Most kids own a lot of toys—sometimes enough to practically fill a toy store. And all those stuffed animals, dolls, puzzles and more need to be stored somewhere.
Here are nine tips for stashing your kids’ playtime treasures.
1. Do Some Sorting.
Before shopping for any storage solutions, sort through what toys you have on hand and make “keep,” “donate” and “toss” piles.
2. Get Your Children Involved.
Encourage your kids to discard anything that’s broken or has several missing pieces. Donate toys to a charity or to a friend or family, giving away ones that your children have duplicates of, never plays with or aren’t age appropriate. Tell your children that by donating toys, they’re giving happiness to other kids. “This way, you’re designing your storage solutions for ‘keeper’ items rather than random toys,” professional organizer Pamela Macleod said.
3. Categorize the Toys.
Put arts and crafts supplies in one pile, dress-up clothing in another, board games in another and so forth. You don’t need a lot of groups, but base the ones you create on your child’s interests and the toys themselves.
4. Pick a Place.
Decide where you want to store the toys.
“Kids’ bedrooms? Playroom? Corner of the family room? All of the above? This is a personal preference,” Macleod said.
You might consider storing toys near where they’ll be used. For example, if you make arts and crafts projects in the kitchen, Macleod suggests storing supplies near there. If your kids build blocks in the living room, keep them there.
5. Set Up a System.
Now that you have all the toys organized and know where you want to put them, it’s time to create a storage system works for you and your kids. The easier the system is to use, the more effective it will be.
“Make sure everyone involved with cleaning up toys—the kids, the parents, the nanny, the babysitter, the in-laws—knows where everything goes,” professional organizer Natalie Schrier said.
Professional organizer Dana Lehrman added: “The best way to train your kids to be organized is be organized yourself and, hopefully, the kids will emulate what they see.”
6. Shop Smart.
When buying storage products, shop for safe, high-quality items, such as plastic bins. While they may be costlier, they’ll last longer and can be used even when kids outgrow their toys.
“Avoid buying products that are babyish-looking or colored pink or blue,” Lehrman said. “Instead, look for products in neutral colors and styles that go with the design scheme in your home.”
Lowenheim recommends avoiding large toy boxes with flip-open lids. These boxes “are problematic because things fall to the bottom, and sometimes you need to pull out everything to get to the toy you want, making a real mess. Plus they take up a lot of floor space,” she said.
If you’re getting bins, be sure they’re clear so that your kids can easily choose the toys they want to play with. Get a few bins with handles so that you and the kids can move them around as you pick up scattered toys.
You don’t have to fork over any money for toy storage containers, though. Professional organizer Sharon Lowenheim said that when her daughter was in diapers, she would wash out boxes for baby wipes and use them to store crayons or toys with small parts. She used shoeboxes for small toys.
“I’m a big fan of reusing containers that you already have,” Lowenheim said.
7. Label the Containers.
Even if your child can’t read, label bins, boxes and baskets with photos or stickers. “Attaching pictures of the contents of the bins to the outside of containers helps younger kids recognize where things get put away,” Schrier said.
Lowenheim said that you can “cut the name off the package of a toy and tape it onto the box in which you are storing it. Kids who can’t read yet will learn to recognize the colors and fonts and know what it is.” Just make sure the labels are removable.
8. Consider Shelving.
You can display or store toys on easy-to-reach, eye-level shelves. Lowenheim suggests stacking board games on shelves, for example. Put seasonal or rarely used items up higher. Schrier cautions that you shouldn’t store a child’s favorite heavy toys high off the floor. Otherwise, the toys will come crashing down when he or she tries to retrieve them.
9. Look Into Dual-Purpose Furniture.
Many pieces of furniture feature hidden storage, such as ottomans with removable lids.
Also, think twice before getting rid of old furniture; that old diaper-changing table could be converted for toy storage. And if you’re not making much use of your bookshelves, they could be great places to stash toys.
Macleod said she bought bookshelves that held everything from toys and costumes to books and school supplies as her daughter grew up. “In my household,” she said, “we’ve gotten a lot of use out of those simple shelves.”