Organizing a Playspace (And Making It Last)

(Martin Vecchio)

1. Keep it simple

The key to an organized playspace is to implement a system that is easy to maintain.

Start by identifying the categories of toys that are most frequently accessed. Then, separate them into broad categories that will grow with your child’s needs. Avoid using terms that are too specific or it will likely be difficult to keep up with the changes. For example, a category labeled “vehicles” might currently be made up of dump trucks and fire trucks, but down the road it could also hold hot wheels and airplanes. Whether they’re from a birthday party, holiday or dentist visit, new toys regularly make their way into the home.

Set yourself up for success with a system that will accommodate every toy fad and party favor.

Pro-tip: For children who insist on keeping everything, a small bin labeled “trinkets” might just be the way to go.

2. Implement a cubby system

Open bins in easy-to-reach places make it easy for little ones to access and clean up their toys.

Our family loves low-profile divided cubbies with structured bins or baskets to contain each category. Products such as cubby-sized rope bins are a great and durable option for toy storage. They are large enough to hold a decent amount of toys, plus they’re lightweight, so even smaller children can easily lug them around. Label each bin to easily identify the contents. A small picture added alongside lettering is a great idea for early readers.

If your space allows, you can also create a rotation system, which involves keeping a selection of toys in a cubby and rotating them with toys stored out of sight on a regular basis. This would require having extra space to store those toys not currently in use. If space allows, this can be a helpful system, especially for families with multiple children. An example of this would be keeping play food in a bin labeled “make believe” for a specified period of time, and then rotating the play food out to be stored and placing a different collection of “make believe” toys, such as dress-up clothing, in the cubby.

3. Decant board games

Game and puzzle boxes can take up a lot of space and often break down over time. Instead, place each game or puzzle into individual zipper pouches.

Zipper pouches can be labeled with the game or puzzle name, and the instructions or images can be tucked right inside. Ditching the cardboard boxes for zipper pouches not only saves space but is much more durable. Place the pouches into bins labeled “games” and “puzzles”. As an added bonus, having them in a zipper pouch makes packing a game or puzzle for a trip or outing quick and easy.

(Martin Vecchio)

4. Try a floor basket

Stuffed animals and other larger toys can be contained in a large floor basket that can be tucked into the corner of any room.

For items like stuffed animals that are too large for cubbies, or categories that don’t fit within a single bin, a floor basket maximizes space in the room while hiding away the visual clutter. Try a lidded option for categories that are a little unsightly.

5. Edit regularly

Prior to children’s birthdays and major holidays, take some time to set aside any broken or unused toys and donate those that are in good condition.

Depending on your child’s age, you may need to give a little education on the editing process. This can be a challenge for kiddos, especially young ones, but it’s a great skill to begin developing. Introduce them to the concepts of editing, donating and discarding whenever possible. This might include conversations or bringing them along to help you drop off your own items for donation. It takes practice and patience, but these types of mini lessons will make it easier for kids to participate in editing their own belongings over time.

When involving older children in the editing process, consider creating parameters to provide structure. Identify which toys you are ready to part with by creating a number limit (“Choose your favorite 10 squishmallows”), size limit (“Let’s make room in this bin for the cars you got for your birthday”) or a goal (“Let’s pick out three toys to give to…”).

Creating a system for organizing your children’s toys will not guarantee that their playspace is always picture perfect, but it will allow for quicker, more manageable cleanups. And now that your child knows where everything belongs, they might just start cleaning up after themselves!

The NEAT Method

Susie Renninger is the mother of three school-aged children and owner of NEAT Method Baltimore North, a home organization brand committed to creating simple and versatile organizational systems for clients’ homes and lives. NEAT Method Baltimore North works closely with clients to help transition their homes from chaos to calm with systems tailored to their lifestyle. It offers in-person services throughout the greater Baltimore area. In addition to home organization, NEAT designs and manufactures its own line of organization products.


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