By Brittany Carlson
Every year after Christmas, I reevaluate the kids’ playroom. And every year, not soon after that, it seems to revert back to its normal state of clutter where all of the toys are just thrown into bins to keep them out of the way (and no one seems to know where to find anything).
This year, I asked some of my parent friends for help and incorporated some of their tips into reorganizing our playroom more effectively.
Here’s what I did differently this year:
1) I made a place for everything.
My boys have a bin organizer in the playroom that accommodates most of their small toys, but the toys that didn’t fit were getting stacked around it and on top of it and generally cluttering up the room. I pulled out all of the bins, organized them by toy type (cars, action figures, magnet tiles, blocks, etc) and whatever didn’t fit got put in clear plastic totes and moved into our utility closet. When it’s time to rotate toys (more on that later), I’ll swap out the playroom toys for the ones in the closet.
2) I made stations.
This is a great idea that my friend Christian mentioned to me as being a simple way to organize a playroom. Essentially, it’s putting toys together according to their purpose. So, I have small building toys and figurines in the play bins, toy food and pans by the toy kitchen, a large bin of dress up clothes in a “let’s pretend” corner and an exercise area with the boys’ stationary bike and trampoline.
3) I started rotating toys.
Rotating toys means moving some toys to an out-of-sight place, then swapping them out with the playroom toys to keep playtime new and interesting (and make it so the playroom isn’t overflowing).
My friend Tess said she rotates her kids’ toys to not only keep her playroom neat but to keep toys exciting for her kids. Tess actually puts all of the toys in clear plastic totes (organized by type) and keeps them in the garage. Then she lets her kids pick one or two bins at a time to play with. They must put away the first bin before playing with something else. She says this helps them focus more on the toys they are playing with and keeps clean-up from getting too overwhelming.
“Kids can’t process clean up if there is too much out,” she said.
Another friend, Nikki, uses mesh bags to organize toys within bins, and kids can take out one or two bags at a time.
4) I got rid of toys my kids don’t play with anymore.
Toys that my boys have outgrown or haven’t played with in a while got put into either a donate bin, or the recycling bin. I had to do this when my kids were out of the house or sleeping, because trying to do it with their help hasn’t worked well for me yet. (They’re ages 5 and 2.5, and they either cry or hide toys that I’m trying to get rid of).
January was a great time for me to declutter and get rid of some toys because my kids were distracted by the new toys they received for Christmas.
5) I tried new methods for keeping the playroom clean (and making it my kids’ responsibility).
We’ve made it a family activity after dinner to pick up the playroom, and my boys respond best when we make it a game or race. Sometimes we try to beat a timer, and sometimes I’ll play a song and we’ll try to finish before the song is over. My friend Tess said she will give each person a toy type and then race them to see who can fill their bin first. In any case, making clean-up a part of our daily routine (and making it fun) has helped normalize cleaning up as everyone’s job, not just Mom and Dad’s.
I’m not an organized person by nature, but I’m so glad I put the effort into making our playroom easier to navigate and clean up. Now when I walk into our playroom, I don’t feel so overwhelmed by the toys we have, and I can better help my kids find what they want (or put away what is out). Best of all, it’s helping me to teach my kids to better take care of their belongings and clean up after themselves, which is a skill they’ll need for their whole lives (and a huge sanity saver for me).
Brittany Carlson is a lifelong lover of words and all things chocolate. She is an Army wife and has two sons, Adam (4) and James (2). She has written for several Army community newspapers, including the Stuttgart Citizen (Germany), Fort Leonard Wood Guidon (Missouri) and Fort Belvoir Eagle (Virginia). Brittany holds a Master of Arts in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia.
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