In December, I wrote about how unstructured play makes kids happy. Each Tuesday in January and February, I will be sharing how I encourage unstructured play in our home. This week's playful parenting tip is to organize your kids' toys to encourage unstructured play.
For the past two Tuesdays, I have been sharing how to encourage unstructured play with toys. Keeping a clean and orderly home with all the kids' toys can be a challenge, but by creating an organizational system for those toys, the mess can be more manageable. An organized space can make playing easier because children can find the toys they need and could feel more relaxed.
Our play space is located in what is supposed to be the breakfast nook in our kitchen. I like keeping the majority of my daughter's toys in our living space because I enjoy being near my daughter's play even if I am busy in the kitchen. There is an open rug space that allows room for unstructured play. We have an open plan home, and her toys often migrate to the living room, and that's okay with me. At the end of the day, her toys are put back in their proper spot.
I use Ikea storage cabinets with bins to organize her toys. I have labeled each bin with a photograph of the contents and a written label. I covered the label in contact paper. Before these labels, I drew a picture on a notecard. Those worked well, but after two years, half of the labels had fallen off or had scribbling. Since Miss E has been two years old, she has understood how to clean up her toys at the end of the day and return them to the proper bin. It's not always easy to get her to clean, but she picks up most of the time. In general, we put away toys once at the end of the day. I don't like to interrupt her flow of play or storyline by making her pick up toys during the day. She is permitted to use toys from many bins at the same time.
We don't keep out all of Miss E's toys at the same time. I believe access to too many toys makes it more difficult for children to play, and it definitely makes it harder for them to clean up. Some toys are always kept out like her toy food set and train set, but other toys like animals and books are rotated out. We don't have a set time we rotate toys, but rotate when I feel like she could use a change or Miss E requests new toys. Miss E chooses which toys to bring out to the playroom. We store the excess toys in plastic bins in a closet.
I understand that our toy organization system won't work for every family, and I have gathered a variety of toy organization ideas from other bloggers. They each have developed a unique way to keep the toys in order. Unstructured play doesn't mean an unstructured home because you can have lots of free play and still maintain a neat home as these bloggers have proved. Check out their blogs to find inspiration to keep your children's space a fun and organized place to play.
Toy Organization Round Up
Mama Smiles shows how to organize toys using shoe racks. What a thrifty way to store toys!
Toddler Approved shares a wicker storage cabinet that would look lovely in a living room shared by both adults and kids. She suggests tips for keeping the space neat and tidy throughout the day.
We love to play with junk, but I have to admit it's a challenge to keep the junk contained, but Holly from Quirky Momma found a solution. She uses tool boxes to store junk.
Another fan of Ikea, Rockabye Butterfly, stores toys in labeled bins
Simple is definitely more in the child's bedroom organized by the Nurture Store. Her girls play better in a tidy room with fewer toys.
If you work with children on a professional level, check out the inspiring play therapy room at Play Dr Mom.
Dress up clothes are a wonderful toy to encourage imaginative, unstructured play. Dinosaurs and Octopuses created the perfect Dress Up Area for her son.
Picklebums demonstrates how it's possible to keep toys toys organized in a small home. She has four kids in a two bedroom house, so she knows what she's talking about.
If you want to keep your home from looking like it's been overrun by kids' stuff, check out Childhood 101's design tips for keeping a small home home serene and beautiful.
Critters and Crayons created different stations around her large play room to encourage play. It looks like a dream room for any kid.
De Tout et de Rien believes in the power of free play, and she provides a playful and creative space with an abundance of toys, art, and sensory materials.
The Imagination Tree put together discovery boxes to encourage open ended, imaginative play.