A few months ago I shared some of the struggles I had in keeping the kids toys organised. Talking to my sister, and writing the post really helped me to get to the crux of the issue. It’s not that they had too many toys – they play with every single one regularly – but more that the way we kept them no longer suited us, and my expectations regarding the kids keeping them organised were too high.
For the sake of reality, here is a picture of the toy room on the morning we finally sorted it out properly. It looks very green and in desperate need of a facelift (in the pipeline), but just making it functional was on my list of immediate needs.
The first problem was that the old shelf was too small and narrow to accommodate large containers. As a result we had small containers over flowing, and jostling for position on the shelf. There was a lot of dead unused space above the containers. Also there were several baskets to hold the toys that did not fit on the shelf, and they just sat on the floor.
The second problem was that I wanted the kids to keep the toys sorted and separated, but hadn’t really created an easy to use system. As a result all the toys got easily mixed up, and left around. This would overwhelm and frustrate the kids so they couldn’t use them effectively anyway.
I investigated several ideas for improving the storage of the toys using our existing furniture. I knew the basket shelves would still be useful, but our other shelf was not suitable. In the end I decided we really needed a wider shelf and bigger boxes, so I turned to Ikea. I drew up a schematic diagram of where I thought everything would fit, and asked the kids for ideas and opinions.
Once I worked out what we needed, my lovely parents popped down to Ikea and picked up what I wanted before they came for a visit.
We set the new shelves up and then started sorting according to my diagram. We did a very light cull at the same time, but to be honest, there weren’t many toys there that were not used. All the planning worked and everything fitted with room to spare.
The second thing I did was to make labels for every box. I just used Microsoft word and some clip art pictures to create them. The pictures are really helpful for Toby who cannot read yet. I laminated them and then used hot glue to attach the labels to the boxes.
The final thing I did was to put the Lego into bigger boxes which fit better into the blanket box we keep the Lego in. I bought a screw and nail box (that would be my technical term) for them to keep their special little bits and pieces, but then just randomly dumped the rest of the blocks into the boxes. I originally hoped to keep the different pieces separately but CB pointed out that I was making a rod for my own back. I would love to find a box that can sort the blocks by size so that the kids don’t need to dump everything on the floor to find the small pieces. One day!
I also allocated two shelves for them to store the Lego creations that they want to keep set up. They know that they only have this space when it comes time to pack it up, so we no longer have multiple creations on top of every surface.
The new shelves and system have been in place now for two months. So far the kids find it easier to pick up their toys and put them away at the end of the day. There are no more disagreements about where things go, because the labels make it easy to work out.
For me, the chaos of the playroom used to stress me out. These days the kids seem to take more pride in keeping it organised, and I am learning to let go of perfection and accept that it will be messy at times. Lets face it, play is messy. It should be. But by having a system for our toys, we have managed to reduce the stress and the mess, but still keep the fun. To me that is a win for us all.
What strategies do you use to tame the toys?