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Friday, October 26, 2012

Toy Organization: a Success Story

Please tell me I'm not the only Momma who feels like she's in the middle of a toy graveyard every day. What is it about dumping boxes and boxes of toys out and spreading them all over the floor that bring such joy to a child's heart?  I don't get it.  And I'm sick of it, too.  Because, at least for my girls, once the toys are dumped and spread... they don't get played with anymore.

But before you start bagging and boxing toys to take to the thrift store... try applying the "less is more" toy principle, without getting rid of any toys!

Less is more.  Kids get easily overwhelmed with toys, so having too many available to play with at one time usually just leads to a mess of toys and a kid who doesn't really know what to do now.  They want options, but (at least with my kids) they also like a "clean slate" because once the room is a mess they seem to just give up on most of the toys.

I was noticing a frustrating cycle with the girls: they would dump everything out and just keep dumping... then, once the room was a sufficient disaster, they would climb up at the kitchen counter and start bugging me.  There were some great educational toys that were never getting played with.  Books that were never getting read.  Pieces of puzzles getting lost.  Dinosaurs getting stored with the Noah's Ark toys, because at the end of the day I just really don't care about putting things away correctly.  And lots of time wasted cleaning up toys that no one was seeming to enjoy!

But I didn't want to just minimize the amount of toys we have.  Because we have been super blessed by generous grandparents, aunts and uncles, and friends with SO MANY GREAT TOYS!  The problem wasn't that the girls didn't like the toys, it was just that they had too many out at one time.  

So I tried the old "box it up and get it out of the main play room" idea.  This isn't a revolutionary concept that I came up with all by myself.  Lots of moms have told me of the wisdom of keeping less toys out.  And I've tried it before, but with little success.  (Mostly because I'm lazy, ha!)

The general idea is that you box or bag up the toys and then only bring out one box at a time to play with.  I have a fantastic giant-sized laundry room that is right down the hall from our living room (where my girls spend most of their playtime) so I am using the laundry room as the toy hub.  I found that you need to have the "extra toys" in an easy-to-access location, otherwise you won't switch them out often enough.

Each of the boxes contain toys that are loosely categorized.  The blue bag has dress up clothes, a few bears, some paper dolls, etc.  There's a box of blocks, dinosaurs, and toy cars that Lily has dubbed the "boy toys" (and she requests them frequently!).

Some of the favorites are left in the living room at all times... the doll strollers, a decent selection of books, some blocks, the rocking horse, the Busy Zoo, the toy kitchen (though the toy food is only brought out periodically hehe), and some stuffed animals in the drawers.  The bottom shelf of that main cabinet is where the toys-to-be-rotated go.  

We end morning and evening playtime with a quick clean up... Sam loves "singing" the clean up some with me and they are both getting better at helping.  Then I take the box of toys back to the laundry room and bring out the next box. Lily has already caught on to this and she actually thinks it's great fun to get "new toys" (as she calls them) on a regular basis! As an added bonus, I can rotate the toys during a play session if they start to get bored.

With this method, by the end of the week my kids have played with all their toys numerous times at different points... but never at any time were all the toys on my living room floor!

(There is also a decent selection of books and toys up in their bedroom.  I don't clean them up or rotate them that often cause they are only up there to play at the end of naptime and a little bit in the mornings after they wake up.)

I like this method for a lot of reasons.  First, it makes clean up so much faster.  There are less toys out total.  So our pick up time has gone from 7 minutes down to 2.5 minutes.  And if you're a mom of small children then you know: every minute counts!  

Second, we are playing with more toys the way they were meant to be played with.  I'm making a conscious effort to sit down with them a few times a day to kind of remind them and/or teach them how to play with things.  Sometimes it seems that they need a reminder of how much fun the dinosaurs can be... or what to do with those stacking blocks... or how to move the beads around on the Busy Zoo.

The puzzles are a great example of the success of this method in our home.  After just a few weeks of working with Lily, she can now do a few of them by herself.  (Sam just gets in the way, but Lily's a nice sister and they've worked out a system where Lily constructs and Sam destroys.  It works.)  And I haven't had to search for missing pieces among other toys because I have all the puzzles in one box!  So even if I'm rushed to clean up after playtime and I don't feel like putting the puzzles back together before putting them away, I just toss them all into the box and I know that they will be together for the next time we get them out.

So if you think it will help, put your kids' toys in boxes!  Or put your kids in boxes.  But either way, boxes seem to be helping us Aiduk girls keep the toy chaos at bay!


  1. Good idea - glad it's working . . . I don't know what it is about kids and why they just want to dump all the toys out on the floor?!?!?!? Give those messy girls a big squeeze for Gigi!

  2. Titus does the same thing!! Dumping the toys is one of the first things he does in the morning or after nap. I will be trying your idea! I packed some toys away to switch them out but there's still too many options I think.

    1. Yeah I have been super surprised at the amount of toys they actually play with in one sitting. And if we don't clean up before the next play time they don't really play with the toys... does Titus do that, too? (Makes me stay on top of clean up so I guess that's a good thing ha!)

  3. i've heard this suggested but have not known anyone who actually did it- glad that it's working!

  4. I like this idea of switching them out *regularly.* I stashed a few Christmas and birthday gifts of my son's and pulled them out every now and again, but I like this idea a lot and I'm going to need to try it!

    1. Let me know how it works for you! I'm curious if it helps you keep the chaos at bay, too!