If you’re a typical mom of toddlers, you probably have a few toys lying around the house. Or perhaps more than a few. Maybe a lot. Maybe they’ve gotten a bit out of control. Maybe you’re able to get the house decently picked up during naptime, but after your little one awakes, it takes only seconds to go from relative order to complete chaos. Buckets get dumped, pieces get lost (or stepped on), and the toddler can still cling to your leg wanting you to entertain him because the toys he has have already been explored and are old news.
My family has been blessed with a good deal of toys, mostly given to us by family or found at Goodwill. In this post, I will share how I organize them all. First, let me introduce you to the concept of toy cycling. I stumbled upon this concept about a year and a half ago and have LOVED the results. The idea is to rotate which toys are out and available and keep the rest in storage. That way, when a week-old box of toys is pulled out, the toys are fresh, exciting, and worth exploring.
Let me walk you through the four places in my home where we keep toys and explain how I cycle them.
1) In our main living area (kitchen/living room), we have this little shelf built into the wall. I’m sure any bookshelf would do, but the idea is that they’re visible and easy to reach.
Currently, the bottom shelf is designated for my 9 month old’s toys, and the upper two are for my toddler. You might notice that I don’t keep a lot of toys out. For example, today Gabriel has only an ambulance, a tool kit, and an assortment of animal figurines. I actually think he focuses and plays better when given fewer toy options. I’ll keep these toys out for 2-5 days until I think he’s lost interest in them. Then I’ll cycle out the old toys and bring in the new ones. Just like Christmas.
I should also mention that I keep an eye on what he plays with or ignores. If a toy is regularly just taking up space and not being utilized, I’ll pack it away for the baby to grow into or give it away. I have about 4/5 different rotations and keep the ones we’re not using in these boxes on our bookshelf.
2) I originally planned to rotate ALL of Gabriel’s toys, but there were a few favorites he became especially attached to. His swords and gun (typical boy) were especially missed, and he would ask for them even after they had been packed away. Out of necessity, this second toy spot was created (I apologize for the poor lighting). It’s pretty much a weapon stash, but could (in theory) be used for any of those played-with-every-day toys.
3) Next up is this bookshelf, currently in my room. This is where I keep the ‘messy’ toys with lots of little pieces (Potato Heads, Hot Wheels, Trains and Tracks, Mega Blocks, etc). We refer to these as Basket Toys, and the only way he can get to them is if I get them down for him. We usually pull down one of these Basket Toys when I’m making dinner in the evening. Since he doesn’t see them often, they retain their novelty, and he knows that he has to put the pieces all back into the basket before playing with anything else.
4) Lastly, he does have a basket of toys in his room. I’m trying to cultivate some independent play skills right now. Eventually, I’d like to say “Go play in your room for 30 minutes” and have him entertain himself there while I tackle a grown-up task, but that’s still a work in progress. Upstairs, I corralled all the annoying toys (loud and obnoxious ones like his rockstar piano and musical ball spitter) that Gabriel likes but drive me up the wall.
So that’s how we do things around here. I’d love to hear what toy system your family has worked out!