The question of how to rein in the chaos of kids toys is one I get a lot and I couldn’t think of any better person to lend us her wisdom than Linda. Her advice is so smart and completely practical.
Kids and chaos seem to simply go together like peanut butter and jelly. Having raised two children of my own gives me firsthand experience of the frustration that can get in the way of fun when toys take over the house. Many of the organizing techniques I use with my clients have been tested for effectiveness in my own household!
Underlying all of my tips is the proven principle that kids will eventually learn to put away their things if you provide an obvious place for the belongings and are consistent in teaching them how. Organization can go beyond giving the relief of having a neat playroom; it can encourage the kids to be more independent in finding their toys and picking up after themselves. They feel like big kids, and that is a huge help to parents. A little strategizing can go a long way toward a smoother, functioning household and leave more time for fun!
Make it fun. Sorting, matching and lining up collections are activities that kids do on their own. They also are important tasks in organizing their toys. To make organizing time feel more like playtime, consider these ideas:
- Use clear or brightly colored plastic boxes to store toys on shelves. Label boxes with words, pictures or actual objects to help your kids easily identify what goes where.
- Use small plastic or wicker baskets to store similar toys together. Kids love being able to tote, empty and fill the baskets.
Make it accessible. Whatever structure or system you implement, make sure your kids can easily use.
- Place shelving low enough for kids to reach. However, consider some higher shelving for storing toys with many small pieces. Having these toys out of reach will encourage partial clean up before taking out more.
- Use pull-out storage containers on wheels, or other large flat containers from under beds for storing toys.
- Low hooks are also great for accessing dress-up clothes and accessories.
Underwhelm. The less you have, the easier it is to maintain. It is also easier to make choices about what to play with when fewer options are available. Consider these techniques for having less visible clutter:
- Cycle toys as you do clothing. Store half the toys away in boxes. In a few months, bring them out and store others away. This will make toy selection and management easier.
- Once you’ve done your pruning of your existing toys, going forward, establish the one toy in, one toy out policy. This will help you maintain a better toy equilibrium.
Let Go. Whether it’s toys, kids or ideas, we all have to learn how to let go. Helping your children learn how to say good-bye to toys that they’ve outgrown, are broken or have missing pieces is a valuable life skill.
- It’s easier to let go when we know our things are going to someone else that will appreciate them. Talk with your kids about donating extra toys to kids that have less. Kids usually love knowing that they are helping other kids.
- Your kids might want to keep some toys as mementos even if they are no longer played with. Box those toys and relocate them to a safe, remote area in your home and show them they are nearby. You may discover that after some time has passed, they no longer want to keep those toys. Periodically, it’s worth reviewing the box with them.
Be consistent. To help your kids develop good organizational habits, you’ll want to be consistent.
- Set aside the same time of day to help them get back to square one.
- Work with them to help maintain focus on organizing and putting things away. If they like music, experiment with some upbeat music to keep you motivated and energized as you work. Let them pick the music.
- Encourage and never nag or berate them. Organizing doesn’t come easily to everyone. Be patient. Make organizing a positive experience.
Be a role model. We can’t expect our kids to do what we ourselves are not doing. So, if you want your kids to stay organized and you are not modeling this yourself, start with getting your areas in order first. Once you are organized enough, then begin to help your kids to do the same.