Whether it’s pool toys, a playhouse, or giant legos, outdoor toys are a staple of summertime fun. But what happens to those treasured toys when the cold weather arrives? After all, the fall also welcomes back-to-school routines, which means fewer opportunities for outdoor activities.

Let’s face it, knowing how to store outdoor toys correctly doesn’t always top a to-do list—at least, not while it’s still warm. To avoid inconspicuously shoving the pool noodles in the linen closet, we’ve got some helpful tips for you. Here are some outdoor toy storage ideas to keep your kids’ toys (and yours) in tip-top shape for next season.

Get the Whole Family Involved

Of the numerous storage hacks that exist, one of the most crucial is to get everyone on board with your ultimate goal of clutter-free living. If you don’t involve the entire family, the same old patterns are going to surface. More than likely, bad organizational habits will crash and burn your endeavor. So, all hands on deck!

An excellent place to start is to layout your game plan. The seasons are about to change, so inform the troops of that. Tell them you need their help prepping the outdoor toys for storage during the winter months.

If your recruitment spiel gets moans and groans in response, sweeten the deal. Remember, the toys will need cleaning first…which means spraying water from a hose. And really, there’s nothing better than sprinkling hose water to a mini-adventurer.

Getting the whole family involved accomplishes a few different things. Firstly, it takes the pressure off of you to figure out storage solutions. Secondly, it imparts a sense of responsibility to your children.  Maybe your 3-year-old only handles one sandbox toy. Or, your teen goes DIY on you and builds an epic outdoor storage bench; accountability is a substantial life lesson.

Deep Clean the Items

Before doling out any life lessons, though, it’s essential to give your outdoor toys a thorough cleaning. Although this step might seem a bit annoying and possibly unnecessary, it could very well extend the life of your summertime stuff. After all, who wants rusty rims or moldy water toys?

Deep cleaning doesn’t have to be a never-ending task. Especially with help, you could probably tackle this task in an afternoon. Keep in mind that each surface requires a slightly different approach when it comes to washing.

So, start with small toys. Perhaps you’re going to take them inside rather than put them in storage, so you need them fresh anyway. To liven up this task, fill the kiddie pool with soap and water to use as a makeshift bathtub.

Opt to clean large plastic toys—playhouses, supercycles, wagons, etc.—with a vinegar and water solution. Baking soda paste (baking soda and water mixed) also works wonders on many outdoor toys. Just be mindful of stickers as they could easily rub off if soaked.

Put your old kitchen sponges to work by rubbing down bicycles with dish soap and water. Avoid using anything too abrasive or blasting the bike with the hose as it may cause damage.

Lastly, give your toys plenty of time to dry. All those tiny nooks and crannies need to air out before sitting in storage for several months. While towel drying is a viable option, air dying is usually the most comfortable and efficient. Plus, it gives you time to clean up the space you used for deep cleaning.

Divide and Conquer

For many of us, toy storage isn’t any more sophisticated than dumping everything into storage bins (right before the first frost hits). These boxes often get parked next to lawnmowers in the storage shed or shoved behind the garage door. This method can serve up a “where is that?” kind of nightmare come spring.

To save yourself the headache when you drag it all back out, take a more organized approach to toy storage ideas. And keep it simple! Toy organization is as easy as categorizing according to size or function, such as:

  • Sports equipment
  • Yard games (bocce ball, croquet, badminton, horseshoes, etc.)
  • Balls
  • Sand toys
  • Water toys
  • Giant legos
  • Toys with wheels

The idea is that you know where to find everything when you need to locate it. Plus, keeping certain toys together helps to use less storage space and prolongs the life of smaller toys, as well.

For example, you won’t be shoving tiny sandbox shovels between a basketball and a bike tire. A scattershot or haphazard DIY storage plan often neglects smaller toys. Then they end up needing to be replaced, which can be costly.

A bonus to this set-up is that it’s convenient to use storage cabinets, stackable storage containers, and shelving units since you’ve neatly bundled everything. You can even move your outdoor toy box into the garage storage zone, and make it work overtime during the winter.

Don’t Skimp on Storage

You pay good money for outdoor toys. To support the “work hard play hard” mindset, you likely want to have your toys as long as possible. So, do what you can to protect them.

Plenty of storage ideas exist. Your job is to find the right method to fit your lifestyle. Keep in mind that your geographic location typically dictates your outdoor storage needs.

For example, Illinois winters hit fast and without mercy. Putting off proper storage even one week could mean the end of your outdoor toy fun for next season—unless you’re okay spending heaps of money on replacement toys.

Many other areas in the U.S. are just as vicious when it comes to the fall and winter weather. As a result, it’s become necessary to know your local weather patterns and to respond accordingly. After all, a Colorado snowstorm is probably going to laugh and point at the barely-there tarp covering your row of bicycles.

Consider hauling items down to the basement, stacking them next to the garden tools in the tool shed, or even renting a storage space for the cold months. If you take the time to strategize your outdoor toy storage, you’ll enjoy next spring much more.

Get Creative with Organization

One last detail to remember is to have fun in all this adulting. Sure, you’re accomplishing the vital task of storing outdoor toys properly, but it doesn’t have to bore or burden you. Before you transfer all the toys to the garage or storage unit, let loose your creative juice!

Some ideas include:

  • Hang bikes from the ceiling for space-saving bike storage.
  • Stretch bungee cords to create a makeshift “ball jail.”
  • Use a mesh laundry bag for smaller or softer balls.
  • Write the key or legend on a chalkboard (so you know the exact location of items).
  • Move the outdoor storage box inside to keep water out of it.
  • Place a pallet down before stacking boxes on the ground.
  • Install a pegboard with hooks for hangable toys.
  • Hang the kiddie pool on the wall to save floor space.

Your outdoor space is one filled with enjoyment and loads of memory-making activities. By following some of these tips, you’ll extend the life of your outdoor toys and keep the fun coming season after season.

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Dyanne Harvey