I was looking at photos you posted of your family room and I don’t see toys laying everywhere. I have toys all over my house. Where do you hide the toys? Do your kids not have toys (ha-ha!)? Or do you hide everything before you take pictures?
To be honest, we don’t have a ton of toys. Especially when you take into consideration the number of children that I have. I am firmly in the camp of less is more when it come to toys.
Here are my tips:
1) Don’t let the toys take over. Decide how much area you want to toys to take up and only allow toys that will fit in that area to stay. They will take over and multiply at night while you sleep if you are not careful. Unless you like looking at toys everywhere. Ugly plastic toys that make your house look like Romper Room.
Our family room is child friendly, not child centered. It is a room for all of us to relax together.
The end table next to the couch hold a few board books. The baskets hold an assortment of small toys. One of the little baskets always has all the little people and accessories that go with the little people doll house, as well as a few random little characters that have been picked up here and there. The other small basket has pretend cell phones, pretend cameras, pretend cd players etc. The larger basket is a sort of catch-all of errant small toys that we find when we are cleaning up the room for the night. Every few days we will go through it and put the things where they belong.
2) Even though we have a large house, we do not have a dedicated playroom. Why? I have not met a single person whose children will go into a playroom and play. It becomes essentially a huge closet to store toys. No matter how organized it is, it becomes a mess. Kids don’t want to go somewhere separate from you to play in a room alone. They want to be with you. Make the play room a room that you enjoy spending time in.
This is a “play” area behind my couch. The bottom shelf of the bookcase has a little doll house and 3 containers of Tinker Toys. The little kitchen, with all the food stored inside of it. The train table with bins underneath holding all the Brio Builder toys. they will take the Brio Builder or the Tinker Toys and bring them into the main area of the room to play. I have no problem with that at all. But when theya re done playing, they know, and I know, that the toys have a specific place to go back to.
3)If you find the toys overwhelming, so do your children. They can not decide what to play when there are too many choices. Then they do the dump and run. Dumping out toy after toy after toy until the room is a disaster and there is no way for them to clean it up. Unless you like resorting and reorganizing toys daily.
The tall armoire in this photo holds games, puzzles and toys with small pieces. I also keep books on CD in there. Basically anything that I don’t want small children having unsupervised access to.
The coffee table trunk hold all the Imaginext building sets that we own, which is quite possibly every set every made.
The large basket on the floor has random toys that don’t really belong anywhere. Action figures, nerf balls, plastic bows and arrows–things of that nature.
4) Organize, organize, organize. Nothing frustrates a child more than wanting to play with a toy and not being able to find all the pieces.
This is a small sunroom that we have. All the toys in this room have a place where they belong. All the wooden blocks go on the bottom shelf. The large basket on the bottom right houses several Mr Potato Heads and all his various accessories. The basket on the top right shelf has matchbox cars. The plastic containers have beads, yarn, and some small waldorfy wooden building toys. Behind the plastic bins is a small metal lunchbox which holds a very small wooden castle block set.
When everything has a place to go cleaning up is easy and painless. If I find a Mr. Potato ear that has somehow found it’s way into my bathroom, I can hand it to anyone of my children and say, “Put this where it belongs, please.” And they know exactly where that is. There is no mystery to them what I mean by cleaning up.
5) Get rid of the toybox as the dumping ground of all toys. Think of it this way if your cellphone, coffee cup, pocketbook contents, car keys, mail, pens, paper, hairbrush, etc were all dumped into a large box that you had to root through to find anything, how annoyed would you be? And how likely would you be to put everything back in once you found the item you had been searching for? I am guessing not very likely.
If you must use a toybox, think about organizing it inside with smaller containers. The shoe box sized rubbermaid containers are great for this and they stack nicely also.
6) Don’t be afraid to get rid of toys that your children don’t play with. Pack up toys that have lost their appeal and put them in your attic or the back of your closet in a rubbermaid bin. When you bring them back out again in a couple of months your children will have a great time rediscovering them. And as an added benefit you are not buying any new toys from the toy store. When you bring out a new toy, pack up an old one.
I have several large Rubbermaid bins that I rotate down from the attic. One has Lincoln Logs, one has Duplos, etc. When I see their interest has waned in a certain toy, I’ll pack it up when they are in bed for the night and bring something else down. It’s like an unexpected Christmas.
7) Finally, be critical of the toys that you bring into your home in the first place. When you are tempted to buy the latest, greatest thing consider how it will hold up in the long run. Is it a toy that only performs a limited amount of functions? Or is it a toy that encourages imaginative play? Is it a tie in to the latest movie? Or is it timeless? I would much rather buy a generic pirate ship and pirates, than set of “Pirates in the Caribbean”. I think that very few toys should “do” things for your child. Rather the obligation should be on your child to “do.”
And that is it. Go forth and declutter and detoy your house. I think that most people would be pleasantly surprised how much better their children would play with much less toys.