Around the House: Organize Toys So Children Play Longer and Clean-Up Faster
By Yehudit Garmaise
Does the sight of colorful toys strewn around your home cause you to walk around at night and toss everything into one big basket or corner?
Creating a neat organization system for your children’s toys is easier on the eye and can save your feet as well, as nothing hurts more than stepping on a piece of Lego.
By creating a neat organizing system for storing toys, we can not only teach children the skills of sorting and picking up after themselves, but we can get our kids to clean up as quickly and well as they do at school at “clean-up time.”
Plus, kids find toys more fun and appealing when they are neatly organized in a clear system. Experts say that kids play with toys longer when kept in easy-to-use bins rather than just in a cluttered heap, which can be overwhelming and demoralizing.
1. Invest in a structure that can hold tilted, uniform clear, plastic boxes or woven baskets that you can label with a little photo of each toy that goes in the box so children can easily reach their desired toys and see where to put them away. Make sure your toy bins do not have lids so children have no trouble putting their toys away once they are done for the day.
2. Think about which toys your children use every day. Store the unused toys in a garbage bag. Put them away for a while, save for a rainy day, or give them to a friend or an organization that could use them.
3. By removing toys from their packaging and putting each different toy into neatly organized clear plastic boxes or woven baskets, sanity can be restored to playrooms.
4. Board games can stay in their boxes and easily be stacked underneath or to the side of your organized toy bins. Put cards, pieces, and dice in individual ziplocked bags so they stay separated and organized.
5. Save some non-muktza toys, or get a few new special toys you only bring out on Shabbos and/or Yom Tov. Put the toys in a special box you only bring out Friday night or Shabbos morning. Do the same for each day of the fast-approaching days of Yom Tov.
6. Make sure you have every piece of each toy. Puzzles missing one or more pieces are frustrating to complete. Get rid of the toys that are incomplete or broken.
7. Teach children to match “like-with-like.” So when you are ready for your kids to clean up, remind them that Legos go with Lego, blocks go with blocks, puzzles with puzzles, toy food with toy food, dolls with dolls, trains with trains, and all the Kinder Velt people go together.
8. For books, invest in a small bookcase so children can head to one place to find something that captures their imaginations when they feel like reading. Buy a bean bag chair, a rug, and a lamp so kids can relax in their “book nook” when they want to read.
9. One fun idea for a zoo full of stuffed animals is to hang a small hammock low on the wall of one room where children play, so all of the animals are off the floor, gathered together in a cute way to be chosen for different make-believe games.
10. Keep your arts and crafts supplies high and out of reach of little ones, who might want to see what Play-Doh tastes like when you are not looking or decide to paint the dining room wall.
11. Art supplies can easily get messy and mixed together; separate them and make them look great by making your own uniform containers for paint, clay, popsicle sticks, googly eyes, colorful pipe cleaners, glue, glitter, and beads.
12. Collect old baby formula or coffee canisters and decorate them by gluing on colorful, patterned paper over the outside of the can and labeling what is inside.
13. Hang a kitchen rack for spices or other things inside a broom closet or cabinet so you can easily grab what you need when you want to do art projects with your little artists.
14. For even more storage space, you can hang an unused or new fabric shoe rack on the back of a door to hold special toys, odds and ends, or craft supplies.
15. Many home and organization stores sell plastic and fabric bins that can slide under beds for more toy storage.