Our toy box used to be the equivalent of a black hole, you could find anything in there! It used to be completely unorganized, and a stashing ground for anything and everything, kind of like the junk drawer.
When I would tell the children to clean up the living room, they would basically just dump everything that was on the floor into the toy drawer, without paying attention.
I cleaned the toy drawers out a few months ago, and I was amazed by how many dirty socks, pencils, and crayons I found. I even found a school book that I had given up for dead.
This is just one more good reason why you must inspect what you expect.
There was no toy organization, what-so-ever. And the children really had no idea what was even in there. Once I got both drawers organized and pared down, the younger children acted as though they had received all new toys!
Here are the four steps I took to give our toy drawers a makeover.
Toy Organization- 1. Less Is More
I threw so many toys into the donation box. If the toy looked like it had seen better days, if some of the pieces were missing, if I never ever saw the children playing with it, into the box it went.
I probably donated as much as I kept! I was completely ruthless in what I kept and what I let go.
When I started, I had two large drawers that would barely shut and were packed full. When I finished, I had two large drawers that were about 1/3 of the way full.
The children can actually see what is available to play with now, and easily find exactly what they are looking for. It’s also much easier to spot items that do NOT belong in the toy drawer (dirty socks!!!).
Toy Organization- 2. Compartmentalize
I went to Wal-mart and bought a few small containers to keep similar groupings of toys together. The Duplos have their very own box (out of all of the toys we had owned, except for maybe Legos, the Duplos have gotten the most use!), the baby toys, the Bristle blocks, and the cars have their own box.
Being able to just grab the box you want to play with is so much easier than tracking down all of the pieces in a loose drawer. It keeps things much more organized.
We do have to spend about five minutes once a week making sure that the toys are in their correct box. This is just basic maintenance. I used to expect this to just magically happen on its own.
I’m coming to the realization that nothing is naturally organized, it all takes maintenance! Such a simple concept that took me over a decade to truly understand.
Toy Organization- 3. Keep It Simple
Keep your normal, every-day toy area very simple and low-tech. We keep any board games locked up in a different cabinet. The puzzles are kept elsewhere as well. Any toy that requires more supervision is kept out of reach.
In your daily toy area, keep the items that stand the test of time, that are played with regularly, that do not require helicopter supervision, and that won’t make a mess.
Save the arts and crafts, puzzles, and games for one-on-one play time. Limiting access keeps them special, and keeps mom from having a heart attack when she discovers her children being children and doing what children do (making messes and losing pieces).
When children are required to play with the simple toys that don’t flash, bang, or make electronic music, they may seem bored at first, but they will figure it out!
Make sure to ooh, aah, clap and praise over each Duplo or Lego creation, encourage the race car tracks, and tea parties, and before you know it, your children will be reaching for the low-tech toys on their own.
Toy Organization- 4. Rotation
If you have a ton of really great toys that you don’t want to get rid of, consider putting several sets away and rotating.
If you only have out three to four different sets or types of toys at a time, your child won’t get overwhelmed by choices.
Rotate the selection once or twice a month. Your child will end up appreciating the toys so much more, all of the toys will end up being played with, and your toy area will be so much easier to keep neat and organized.
I spent over a decade with a horrendously messy toy area. The result was children who were overwhelmed by choices, I was overwhelmed by the mess, and we never seemed to have enough socks.
The whole process of reclaiming the toy drawers took me about an hour one Saturday, and maintenance takes me about five minutes per week.
The time that I spent on toy organization may have been one of my best used time slots of 2016. If your toy area is totally overwhelming you, follow my four steps and enjoy the simplicity!