The Toy Organization Bible
Once the toys are sorted into suitable storage units, take a look at the room itself. Organization expert Donna Smallin says, “Think about the activities that take place in this room so you can set up activity centers. For instance, you might have an area for playing games and doing puzzles, which will require a table. You would then set up storage near the table where the activity takes place.” Try and keep the zones simple and obvious, but don’t fall into the trap of making an organized room a boring room.
Be creative in the zones you decide on for the children. For a reading corner, stacking books in a pile or on a bookshelf may look neat, but is not very enticing for children. Prop one or two books up with their covers on view or with their pages open, and change them regularly. Clear book holders for recipe books or the like are perfect for this type of display. An arts and crafts area can be made interesting by creating a notice board nearby. Children love to display their handiwork, and regular changes will retain their interest. Once a picture’s “display time” is over, create a special box or file for each child to store her best pieces.
Once the toys and the room itself are organized, the key to maintaining order is consistency. Take your children on a “guided tour” through their playroom. Explain where everything belongs and why. If they have any suggestions, try to accommodate them—they’re more likely to be willing to participate if they’ve played a part in the organizing. Then decide on a daily time for packing away toys. “One of the most valuable, real-life skills you can teach your children is that cleaning up is a part of playing, too,” says Morgenstern. “Make it a daily household policy, and stick to it!”
If you find that despite regular cleanups and rigorous organizing, that force of nature still somehow slips into the room, don’t despair. Toys inevitably become old, get broken, or the children simply outgrow them. One of the ways to avoid this is by rotating the toys. If you notice any that haven’t been played with for some time, quietly remove them and store them in a cupboard out of sight. Producing them a couple of months later will refresh the children’s attention and also lengthen the life of their toys. It’ll also help to reduce the amount of toys that need to be picked up daily.
It’s essential to get rid of broken or unused toys regularly. Allow the children to be part of the process if they are old enough, and consider choosing a time just before a birthday or Christmas when they know that at least some of the toys will soon be replaced.
Finally, accept the fact that the area designated for playing with toys inevitably spills out of the playroom and throughout the house! Try placing baskets or hampers in strategic points to act as temporary storage units for toys scattered about. Set aside a time every week or so to sort out the jumble and return all the toys to their proper places. Most importantly, don’t forget to enlist the children’s help. With a little effort (and a lot of persistence from you), they should be able to clean up after themselves someday.
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