Monday, January 27, 2014

Toy Troubles: Developing a System

My organizing method seems to be trial and error. I organize something to the best of my ability and then observe the system over some time. Typically I have to readjust at least once or twice. It feels great once the ideal method is finally reached and can be used for an extended time period.

There are several things that I'm still trying to figure out the best method for organizing. For instance, my kid's toys. First, I thought "let's keep them all in the basement, no toys allowed upstairs." The reason? One, we have a playroom in the basement, so naturally it made sense to put the toys there. Two, I didn't want our guests greeted by randomly scattered race cars and plush animals. Great thought, just not very realistic. The kids would be carrying a toy when then came upstairs for dinner or came upstairs to ask me something. Somehow they always managed to sneak those toys upstairs and it felt like more of a constant battle of never ending reminders.

So, onto the next idea.

After reading the idea on one of my favorite blogs I created a "toy library" that was parent controlled. Check one item out, return it for something new. This system has worked well. It actually taught us a few things like out of sight out of mind. We found that we had to do a lot of suggesting and reminding of what toys were available. The pro was that it made everything feel fun and new, and the con was that we would forget the options available. So, I'm chalking it up as a great storage solution, but not a complete toy organizing solution.

Where are we currently? 

In progress. Since the bedroom updates, my oldest son prefers to be in his room a lot more. Because of that I have all of his art and learning supplies stored in there. It's convenient for our daily dynamic. When my littlest naps in the afternoon I usually work with my oldest on learning concepts. Having all of our tools available upstairs makes it easy to get out and put away. We like to work at his desk area or spread out on his floor.

Both of the boys have a handful of toys stored in their rooms. I encourage them to play in their rooms, together and individually. Each night we tidy up and put them all away. I have found that when we leave toys out they can be quite a distraction when they are supposed to be getting dressed in the morning.

I made it a point to carefully select age appropriate toys for each boy. My youngest son has a lot of the younger toddler friendly toys, and I just store them on a small shelf and in a big tub. This method makes the most sense for us and his age. He is too little to not make huge messes when he plays. With the shelf and the tub he can easily see and interact with items that catch his interest. This system also lends to him actually trying to help clean up and able to do so since he just tosses the toys in the tub with no rhyme or reason.

For my oldest son, I am using an old trunk to store his age appropriate goodies. There is a catch though-- on top of the truck is a large wire basket that holds a collection of books. The basket is very heavy and only a parent can remove it to open the trunk. This sneaky method of toy control is important to me because I have found that I can separate play time and learning time better. When toys are everywhere my son tends to be distracted or lose interest in a difficult learning activity. Keeping the toys put away during this time has immensely helped him stay focused. In a way, it mimics the library method that I mentioned we had in the play room. At any given point he does have a few toys kept out of the trunk that he usually keeps in his room under the bunk bed.

So far so good. These systems seems to be working well. I should also add that we have two big tubs of toys stored under our stairs in the basement. The boys haven't even noticed that they are gone. We've gotten into them ONE time to find a football, but other than that they don't seem to be missed much.

Are you surprised?

Kids don't need much. Just lots of love and attention!

Moving forward...

I want to be more realistic about our future toy collecting.

A Checklist.
Does it encourage creativity?
Can they have fun doing it together?
Will it keep their interest for long?
Will they still enjoy this several years from now?

What about you guys? Maybe I'm making problems out of nothing or over analyzing the situation (the hubs says I analyze a lot)... but maybe not!


  1. I'm with you! I'm constantly changing our toy organization system around here! I think it's because I'm addicted to organizing!
    We currently house all our daughter's toys in her room. The challenge is to not make her room look cluttered which takes strategy. We have a 3 shelf bookcase that holds and sorts toys in wicker baskets, she has bins under her bed and we have another bookcase in her closet for more toys. Her books go along the wall on rain gutters so that doesn't take up any floor space. I think this is working for now...

    1. Love it! I need to look into some under the bed storage ideas for Koah's room. I asked him to clean up his toys yesterday and his response was "ok, I'll just push them under my bunk bed!" Kids... :)

  2. Hi Lindze! I really like your approach to organizing-- practical, real-life solutions:) I wrote a post about kids toys/stuff. I am planning to write more about the specifics soon, and thought you might be interested in reading this