Getting the Toy Room Organized

Getting the Toy Room OrganizedWhen I had my first child, as a rookie mom, I thought the more toys, the better! We had a decent size playroom so why not fill it up? Kids LOVE to play, and the more toys I have, the more they will be occupied, and then I can catch some time to get some work done. Right?

Three children later, I realize that this is not necessarily true. After years of hunting down various toys for great prices on Craigslist or swapping with other local moms, I accumulated a lot of stuff–too much stuff. So much that you could hardly walk down there, and the kids weren’t even capable of cleaning the messes that were made. And worst of all, they weren’t even playing with the 1,000 toys we seemed to own. What I observed was that the more cluttered and disorganized the toy room was, the less likely the kids were to have a productive play experience. Instead they wandered around, looking from toy to toy (mess to mess), trying to find the pieces, tripping over toys, and eventually just whining and not finding anything to engage in. I decided it was time for a purge.

My first aim was to keep some of our bigger items out for the children that would encourage imaginative play and that had multiple uses.  For example, our kitchen set, child’s table and chairs, cottage tent, and train table. The cottage tent could be used to play “house.”  It also served as a little hideout to read books, and made a great hiding spot for hide and seek. My kids also used it to act out the 3 Little Pigs. The table and chairs could be used to sit and color, or to have a tea party. You get the picture.

Second, I moved all the small toys to their own bins. Little People had their own bin. The farm animals had their own bin. Peg puzzles had their own bin.  That way there was still plenty of room to move about the room, and when they chose a bin to take out, there was room to play with it.  The organization really seemed to make it much easier for a small child to see what there is and make a choice–and to actually play with it.

As for what I got rid of, if we had multiples of the same toy, I kept the favorite one or two. If we had multiple shape sorters, I kept the one that the lid stayed on the best, and got rid of the rest. If we had multiple baby dolls, I kept the few in the best shape. We had multiple ride-on toys, and while they were all nice, we did not need that many at one time. I kept a ride on horse and a car and got rid of the rest.

It seemed wasteful to get rid of perfectly good toys, but they were ones that wouldn’t be terribly missed, and I knew they would find a good home when donated to children in need.  Or if I needed some extra cash for an upcoming kids show or birthday party, or something of that sort, an option is to sell some of the toys in good condition to locaI moms. Both of those were motivating factors for me, and I couldn’t possibly feel bad about either of those options.

I also was introduced to the concept of rotating my toys from a good friend. She didn’t have a designated playroom, so she had to make the best of the space she had, which meant rotating her toys.  Even after the purge I was still feeling a bit more cluttered then I’d like, so I thought, why can’t I do that?!  When winter approached and we were no longer able to get regular outdoor play, I put some of the toys in the back storage room to give them more room to run. I also stuck a tunnel in the playroom to give them more movement type activities.  If boredom seemed to be creeping up, I pulled out an old “new” toy, and bam, problem solved. They missed it enough to re-connect with it and find new ways to play with it.

Lastly, I allowed a few toys in the bedroom at a time, and these would be rotated through with the playroom toys. It was usually a set like a Little People farm set. I found that rotating the location of the toys was helpful–somehow moving a toy to a different room seemed to re-excite them about the toy, or make them see it in a different way.

I felt much better after my purge, and even better with the rotating toy system in place. If I threw some kid tunes on, all the better– it seemed to pull everything together in the toy room, and I’d get some good quality playtime out of them. In this case, less definitely turned out to be more.

Michele is a part-time social worker and full-time mom to 3 children.  She lives and writes in Saratoga Springs, NY.

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