Toy Organization That Works in Every Household
My family of six recently moved from a 1000 square foot home into a house that’s 3 times as big. And yes, while I have more storage options in the new place, cluttered bed rooms and toys are still a struggle!
The two littlest in my family share a bedroom so I’ve gotten creative with my toy organization to keep their room a fun place to play. It’s important to keep things in perspective when coming up with toy organization. What might work in my house, may not work at your house. Space constraints as well as the actual toys you own will determine what kind of toy organization is required.
I’ve included practical tips that will fit a broad range of families, including minimalists, apartment dwellers and families with a separate playroom dedicated to toys. I also share ideas on getting kids to pitch in with toy organization and why it’s important to make tidying up part of your daily routine!
Things to Do Daily
Throughout the day I let my kids play with their toys and they pull out lots of stuff! Twice a day, I have them stop and clean up – before lunchtime and before bed. Requesting the toys be tidied in the afternoon and again in the evening makes clean up fast.
Just before bedtime, my kids and I do a quick tidy of anything that’s not yet put away. Usually this means we’re tossing stuffed plush toys into a basket, scooping up building blocks back into their storage box and neatly shelving the books back into place. Doing the nightly tidy is part of the bedtime routine, just like pajamas and teeth brushing. Everyone cooperates from the toddler to the teen in cleaning up the house, including their own toys and playthings. If you make it a daily event, eventually your children will handle the clean up automatically.
RELATED: Decluttering Tips for a Clean House
What to do about odd bits that you find during cleanup? I’ll share my tip about taking care of those random items later on in this article.
Making Choices About Toy Organization and Storage
I’ll be sharing tips on toy purging and organizing later in this article. Once you’ve made the decisions on what you want to keep, it’s time to assess your need for storage options. Toy storage is especially important when creating organizing solutions for small spaces.
- Where will you be putting the toys?
- Will they be stored on a shelf or under the bed?
- Do you want open topped storage or stackable bins with lids?
- Would you rather have storage boxes that are clear so kids can see what is inside at a glance?
- Do you have the room space for a large shelving unit that will hold everything in one place?
- Measure the spaces you’ll be putting the storage so you can purchase the correct sized storage units.
- Does the closet have usable space for toy storage?
- Will your child be able to access and open each storage box themselves or will they need help (some lids have plastic flip sides that are easy for preschoolers to open).
- Are there other areas in the home that could use storage for toys (ie: living room where your child plays).
- What is the room’s aesthetic? Will the storage be seen and do you want it to be part of the room’s decor?
- Will the chosen storage option hold up well in a kid’s room? Items like baskets or fabric boxes might look cute in a nursery. But over time, they aren’t going to be sturdy for toys as a hard plastic bin would be.
These Paperboard Suitcase Storage boxes are precious but probably not appropriate for daily use. Consider items like this as decorative for toy storage that is kept up and away.
In our old house, we used wire shelving units in each kid’s closet for toy storage. We had two-shelf units under the kid’s clothes for stacking toy bins and open storage. At our new house, our two youngest kids have a wall of storage but no closets! While their clothes are kept in a separate room, their large toys are now out in the open. Including this gigantic ride-on horse (thanks grandma!).
Obviously large items like baby doll strollers, doll houses and race car tracks will have to take up residence on the floor. When we lived in a smaller home we banned large items like this because we just didn’t have the space to store them!
Furniture Storage Options for Kids
For items that don’t require a bin, open storage shelving like this wire shelving unit is the great option for toys. If you have a home without built-in storage you’ll need to look at furniture pieces that fill the void. Naturally large furniture will need to be secured to the wall to prevent toppling.
UTEX Kids’ Toy Storage Organizer with Plastic Bins – Not the best option if you want items out of sight, but kid-friendly open bins make it easy to drop toys in when play is done.
MAGDESIGNER Kids’ Toys Storage Baskets on Wheels – another good choice for items that don’t require individual bins, this unit can be rolled into a closet for storage.
KidKraft Little Dreamers Reading Nook – This combination book shelf and reading nook is a great use for small spaces!
Getting Rid of the Random Toy Box
The cavernous toy box is nothing more than a glorified junk drawer. Each of the items jumbled together into a single toy box should be siphoned into smaller boxes. Once every toy has a place, it will be a breeze to clean up and find what you’re looking for.
- Dump everything out of the toy box into a big pile in the center of the room (yes, really!)
- Have a trash can available to dump garbage, broken toys or anything weird and random you don’t want/need.
- Sort items into separate piles by organizing into like groups, as explained next.
This step of seeing ALL THE TOYS in one place is actually really important in the clean up, purge and organization process. Don’t skip over this step!
Organizing into “Like” Groups
In order to stay organized, we’re going to avoid tossing all of the toys into random boxes and bins. Giving each toy a proper home allows kids to clean up and organize properly on a daily basis. This will also help prevent kids from dumping entire boxes out in the search for that ONE thing they’re looking for!
You’ll want to start by sorting toys into “like” groups. If you have bins or boxes already you can use them for this sorting process, otherwise piles in the room work just as well. Pick through every single toy individually. Sort the toys into like groups (ie: train track pieces in one pile, building blocks in another).
Once you can see the toys together in their groups, you’ll be able to assess the size needed for each storage unit. Items that have subgroups may require extra bins to keep pieces additionally separated. For instance you won’t want to store ALL the LEGO bricks in one box for fear of your kid dumping the entire load to find they one piece they need! Also some groupings may be too heavy to keep all in a single box, requiring subdivision. Keep reading for additional tips on divvying up like items.
Purging the Toy Collections
Don’t want to spend all the time tidying up toys and reorganizing? Then it might be time to downsize the toy collection! Once you’ve made piles and can see all of the toys in one place you’re ready to purge what you don’t want or need anymore.
Kids can have very strong attachments to their toys and other things. Some children will be very sentimental about getting rid of items and should be involved in the process of decluttering their toys. If your kid doesn’t mind either way, feel free to clean out toys in their absence.
Selling and Donating Toys
If toys are in good condition and you have all the parts, you could try to sell them online. Otherwise donating or offering to family and friends is a good way to pay it forward. Once you have all the toys gathered up that you’re getting rid of, bag each grouping into gallon-sized zip closed bags. Move the toys to a place somewhere your kids won’t get them back out! Then immediately schedule a donation pick up, drive it to the Goodwill or arrange to have a friend take the toys for her kids.
Label it All
For kids that can read, label toy boxes (I use a Brother P-Touch Label Maker). Clean up at the end of the day is quick when kids can grab the appropriately labeled box and sort the toys back inside.
For younger kids who aren’t yet reading, make clean up more organized by labeling each box with a picture of the items that should go inside. Draw out a simple image of the toy that goes inside or take a photo and print. Attach to your box with clear packing tape over the top of each label.
Storage Outside the Box
Consider wall hooks and fabric bags to store toys. No need to put holes in the wall with Command Wire Hooks. They are quick to remove but stay up well, even with heavier items.
Too many plush animals and stuffed toys? Consider this Stuffed Animal Bean Bag Chair option that’s practical and functional! I’m am soooo ordering this for my daughter’s plush lovies!
Zip-close plastic bags are ideal for holding loose items together, like Barbie doll shoes. I use gallon-sized bags to subdivide LEGO kits with their instructions, then store all the bags together in a single bin.
For lightweight baby toys, this Linen Wall Pocket Organizer is an eye-pleasing way to organize tiny items like rattles, teethers and dolls.
More Unique Toy Organization Options
Sturdy plastic bags can be helpful when organizing toys. We use clear plastic zippered travel bags for holding playing cards. Rubber band each set together first, then put them together in a bag. Great to grab for on-the-go or keep inside your purse.
If space is minimum inside your kid’s bedroom, think of other locations you might be able to store toy bins. My daughter tends to bring toys into the living room to play so it only makes sense to have a fabric storage cube for her toys there as well.
For kids who like to tidy up in a jiffy, I love these quick close Fabric Play Mat Storage Bags. I have a smaller version similar to this for my makeup. Kids can open up the bag wide, play with the toys and then tug the cord to tighten the bag, creating a cinch-sack that holds everything inside!
What to Do Monthly
Each month, I take the time to quickly organize each toy bin. It doesn’t take me more than 30 minutes and the result is an ultra-organized space! Dump out the contents of each bin, one at a time. Sift through and replace back into the box only what belongs. If you found an out-of-place item, set it aside until you get to the bin that the item belongs in.
Do this for every labeled toy bin, replacing items back to their proper home. Along the way you’re sure to find broken toys and trash you can get rid of. Add this organizing task to your calendar and repeat monthly!
What to Do With Kid’s Knick-Knacks
I’m not a big fan of decorative clutter because, more things to dust! But for kids who have special collections, it’s important to find a way of displaying them. Or at the least, a way to keep them together.
- Have a single shelf for prized possessions. Keep the shelf from getting overcrowded by implementing an in & out rule (for each new thing added, one thing has to go).
- Use a shadow box to keep breakable or delicate collections up and away.
- A cork board with push pins is a good way to display items like prize ribbons, paper awards, photographs and collectors pins.
- Make a special memento box for storage of smaller items like travel maps, ticket stubs and commemorative buttons.
What to Do With Lost and Loose Toy Pieces
Throughout the week, I’m constantly coming across “lost” toy pieces like LEGO bricks, doll shoes, board game items and puzzle pieces.
Keep a small box in the kid’s room as a “catch all” for these items. Toss these loose items into the box as you find them. At the end of the week, have your kids help you match up these toys and put them back where they belong.
Rotate the Available Toys
I find that my kids tend to gravitate towards their favorite toys day after day. Having those items close at hand is important. It’s also a good idea to make those daily use toys easy to clean up with appropriate storage options.
What about the toys that don’t get played with everyday? If it’s been several months since they were played with, consider donating. Or try putting them into a toy rotation. Put the toy bin out of sight for a month and then rotate it out with another bin. Do the kids play with it now? Keep it out for a while until interest wanes and you rotate toys again. If they still don’t show any interest, consider getting rid of it.
Making Toy Organization Part of the Room Design
When choosing kid’s toy organization tools don’t feel like you have to only choose “kid styles” that are so prevalent. You know, those bright plastic rainbow colored bins or cartoon themed furniture pieces? If wood and black metal fits the room’s aesthetic, then definitely go that route instead.
Toy organization should blend with the room’s theming so you should not feel trapped with only purchasing kid-specific items. Products outside of the kid’s department may also be higher quality. Once they’ve outgrown their use for toys, you’ll be able to put the storage solutions to work in other areas of your home.
For a uniquely creative touch, look for handcrafted storage options on Etsy, like these Wall Hanging Baskets.
Books and Reading
We have a LOT of books (I used to work at a book store). Paperbacks were mingling with picture books and chapter books, and nothing was sitting nicely on the shelf together.
- Since we read together nightly, I keep the most-often read favorite books up front and center so they kids can grab them. Other books are sorted and separate on the shelves for best organization.
- I found these inexpensive plastic Book & Magazine Organizers and they are perfect for holding paperbacks. I use them on the shelf next to the taller books as a sort-of “book end”.
- If shelf space for book storage is limited, consider a Wooden Book Trough like this one found on Etsy. Kids can grab the books at their level and easily drop them back in for quick organizing.
What should you do about coloring books? I weeded through our books, recycling anything that was completely colored in. Coloring books are too floppy to stand up on shelves like a regular book. I put all the coloring books in a large bin. Then sort crayons, markers and colored pencils into individual cases to make art time easy for clean up!
Board Games and Puzzles
Just like any of the rest of the toys in the house, make an assessment of games and puzzles. Get rid of anything that doesn’t get played with. We have the space in our new house to keep board games, cards and puzzles in a hall closet, away from other toys. If you have a general area in the home, usually shelves to store games, this is ideal for game and toy storage.
- Consider keeping games with lots of parts (especially if they are small choking hazard pieces) high and out of reach of younger children. This also eliminates preschoolers from helping themselves to the games and mixing up the pieces!
- Put together puzzles and play board games, then take note of any missing pieces. Tape a note inside the box so you know next time you play what’s missing.
- Use sturdy packing tape to repair torn boxes or to strengthen corners. If the box is beyond repair, remove all the pieces to an appropriate sized storage box with a label.
- Use snack sized zip close bags to contain parts and pieces within each game box. Rubber band cards together in a stack.
Toy Organization for Babies and Toddlers
Storage bins with lids are often ideal for toy storage. Items won’t fall out, be overfilled and units can be stacked. For young children who don’t have toys with multiple parts, low bins, baskets and wooden crates can be more practical. There’s no struggle to open and close lids for young kids when using open storage. Certain items are better served in loose storage options that a baby or toddler will be able to access on their own.
Large low baskets are perfect for storing plush toys, pillows and blankets or musical instruments. Check baskets occasionally for broken wicker, rattan or wood pieces that may scratch skin or snag delicate fabric toys.
Cloth and fabric storage bins can become quickly misshaped when overloaded with items that are too heavy. Lightweight toys and dress up clothes are perfect to keep inside these cube storage boxes. This Crocheted Rope Basket is sturdier and able to hold heavier items like wooden blocks. Look for large sturdy organizers that are great for tossing in loose baby toys like mirrors and rattles.
Don’t Forget the Bath Toys
Moving into the bath room, it’s easy to forget the clutter of bath toys in the tub! We’ve always kept the tub toys to a minimum, keeping only what can fit in a small box with ample drainage. Here’s how to organize toys in the bathroom.
- Immediately toss out anything that might have gotten water logged – mold can grow inside!
- Get rid of toys that are unused or create too much clutter.
- Contain bath toys into a single bag or bin. Make sure the bin is water resistant and has proper drainage holes. Have kids clean up toys into the bin after each bath time. This Mesh Bath Toy Storage Bag hangs by wall suctions near the tub and keeps bath toys organized in a single space.
Create a Culture of Responsibility
Should kids learn to pick up their own toys? Absolutely! I have tips on how we get our kids to do housework and cleaning up toys is one of their personal tasks. Do I step in to organize things? Yes, I still do because I like to weed things out and keep shelves looking tidy.
How to include children in toy organization?
- Create a routine that includes clean up every single day. Start when kids are very little by singing a “Clean Up” song while putting toys away. Include toy organization as one of the items on the printable behavior charts for kids.
- Implement a rule that only one or two toy bins should be out at a single time. If your child has trouble with this, try placing bins in a high, out of reach location. They need to ask you for certain items and you can dole them out as you wish.
- Put toys into “time out” for a designated amount of time when they aren’t cleaned up by the end of the day.