Monday, June 17, 2013

Organize the Toys - Barbies, and Legos, and Stuffed Animals, Oh My!

If your kid is anything like mine, then you have a lot of toys floating around the house. In our house, we regularly have Ken and Barbie hanging out in the living room with us, stuffed animals joining the family for dinner and Legos that seem to magically scatter themselves on the little one's bedroom floor when no one is looking. Let me tell you, if you've ever stepped on a Lego or Barbie shoe by accident, then you'll welcome my ideas for keeping them organized and securely put away when they are not in use.

Just a little additional disclaimer here, while I can offer some advice on how to sort and store these toys efficiently, there's also that pesky, little chore of getting your child to actually keep the toys where they belong. We try to follow the rule of - when you're done playing with one thing it gets put away before more gets pulled out. Does it always work? No. However, I have recently threatened to start taking a cleaning fee out of her allowance every time I find toys in the floor that I have to clean up. I find that the prospect of losing some of her spending money tends to motivate her quite well. Use whatever motivator works best for you.

You are going to find that with most of my organizing tips, it really is just a matter of 3 steps: categorize, organize and label. The categories and organization containers vary depending on what items we are dealing with, but the overall process is very similar. Here's a peek at the current organization in my little one's closet:

I do my best to keep all toys in the closet out of the way, this way, she has plenty of floor space to play with items as she takes them out. I have found that the best thing for toy organization is plastic totes with lids. This way you can stack them to fit more in a small space. Not only does my little one have WAY too many toys, so we need the larger size bins, but it actually adds another unexpected benefit - she usually requires help getting those out of the closet which means I can make sure that the previous batch of toys has been properly cleaned up before I assist her in taking out another. An extra tip here - when my little one was younger and didn't require as many large bins for her toys, I used to keep several of the plastic organizer drawers in her closet and just used a different drawer for each category and labeled them - another option!

Here is how I've grouped things, but obviously this could be altered to accommodate whatever types of toys your child has.

On the top shelf, I keep items like craft kits, easy bake oven, playdoh - things that require more supervision, because even on a chair, my little one cannot reach this shelf. Kits are kept in their boxes, and other items are each housed in their own plastic bin and labeled. We have individual bins for Playdoh with the tools, Legos, Kinex and Easy Bake Oven mixes/accessories. I also put any instruction manuals in the bins with the toys also (i.e. the Lego and Kinex building plans).

I keep all the "buildings" together on a shelf - the Littlest Petshop and My Little Pony houses. Her Barbie house is out in her room, since it is obviously too large to take in and out of the closet all the time, but everything else fits nicely on a shelf. You could also opt to keep these in a large bin if you don't have shelving available for storage.

Other bins are categorized as follows:

1 - Barbie Dolls and Monster High Dolls: yes, she has enough to fill up one of those large bins. My little one is a bit of a Barbie addict.

2 - Barbie Clothing, Accessories, Pets and Furniture:  all the furniture, clothing and pets are tossed into the bin, and there is a smaller bin inside the large bin for the little items like shoes, purses, etc... otherwise they just end up lost in the bottom of the large bin. Here's a pic of the smaller one.

3 - Hot Wheels: keep all the track pieces and cars/trucks in one bin

4 - Dress Up: her nicer dresses like the Disney Princess ones are hanging in the closet with her regular dresses, but all other dress up items go in the bin. There is also a smaller bin inside for the smaller pieces of costume jewelry.

5 - Littlest Petshop: lots of furniture pieces and pets in the bin, and a smaller bin for holding all those teeny tiny accessories

6 - Random Toys: action figures, happy meal toys, balls, yo-yos - all sorts of fun little goodies that don't really have a specific category get put in this bin. This is kind of an anything goes bin - if it doesn't belong in one of the other categories, it gets put in here.

We also have some smaller size bins for items that she collects but doesn't have enough of to fill up a large bin such as: Squinkies, Paperdolls, Polly Pockets, Mini Animals like little frogs, bugs, dinosaurs and what not.

So, that's pretty much it! A couple of items that we also organize that are not in the closet are:

1 - Stuffed Animals: We've tried many things with stuffed animal storage, and the easiest solution we have found is to buy an extra large bin and they all get tossed in there except her couple of favorites that stay on her bed. We bought a loft bed for my little one's room this past year, and LOVE it! It adds more floor space to her room - which is awesome! Her stuffed animal bin is actually hidden under the bed. I can add another post later about how I made the tent space under her bed - so easy!

2 -  Books: I highly recommend some sort of bookcase or shelving for their books. Make them accessible to encourage lots of reading! My little one has a desk with shelving over it which is perfect for storing her books.

3 - Crafty Items: There was room on the bookcase for a couple of decorative boxes that hold crayons and stickers, and I found this adorable little caddy at JoAnn's craft store in the home and garden section that works great for holding markers, pens, pencils, scisssors and colored pencils! Greatest part is, it has a handle in the middle, so she can carry it to another rooms if she wants!

Obviously, if your child is a little younger, you might want to keep these items in a less available location, but since my little one is old enough to craft on her own, I like to keep them handy. We keep paper in one of the desk drawers too.

I hope this has helped offer some ideas for those of you trying to organize the toy clutter! Remember - just categorize, organize and label. So, get out those label makers and get busy!

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