If Marie Kondo taught us anything, it’s that we’re meant to keep the things that spark joy and throw out (or donate) what doesn’t. But what about the things that give our children joy and give us a headache? She doesn’t really talk about that, now does she?! [Insert sarcasm here.]
Given the circumstances of the past year, more families are opting to stay home over heading outside for activities. Surely, it feels like all the toys, board games, crafts, dolls, cars, trains, puzzles, and more that you own in an attempt to keep your children occupied, have completely taken over the house. What’s more, is your kids are probably complaining they don’t have enough to do and they want more of all the things! Most likely, this is due to the fact that they’re kids and have no concept of reality, but also that their toys and games are probably not organized well.
A recent ClosetMaid survey found that the average parent picks up after their kids 28 times a week and half of parents do their kids chores for them to make sure they’re done right. Studies have shown that kids who begin doing chores around 3 years old are more likely to have good relationships with friends and family and find success academically and in their careers later on, compared to kids who don’t do chores at a young age.
How to Organize Toys
Organizing your space helps create a purposeful place for things, so let’s take a look at some unique and easy ways to organize our kids’ stuff, according to the experts:
Find bedroom furniture with built-in storage.
If most of your children’s belongings have to live in their bedroom, instead of having a separate designated play area elsewhere, then invest in nursery and kid’s furniture with added storage. Adam Segal, CEO of Storkcraft, says to be on the lookout for combination furniture, especially for families that have less space to work with. “Beds and cribs with built-in drawers are great items to consider when needing to maximize on space efficiency and functionality,” he says.
Lisa Dooley, organizing coach and owner of Your Organized Life, says you can maximize these storage spots by using hidden storage like under the bed boxes and soft-sided containers for doll collections, legos, small figurines, and anything else that can be pulled out to play with and easily be put away.
Rotate the toys and games that are readily available for your kids to play with.
Sarah Miller, a teacher and founder of Homeschooling 4 Him, uses a toy rotation system to help keep toys organized. “In a toy rotation system, a few of the toys are out for kids to play with, and the rest are stored away,” she says. “Every few weeks, we rotate the toys and get out new ones to play with since it’s easier to organize toys when there are fewer of them available.” It’s important that every toy has its own place, and that they are all visible and easily accessible for kids to get out on their own. A toy box might limit their ability to do that, so open shelves are key. Kids can then take out—and put away—their own toys. Bonus: With the regular rotation, old toys feel new again!
Donate, recycle, or toss toys your kids no longer play with.
Toss or recycle any incomplete or broken toys, but only those in poor condition and incomplete sets. “The general rule of thumb is if you wouldn’t want it, then somebody else doesn’t either,” says Laura Sandberg, founder and space-solving expert at Let Laura. Consider donating toys that are in good condition—NYC Mammas is a great kid-specific organization. And if you’re wondering what to do with all your LEGO bricks, you can donate them via Give Back Box.” Let your kids decide which items they would like to keep and which they would like to donate to another child who may not have toys as they do. Creating the opportunity for your child to give to others instills a sense of responsibility to take care of what they have and can help kids learn empathy.
Have other household items you want to donate? Check out our guide to donating gently used items in New York.
Hide stuffed animals.
Ah, the stuffed animals! You started collecting them on behalf of your unborn child at the baby shower and it hasn’t stopped since. To keep those cute fluffy creatures hidden, get an oversized bean bag chair with a zipper and put them all in there. Another option that takes up very little space is a hanging hammock, says Amira Johnson, an interior designer at Emerald Doors. Hang one across the corner of a room or string one across the bottom of a bed frame. This method keeps the critters all together in one place, but still visible for your little one to see.
Do away with bulky boxes.
Say goodbye to the packaging that comes with building blocks, building sets, and other items that come in cardboard or plastic boxes can make the space look messy. Not only that, but how about trying to fit the pieces back in just the correct way? Instead, take a picture of the contents and/or the finished sets and store it in a bag with all of the corresponding pieces. mumi Design's adorable Reusable Zip Up Bags offer an environmentally friendly alternative to plastic zip up bags and a perfect way to organize any small items in your home. Perfect for small toys, the baggies are see-through so you can clearly see what's inside and can be color coordinated. For bulkier items, like building blocks, consider storage cubes that don’t require precise block placement or larger, clear storage bags.
Think outside the box by attaching magnets or Velcro.
Parenting & Education expert Karen Aronian. Ed.D. suggests an inventive way to make toys exceedingly usable. “Stick a tiny piece of Velcro or a magnet to the bottom of each toy and then magnetize the toys to a magnetic whiteboard, a refrigerator, or even a wall. This is ideal for a car track set up, or wonderful to show off Barbie and action figures.”
Easily sell unused toys and all-things kid.
There’s Facebook Marketplace, and then there’s Markid for the New York City area. Founded by three parents, this fuss-free and reliable app helps families sell and shop for preloved kids’ items. Sell anything from strollers and clothes to nursery furniture and toys. To make it even easier for you, it just launched reNewed, where you can request an at-home curbside pickup, or drop your items off at its Industry City warehouse where the team takes care of the details (like taking listing photos, sanitizing and packaging your bulky items, and more).
Arrange books on the shelf by color.
Though not really toys, books are an essential part of your child’s growth and development. Since you’re probably not going to organize them by the Dewey Decimal System, the most aesthetically pleasing way is by color (just like Clea and Joanna of The Home Edit would). It helps your child learn about how to place books back on shelves correctly with the bookend showing, and also sort by color. What a win-win! Consider a KidKraft bookcase with a built-in reading area, which encourages your child’s independence to read with a ‘place’ to do it. If the space you’re working with is on the smaller side, this cute Crate and Kids bookshelf will work too.
Allow easy access to small toys.
If plastic bins with lids aren’t for you, consider an open area with easy access to small to medium-sized toys. These can also be organized by color or by category. I personally have the KidKraft Sort It & Store It Bin Unit for my son, and I let him organize all of his transportation toys by himself. He has trucks in one bin, trains in another, and his cars take up about five. Yikes!