exactly like me but hopefully these examples help you think of things that would fit the needs for your family.
And some of you are probably thinking – great but what if my kids are several years apart and in different stages? I think in this case the older kid will probably need and want some space all to themselves, even if it’s like a box they keep in their room with their special lego collection or whatever and depending on how young babies in your home, they can also be taught that toys with tiny pieces can be kept in a special place where babies cant find them. Also you can still keep these ideas in mind- like the idea that how many toys kids need access to is proportional to their age. If your 2 year old wants to play with the makeup set that her 7 year old sister has, maybe pull out the bag and a few items that aren’t small enough to choke on and they will be happy. The 2 year old may not really need or be able to even play with the entire set. And of course they can just whatever works for your family is 100% fine! I don’t want to tell anyone how to do anything just giving ideas for simplifying some things!
Another example of this is my daughter and her baby doll accessories. Probably beginning when she was 1.5 at Christmas one year she started getting baby dolls and accessories like diapers, bibs, pacifiers, pretend lotion, bottles, juice, baby food, diaper rash cream, soap, wipes, I mean anything you can think of! And it’s all so cute and so fun! But when she was 1.5 she didn’t really need ALL that stuff or even know how to use it. So I had a little shelf for her with a baby bottle and bib and baby food and a pretend diaper. And she loved it all and thought of so many fun ideas with those toys. And as she kept getting older and older and more able to put the clothes on the baby dolls and stuff, I kept making more of those toys available to her. So you don’t even have to like immediately get rid of some toys you can just like bring out more as time goes on and your kid gets older. That’s easier than me helping her clean up 100 accessories each time she wanted to play with a baby doll when she was 18 months old.
One last tip since the holidays are coming up. If you don’t already have one, start a wishlist for your kids. I personally have an amazon list for each kid and when I see something they’d like- I add it to the list. This also helps me reduce impulse buys because I know I won’t forget it when it’s on the list but also I can think about it for a minute! But this helps so much when family members say- what do your kids want for Christmas? I can pull up the list and have a few ideas ready to share! You can literally “share” the list with a link, or you can just look at it yourself and give that person a couple of ideas. Even if you don’t use amazon you could just make a note on your phone of ideas! I do this for myself too, not just for my kids by the way!
Okay that’s all I have for this kids toys episode! There’s actually a lot more I could say about this topic but I’m stopping here for today!! Thanks for listening and be sure to subscribe if you haven’t yet so you can hear all the future Elevate Motherhood episodes! I have some fun guests lined up that I can’t wait for you to hear from! Also find me on Instagram @elevatemotherhood. I’m able to share more there than I do here!
Before we close, I’d love to say a little prayer and blessing for you.
God, thank you for our kids! Thank you that we have the honor and priviledge of raising little humans and taking care of them AND all their things. Thank you that we are able to have toys in our homes for our sweet kids. Help us view it all as a blessing instead of a burden. Help us to be good stewards of our homes and belongings and have what we need and be able to use it. And help us keep open hands to be generous with our belongings and remember that it’s all just stuff. It’s not a priority. We’d be fine without our physical belongings. Thank you for leading and guiding us in all that we do. Let it all be for your glory, Lord. In your son Jesus’ name. Amen
Thanks for being here friends, until next time, let’s Elevate Motherhood!
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