Daily Tip: Place items in the areas of your home where you’ll use them, to increase the chances that you’ll follow through.
By Malissa McClintock, Contributing Writer
The playroom. Out of all the rooms in my house, I am fairly certain it is the room I like least. I wish that weren’t the case. I have always dreamed of having an amazing playroom for my children that we would spend countless hours in making memories I would always cherish. Instead, it’s a room they go to when I’m trying to get something accomplished and a room that I don’t enjoy being in because it’s always a mess.
To top it off, the playroom is in the space that should be the formal living room to our house — the room that you walk into through the front door. We keep moving the playroom back and forth from the sun room to the living room, but nothing helps. This year I’ve decided things are going to change and this plan is how I’m going to attack it.
I am going to go into the room and divide the current toys into three piles: donate, keep, pack up. Dealing with what is there before we all the new influx of Christmas gifts is imperative because trying to integrate those before dealing with the mess is going to be overwhelming. Start with getting things out of the room and the rest will be much easier.
Use a trash bag or paper grocery bags for the donate toys – using a storage bin means more work for you later when you have to transfer the stuff in order to donate it.
Use the children’s storage bins that you use in the playroom already for the items you are keeping in the playroom.
For the toys you are packing use a storage tote to make moving them out of the room easiest. Now that we have a plan, let’s get started.
- DONATE: We donate toys about 3 times a year. It is a bit sad to see toys go because they aren’t played with or have been outgrown developmentally — and sometimes because it seems like money that has been wasted. Regardless, all the toys can’t be kept so we purge. Sort out toys that aren’t played with much or ever, stuffed animals that are overrunning the roost, and books that either aren’t read or you feel aren’t of the literary quality your children enjoy. Pack everything into garbage bags or paper grocery bags. Set them in front of the front door — this way you HAVE to load them into your car before you can go anywhere. Do this step WITHOUT your children helping — if the toys aren’t played with, they won’t be missed. If they see them go, there could be tears. Don’t second guess yourself about what is going — sort it and move on.
- KEEP: Toys that the children love and play with constantly, toys that are massively educational and manipulative friendly, and toys that you feel are important should be kept. Having toys in children friendly bins at their height are imperative to keeping the room functional for them. Use a small bookshelf that will hold 10-15 books. Use bins that stack, slide, or go into drawers. Keep all the toys that are similar together- kitchen plates and food by the kitchen, trains and trucks by the train table or car mat, dress up near the kitchen to encourage dramatic play, and art supplies by the art table. Remember that children can only play with one toy successfully at a time and try to keep your bins moderately full. All of these are items that I struggle with and must stay on top of this year.
- PACK UP: There are toys that are played with sometimes or that are seasonal in nature. There’s no reason to get rid of all of them, so pack them up for rotation in and out of the playroom. Variety is good for children in their play options. We have too many books in the playroom so we are going to do the same with those- they will move to a shelf in the guest room for easy organization and access and 10-15 books will be left out at a time. They will be rotated every few days to provide variety and encourage “reading” time. Make sure bins are clearly labeled for easy access when you want to change things around.
The New Stuff
Now that the room is together and you have things under control, bring in the new toys. Place them in the appropriate places. Make sure you label your bins or areas so your children become familiar with the concept as they start learning letters and words. Put everything where it goes and look around. If there is too much stuff, pack more away. The newer toys are going to be the flavor this month, so they need to stay. Soon, they can be rotated out and other loved friends back in. Don’t let the room get out of control before the kids even come in.
Now, Keeping It Clean
Enforce the one toy out at a time rule. Enforce the one toy out at a time rule. I say this twice because I am horrible at this rule. One toy out at a time keeps a massive tornado of toys from being present at nap time or bed time. Start cleanup time as part of transition between scheduled activities -- lunch, snack, errands, etc. Turn it into a game and a song- anything to make it interesting. And try to enjoy the room with your children. Playing play dough with the girls keeps them on task rather than grabbing trains to drive through the pancakes they just made for me on plates from the kitchen. Sit at their level and listen to what they say to you. Playing with your children will keep your play room neater than you think.
What do you keep your toys organized in? What tricks do you have for taming the toy tornado?
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