If you have young children, you might have a dedicated place for them to play. This area is usually called a “playroom,” and is chock-full of toys, books, art supplies and anything else that your kids like to use to keep themselves entertained. Because it’s specially designed to be a safe place for little ones to be creative, the playroom is one area of the house that is difficult to keep neat and tidy. Once you get everything put away, the kids are often raring to go to start a new project requiring the use of 500 legos, every wooden block in the house, a drawer full of Barbies and 64 matchbox cars! Is playroom organization a fruitless pursuit? Don’t worry: You can gain control of your kids’ playroom before they are old enough to go to college. Here are some tips:
Banish the big toybox
In days of old, children often kept all of their toys in large toyboxes. With today’s toys that require a dozen or more pieces, however, that’s just not feasible. Smaller pieces fall to the bottom of the box, and if kids can’t find what they need, they end up dumping everything on the floor in order to locate a missing marble. If you have a toybox holding a lot of toys, repurpose it to be a bed for dolls and stuffed animals only. You’ll need to find another storage option for the other toys.
Think about your child’s height
In many preschools, toys are kept on low shelves, and for good reason: This allows kids to independently retrieve and put away the items that they want to use. If you’re storing safe toys up high or in drawers that are difficult to get to, your kids won’t be able to put the items away on their own. With low shelves, however, even a two-year-old could learn to put items back when he’s done.
Use brightly colored bins
The toys that come with a lot of pieces usually come in boxes that only hold all of those parts if they are put away in a certain configuration. This is often too difficult for young children. Get rid of the original boxes and designate brightly colored bins to hold these items. You can then place these bins on your shelves. If your children are not reading yet, snap photographs of the items that go in each bin, print them out, and tape them to each bin. This way, they can see at a glance where the matchbox cars go and where the Barbie shoes should be stored.
Keep particularly messy toys out of reach
Some toys, such as playdoh and painting sets, need to be used under adult supervision. Keep these, along with scissors and tiny toys that a younger sibling might choke on, on a high shelf. Let your child know that if she wants to play with them, she will have to wait until you’re available to keep an eye on things. This eliminates the possibility that she will paint the floor purple while you’re taking a shower or otherwise preoccupied!
Think out of the box
You don’t necessarily have to use organizational products in the way that they’re meant to be used. For example, try hanging an over-the-door shoe holder over the playroom door to hold doll clothes, toy cars or other small items. Use old coffee cans to hold legos, or a five-gallon bucket to contain all of the play kitchen items. Before you buy new organizers, try to use what you have on hand.
Keeping the playroom in good shape is largely a matter of teaching your child to put away items when he’s done playing. One way to cement this is to have a few “quick clean up” periods throughout the day, where anything not being used is quickly put away. As the years go by and your child grows up, this habit will serve him well!