We don’t own a toy box.
Actually, that’s not true — we do own one, and I commandeered it for fabric storage in my office/sewing room. The idea of having the kids “clean up” by chucking dozens of different toys into one huge bin to make toy soup actually gives me a cold chill.
So how do we organize our many, many playthings? You’re in luck because toy organization tips is a favourite topic of mine!
Large collections of tiny toys:
Lego and Playmobil sets come with about a trillion itty-bitty pieces that need to be stored, but they also need dedicated flat surfaces for building and playing. I enlisted my handy husband to build a Lego table with storage below, and we also recycled an old train table into a Playmobil table. We recently turned a third table into a dedicated Shopkins station because I really needed to stop stepping on miniature banana breads and moccasins.
Not every toy needs its own table, of course. I buy (and label) plastic shoeboxes for what I call “one-off toys” — things that aren’t part of a large collection, but do need their own dedicated spot. Paw Patrol figurines in one, Ninja Turtle action figures in another, Polly Pockets in a third, etc. Even larger toys like the Lite Brite (and its zillions of pegs) have their own larger plastic bin, and every bin fits on the IKEA Expedit shelves in our toyroom. For really huge one-off sets, like our wooden train set that no longer has a table to call home, I use a heavy-duty plastic tote bag that can be lugged from room to room.
Right now we have a (rather huge) plastic tote of Barbies, clothes, accessories and furniture that sits next to our Barbie house, but as the kids get older I plan to separate the pieces into categories and put them in separate bins or drawers. (It bugs me to paw through dozens of naked dolls and jumbles of clothes to find a pair of matching shoes.) In the meantime, I plan to get my husband to build a wooden storage bin that will act as a base for the house — saving floor space!
We don’t let markers get anywhere near carpet, so all of our family crafting is done at the dining room table. That means I’ve dedicated the majority of our hutch to the kids’ art supplies, rather than dishes and glasses and stuff normal people would keep in a hutch. A plastic bin for crayons, another for coloured pencils, another for markers, another for paints and brushes, etc. There’s a drawer for colouring books and drawing pads, a drawer for homework supplies like looseleaf and pencils, and a cabinet for “special” supplies like coloured sand, flat rocks, stamp sets and beads.
The built-in “storage” that’s part of a play kitchen is laughable — one or two tiny cupboards that barely hold a few dishes. So we use a plastic three-drawered organizer to store the food, dishes and utensils. It’s easy for our three-year-old to clean up her cooking messes, and it gets those plastic cookies and carrots and hamburger ingredients out of sight.
Years ago, I started picking up small plastic lunch containers at the Dollar Store for storing puzzle pieces. I’d cut out the “preview” photo of the finished puzzle, tape it to the top of the container, and it would neatly hold all of the pieces. Now, not every puzzle has its own plastic container, but I do store the boxed puzzles in a plastic dishpan (also from the Dollar Store) so they’re all in one spot.
Tell me: how do you keep your kids’ toys organized?