Simplifying with Kids: How to Organize Toys (Part 2)
Now that you’ve finished decluttering kids’ toys from Part 1 of my Simplifying Toys Series, you are probably standing amongst a pile of toys, wondering what’s next. Before we go on, consider this alarming truth for a moment: that very feeling that you feel right now, your kids probably feel (or have felt), too. Not only that, but research shows that fewer toys is the better option for other reasons: fewer toys helps kids focus on and engage in better quality, more creative & imaginative play, which leads to deeper cognitive development.
It took me almost a decade of working with young children to realize that the overwhelm I felt as a result of excessive clutter around my classroom, also impacted the mental space of the children I worked with. It was in reading a book about introverted students in the classroom, as well as students who struggle with ADHD and sensory conditions, that I became aware of how “noise” and extra clutter in my room caused overwhelm for these students and often resulted in behavior issues.
Now that I’ve simplified my elementary classroom, kids with all different needs can flourish; they have space to take mental and physical breaks, classroom supplies encourage creative and imaginative play and building, and the general atmosphere is one of calm & engaged learning.
My guess is you are reading this because you know that exact feeling I described above, and your children probably do, too. You may be feeling it especially now, at this point in the process. Well, I’m so glad you’re here! Not only does it show that you care about your children’s mental clutter and the “noise” they are having to process, but it shows that you’re ready to take action.
So let’s get to it!
Store toys in a single area (a playroom, the bedroom, family room, etc) but avoid the trap of having 3 (or pick your number!) separate play spaces
Why? Toys need to have a designated home that is consistent and predictable. If the “home” is always changing, your kiddos will never learn how to maintain. Consistency & predictability help the developing minds of children immensely. One caveat to that is this: you may designate a specific area or room for specific types of play (i.e. a place for arts + a place for physical toys). Or you may want one basket of toys in the living room for family time, with the rest being stored in a bedroom. The important point here is to designate specific homes for every single toy and plan on keeping the toys in their respective homes.
Store toys by category (Dress Clothes, Toys with Wheels, Blocks, Musical Instruments, Dolls, Board Games, etc)
Why? Categorization is a basic cognitive process that helps young learners (and old learners!) organize their world around them. At home, let’s utilize this process that kids are developing at school. It’s a cognitive process that will help your kids organize information for their entire life, so it seems wise to make a real world connection with toys.
Involve your kids in organization decisions
Why? Your kiddo(s) will have more buy-in if given the opportunity to have choice in this. Ask “Where should the dolls go? Which shelf would be best for blocks? Where is the best place for drawing materials?” and so on. Since they will be the ones using the area most, include them in all decision-making and empower them to “own” the playroom. You want their help maintaining it, right? Then they need a little ownership.
Consider a useful storage solution
Why? Each toy needs to have a designated “home.” If you already have shelves or cubes that work, that’s great. If you need a storage solution, I’m linking my favorite organizational sources here. Scroll down to “general storage” for my favorite cube storage shelf + basket options.
Note: I love using labels with pictures to describe each category of toys. A lot of kids are visual learners, and if they can see a picture on the front of a basket, it will help them return items to the correct “home.”
The most students I’ve had in a classroom in one year is 34. Thirty-four 11-12 year olds every single day! I’ve also had 27 eight year olds, 10 two year olds, and so many other combinations. Time and time again, I’ve found that minimizing and then organizing classroom supplies and/or toys/activities helps all kinds of kids with different needs.
It’s my experience that kids thrive on structure and order, so it makes sense that developing a system of organization for the place kids spend a large amount of time would pay off in huge dividends: more creative play, white/empty space for busy minds to rest, better adjusted kiddos.
By this point, you may have decluttered and organized the entire playroom, and you’re thinking, YES! THIS IS IT! ALL OUR WORRIES ARE GONE!
Well, I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but there’s one more part: maintaining the order. I assure you it is possible, because I’ve seen it done in my own classroom. Next week, I’ll be back with Part 3: Maintaining Order in the Playroom. I hope this section helped you and you’ll be back for the third and final part!
Before you go, can you let me know…what has been your biggest struggle as you organize your children’s toys? Share in the comment below, if ya would, and I may even have a recommendation to help!