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Once your kiddos are old enough to start taking out toys on their own, it doesn't take long for a neat and tidy toy room to transform into a hopeless mess. If you're starting to wonder if you should leave a trail of breadcrumbs to find your way out of the mess in the toy room, it's probably the right time to consider some new organization tactics.
Clean Out the Mess
Before you get down to the nitty-gritty of organizing the room, now is a good time to wipe the slate clean -- or at least throw out the buried toys that nobody has played with for the past two years. Start with an initial clean out to get rid of those rejected toys. If you don't want to battle it out over every broken toy, it's best to tackle most of this project while the kids are out. Try to get them involved in the clean out a little bit when you're just about finished because it's an opportunity for them to learn about community awareness and charitable giving by donating some old toys that are still in good shape to a local charity center.
The toy room isn't just a storage room; it's a playroom for your kiddos to horse around, make believe and learn by doing, and you can give them as much space as possible by making a few changes. Ditch any oversized furniture and replace it with small beanbag chairs and kid-size table and chair sets. Get rid of the large toy bins -- these become the general “in” box for every toy in the room, and the toys that end up at the bottom never see the light of day again. Invest in wall-mounted or free-standing shelving units, and fill the shelves with smaller bins that your kids can manage to take out and return on their own. If you opt for transparent bins, you'll even be able to see what's in them, so no toy ends up buried and forgotten. If you decide to use larger bins for toy storage, stay away from the old-fashioned toy chests, recommends Kim Estes, a child safety expert in Redmond, Washington, certified as a prevention educator through the National Security Alliance and Kid Safe Network.. “If you store toys in plastic tubs, remove the lids or drill holes in the top,” she advises. Estes explains that kids can crawl in these and get stuck inside either inadvertently or through a practical jokester friend or sibling.
Reorganizing the toy room presents the perfect opportunity to analyze the room for hazards for your children. “If there is danger, they will find it,” Estes states candidly. She advises that one of the best ways to make sure your kiddos are safe during playtime is to get down on their level and look for hazards. When you're crawling around on the playroom floor -- wishing your knees were 10 years younger -- take a look for breakables within your kid's reach and make sure every outlet is covered, Estes recommends. Once you've perused the floor, Estes says to take a look at the windows and remove any cords on window coverings and make sure any second story windows are out of reach. You need to secure all of that new shelving and any dressers or other large furniture by bolting it to the floor or walls. "They WILL climb them. If not your kid, someone else's kid will decide to use your furniture like a jungle gym," Estees emphasizes.
Treat the toy room a little bit like a classroom and organize it into individual centers. For example, you can set up the drawing table at one end of the room along with a shelving unit that holds the crayons and coloring books while you transform another corner into the imaginative play area with a kid's vanity table, hooks for costumes and a shelving unit with bins for the costume accessories. Keep the play food with the kid's kitchen and place your containers of building blocks on a shelving unit right beside an empty section of floor so there's plenty of room for building skyscrapers and miniature cities. Organizing the room in this manner makes it easy for your kids to access each activity and keeps the toys close to their storage spaces, which makes it easy for them to clean up when playtime is over.
Now that you have the toys contained in small bins, stored on shelving units and arranged into activity centers, there's just one organization task left. Although the toy room is looking neat and tidy, if you turn your back for just a moment the next time play time comes around, your kids may make you wonder if they've switched the bins and mixed the contents just to text your sanity. Take preventative measures now to keep your sanity and help your kiddos remember exactly where everything goes by labeling each bin. It can make clean up time quicker and ensures that the crayons are in the crayon box the next time you go looking for them, rather than in the building blocks box or the play kitchen oven. You can purchase decorative sticky labels or just write the contents of each bin on a piece of masking tape and stick it to the bin. Draw a picture of the toys in the bin to help your pre-reading kiddos put the toys back properly. "Operation Organization" is complete.