Clearing space in the playroom is usually the second biggest organizing issue for young families. (The first is usually paperwork.) You might feel like toy cleanup is an all-day affair, but you can spend just 15 or 30 minutes alone sorting toys. Even better, you can teach your kids how to organize the rooms they live and play in.
Organizing tips for playrooms to keep you sane:
Organize for the ages. If your kids are small, ensure that the toys you want them playing with are easy to reach, stored low on shelves, and easy to put away. Open bins and easy-to operate drawers are key. If you do opt for bins, make sure they are smaller and lighter, so a child can handle them alone, and they can drag them to where you want clean up to begin.
Put some toys away. While our kids are still small, we keep all of the games with small pieces out of reach in the basement stairwell. They can play with anything they want, but only one at a time. Just like with books at the library, they have to return one game to get another.
For younger kids, the higher shelves and cabinets are good spaces for parents to store items that require supervision. Glue, paints, scissors, and games with small parts should be put away until a parent can help with the activity. Easy-to-install child locks can deter kids who climb and explore.
Open shelving can be great for kids, but parents first need to decide what goes where. Use bins to designate spots for collections of small toys. Inexpensive dollar store bins, Ikea cubes, or repurposed food containers (tubs of dishwasher packs or Costco pretzel canisters, even popcorn tins like those we receive at Christmas time) can all be inexpensive storage solutions.
Keep books on a bookshelf or storage display away from the toys. If you can, designate a reading retreat by the bookcase to encourage young readers and provide a quiet spot away from the toys. That way books don’t get mixed in with toys and easily damaged.
Kids as young as 2 and 3 can organize their own space with very little parent help (but still lots of verbal direction) if the space is set up well. Labels for the smallest children who are not yet reading can be pictures of toys that belong in each container. Use a picture from the product box or clip art from the computer, and use clear packing tape to affix it to the bins.
If kids can see what is supposed to go where, there is a better chance that organizing will happen. Be realistic, though. If your goal is just to get the toys up off the floor, then getting the toys sorted “mostly right” may be just fine. Praise kids doing their own organizing, rather than resenting that cleanup is always your job. Work with them to help kids learn how to organize to organize their rooms, but don’t do it for them.
As kids get older, be more selective about how much is in the toy room. Older kids can still be overwhelmed by too many toys. By the time most kids are 7-10 years old, they will be able to pick out toys they don’t really play with, and you can decide together to move those toys out for donation or resale.
Some kids will be motivated to sell their more valuable toys so they can earn money for their new interests. You, the parent, might be sentimental, but usually it’s best to let them part with their old toys. This is part of their growth, and is one way they will learn to make good decisions. Decision making, part of organizing, is a life skill that can serve them the rest of their life.
Remember that 15 minute timer we talked about? Kids love trying to beat the clock, so make sure they know how to set and use a timer to get through an organizing project, too. And if you are just joining us, be sure to enter to win a Samsung Galaxy Tab4 tablet, so you can always have a quick and easy timer handy.