Playful Parenting Tip #4 - Toy Storage

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

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.

21 comments:

De tout et de rien: Activités pour le Préscolaire said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Wow! So many excellent ideas. I LOVED the pictures on your storage boxes. Everything is so neat and well organized. I would like to play there too ;) Thank you for adding our play room! have a good day!

Roopa Shri said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Great post! Loved all the tips and the photos. I too rotate toys for my daughter, especially the plush dolls:)

maryanne @ mama smiles said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I love this post - so many fantastic ideas! Your breakfast nook turned playspace is lovely! I dream of turning our dining room into a play space, because it has lovely large windows (and it's right off the kitchen where the kids want to be anyhow), but then we would have to eat in the kitchen, which isn't especially large. So we do crafts in there instead.

Thanks for including our shoe rack organization solution!

Rebekah said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Thank you, Roopa. Does your daughter have a lot of plush dolls? I ended up choosing what to rotate based on what we have too much of. We have a gazillion animals which is a good thing bc that's my daughter's favorite kind of toy, but we can't keep them all out at the same time otherwise it's just an animal explosion.

Rebekah said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Oh yes, I am like you thinking of ways to turn other spaces of the house into more kid friendly spaces. ;) We have a kitchen island bar with enough seating for the three of us to eat for most of our meals. When we want to be more formal or have more people at dinner, we eat in the dining room which actually don't use that often.

Thank you for the compliments, Maryanne. I love the shoe rack storage idea. I would have never thought of it on my own, and clear bins are perfect because the kids can already see what's inside.

Rebekah said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Thank you, Caroline! It doesn't always look that neat and organized especially in the middle of the day or day my daughter doesn't have school. ;) Your playroom is so wonderful and especially fond of your light table.

LeeanneA said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Posts like this always makes me want to rethink my toy situation - I just love how some people can stay so organized!

PlayDrMom said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Such a great post! So wonderful to see so many great ideas in one place. Thanks so much for including my office play room!

Rebekah said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Leeanne, in a lot of ways I am not very organized. I am good at keeping my daughter's toys organized, but my clothes closet is a disaster and my pantry is a mess. It also helps that we don't buy a ton of toys. Most of the toys are given only at Christmas and birthday. I think she has plenty of toys as it is, probably too many.

Rebekah said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Thank you! I am so glad I could it include it to make this post more relevant to people who work with children.

Ali said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Great post. I have been busy re-organising our toys at home too. It makes such a difference to their play when they know where everything is and there isn't too much stuff.

Joyce said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I love your space! I sincerely wish we had an Ikea close by. I love your picture labels! Thanks so much for featuring our humble dress up corner :)

tricia said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

This is a wonderful, wonderful post, Rebekah! I love seeing everyone's play space! I agree with your logic on rotating toys- We don't do it because we've become set in our ways and have made the large room work for us. But, play dates are a bear for clean-up time at my house. Oh, Boy. I love, love this post!

Melissa Taylor said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

great round up!!

katepickle said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I keep coming back to this post and dreaming of ideas for when our renovations are done.... My boys will finally have their own (shared, but not with us adults) bedroom (the girls already share a room)and space for their own toys! So many great ideas!

Brandon said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I am surprised you haven't mentioned Play at Home mom playathomemom3.blogspot.com/ A few of the gals that collaborate on there have their "environments" here:
http://playathomemom3.blogspot.com/search?q=RL+play+space

I am starting to pattern some of my playroom organization on her (less stuff accessible, though, my kids would destroy everything!), but I am also psyched to find on your site the IKEA bin organizers, I am going to chicago to visit the in laws soon and we are getting them, thanks for the ideas! Laura Evans

closets Bergen said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Placing toys in the right place would keep your place clutter free at the same time there would be more space available. Labeling them properly could be be better to make it easier for them to find what they want to play with.

Nicole said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I love your wooden bin holders that hold 3 large and 3 small - did someone make them or where did you buy them?

Nicole said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I love your wooden bin holders that hold 3 large and 3 small - did someone make them or where did you buy them?

Rebekah said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

@Nicole

Nicole, I got them from Ikea. We've had them for over two years, and they have held up well to little ones and play.

polythene balers said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Keep in mind the weight of objects you plan to store. If they’re heavy, you’ll need to look for reinforced containers that can handle the load.

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