It’s a teddy bear on the sofa, puzzle on the floor, dolls on the kitchen table … toys that no matter how hard you try to keep them in the closet, always find their away out, and when you try putting them back, the closet is so stuffed and won’t take one stuffed animal more. We know that the biggest and only job that children have is playing and we must always encourage this interaction with the world of play from a very young age. However, I understand that there are moments when that desperation hits, the guilt for not being able to keep the toys organized in a single place. To help you cope with this and learn how to organize the toys with your little one we will give you some tips:
1. Sort out the toys
Separate the toys by categories and this step in organizing does not need to come only from parents. Engage your child in this process, call on them to participate in the organization and maintenance of your living environment. This way our little ones start to develop caring, mindfulness, and organizational skills from an early age, even during playing. It also helps to memorize where their toys are kept. To start the classification process, the first step is to divide them into three categories:
- Those that are no longer used or those that are no longer suitable for children, as they have outgrown. These can be donated;
- Broken or missing toys and must be thrown away or taken away for repair;
- The ones they use and love and should be cleaned and organized.
2. Classify them
After sorting those that are useful or not, it is time to classify them, that is, group them by “family”. An example: cars, trucks, and planes are one family, another one is dolls, another is board games, and so on. Put each one separately in a pile to then organize them.
3. Choose storage locations
After the stages of classifying them, you’ll need to find a place to place the toys. I know it can be overwhelming when you begin and see the amount of toys you have piled up. I recommend using the transparent acrylic organizer boxes, as it is possible for the child to see what toy they have inside the box and make it easier when they are looking for something specific. Wooden chests, drawers, or boxes are also practical options that keep toys stored and decluttered the environment. It is also very important to put it in a place that the child can reach, so they have the autonomy, being able to pick up the toy alone and then put it back as well.
4. Identify where each toy goes
After you have organized everything, and have chosen the ideal location for each group, it is time to separate the labels or stickers to identify the classification of each toy family. This helps children to locate them easily; it is worth choosing the name for each classification, along with your little one. And always remind them that the toy is in that place and when they take it out to play, it should be put back in its place. A tip I give my clients is to put an actual picture of the toys and not just words on the label of the toys stored there, especially those that are not in transparent containers.
5. To keep everything even more organized
After all the work – sorting, grouping, and overall organization – we know that it is a matter of very little time for toys to be all scattered around the house, right? Obviously, children’s mess is inevitable at some point, but these tips can help you:
- Explain to your little one, that each toy has a place to be kept and when they are done playing, they must return to the place where it kept;
- When cleaning up the toys, come up with fun games to see who picks up the toys faster and puts them in the right place; or who cleans up the most. I always use a cleanup song, not necessarily the classic children’s one. When I was a teacher, I used Yellow Submarine, by The Beatles, and it was a great success. As soon as the song started playing, the children knew it was time to start cleaning up and they had until the end of the song to complete the task. Have your children pick a clean up song!
- Try to end a game before starting another. If your little one is drawing, for example, tell them to put away the crayons first and then go on to other games; As a general rule with very young children, I particularly allow them to play with no more than 3 games or toys, before putting them away and starting a new game. For example, I let them play with lego, then with cars, and after playdough without saying that they need to clean up first. But as soon as they finish playing with the playdough, I remind them that we already have a lot of things out and we need to put them away before taking more games out to play.
- Encourage your child to donate toys that they no longer use. Many toys and clutter actually hinder a child’s ability to develop focus which can also lead to mental confusion and stress.
Bonus Tip – Rotate toys
Another suggestion I give to families to rotate toys. At certain times of the year, such as birthday, or holidays, it is common to receive many new toys, and soon the child’s room is so full that there is no way for them to play with everything. If you have already separated the toys to donate but still have many toys left, the ideal is to keep a large part of these toys stored and out of reach of the child in order to rotate them. Children go through phases of play, and when you manage to take turns with the toys, your child’s interest in them becomes greater and longer.
I rotate the toys available to my children about every two to three months. This time varies according to the age of each child and also according to their own interest. When you notice that your little one has not been playing with cars for more than a few weeks, or that they have not touched the books on their bedside for a few days, it is a sign that it is time to change them!