By Heidi Meyer
Toy Clutter. You all know that very well!
Are your child’s toys taking over the home? Do you feel at times, that it would be easier just tossing the lot and start again? Let’s look at conquering your nemesis once and for all.
Symptoms of the problem?
- Toys are spilling over from the playroom or bedroom to other areas of the house, resulting from lack of space to play on.
- Large containers and baskets are overflowing with a variety of toys.
- Sets are incomplete, puzzle pieces are lost and your child doesn’t play with them anymore.
- Constant complaints of not having anything to play with yet the house is filled with toys.
- Clean-up is a major fight, as nothing has a home anymore and everything is just piled onto the already overfilled containers.
- Favourite toys are broken and lost in the process.
- Your child feels overwhelmed by the toy clutter and doesn’t even know what he can play with.
Orderly Toy storage is essential, it doesn’t only need to be functional but can be stylish too. Before you rush out to buy toy storage, decide what needs to be done and how you would like it.
Work through all the toys, if you feel overwhelmed at this point, imagine how he must feel trying to find something to play with. This will take loads of time so make sure that you have the energy for it.
- Collect toys from where ever they are.
- Sort and give away unused, outgrown or duplicate toys with your child’s help.
- Toss anything that is broken or incomplete. Incomplete puzzle and single playing cards might just as well be tossed, it just takes too much time to sort sets.
- Put like with like to see if sets are complete.
- Set up a container to rotate toys. One set is active while the other is stored out of sight. If you bring out the stored container in a month or two, it will be Christmas all over again.
There are many pretty and functional ways to contain toys. Avoid buying bulky storage containers and stacking them on top of one another. If your child can’t find what he is looking for, the whole box will be tipped or stuff flung out, until he finds what he is looking for. Rather:
- Use clear containers with lids where the kid can see what it wants and enables him to pack away easily.
- Containerise small toys, like with like, e.g. small cars, people, animals.
- Ensure that toys he can play with alone are at an easy reach.
- Put each set in an own container and label it. For a small child, use picture and word labels encouraging him to read. Clear plastic storage boxes are great for this as he can see clearly what it contains. Free labels available here.
- Use baskets and toy boxes for bigger soft toys, play-doh, dolls clothing, musical instruments, art materials and building blocks.Avoid placing Cars or hard plastics in these as they are broken easily if squashed.
- Install transparent hanging shoe organisers behind the doors for Barbie’s or cars.
- Use vertical mesh organisers or hammocks for soft toys.
- Lego is a huge challenge and especially if you want to keep sets separate. Don’t drive yourself crazy, have a container for the Lego and let them build from there. Keep the instruction manuals in a plastic flip folder, either in the container or on the bookshelf. I love the Lego swoop mat with draw string. They can sit on the mat and when tidying time comes you just draw up the bag and hang it.
Allocate a home
Now that you have everything containerised, consider using vertical space like shelves, cubbies, drawers, and specialised toy storage to keep things off the floor. Anchor shelving to walls, as kids tend to climb when they want something that is out of reach.
Establish a place where you want to house the toys and limit the number of toys being kept. If it doesn’t fit into the allocated space it needs to go.
- Store books that are age appropriate within easy reach on a bookshelf to make them more accessible and easy to put away.
- Keep puzzles and games that you would like the child to play with under supervision on higher shelves.
- Large toys like electronic toys, trucks and dolls, like with like, loose, in cubbies or in a baskets
- Keep balls and bats in wire baskets, tricycles and big ride on toys, on the veranda or in the garage for playing outside.
- Shelves with open storage bins are great for small children for easy access and packing away.
- Place a small table in the room to facilitate art and building activities, built-in storage is desirable.
- Maximise space by using the space under the bed for storage. I love the functional under bed storage from Nest designs.
Good storage alone doesn’t cut it, your child needs to be taught how to use and maintain it.
Show the domestic or au pair where things belong and instruct them to guide your child to keep the order and to tidy away.
- Consider toy free zones, like your formal lounge or your bedroom.
- Teach your child to take out toy sets or puzzles one at a time and tidy up before they get another one. This creates the habit to complete one task before starting another. This will keep the play area tidy.
Teaching a child to be organised is equipping him with a skill for life.