The following is a guest post from regular contributor, Emily R. at My Love For Words.
I have to be honest. Most days, I seriously question whether young kids and organization can happily coexist.
Sometimes I feel like no matter how much I declutter and sort through toys, my kids will always act like little tornadoes when they enter their playroom. I can practically hear their battlecry, “Let no toy go unturned!”
With my sanity hanging by a thread, I decided we’d better come up with some new ways of handling playtime so these are my tips for how to keep a playroom organized when your kids play with everything.
Everything has a home
This is a basic step for organizing any space, but it’s extra important in a playroom. We can’t expect kids to put things away when we don’t even know where things belong.
When my oldest child was too young to read, we made sure to put pictures on all of his bins and baskets and explain the clean up routine to him. He may not have been able to read what went where, but he definitely recognized pictures of his toys so he no longer had an excuse for not putting things away.
One thing at a time
One rule I try to enforce is cleaning up one activity before moving on to the next. Playing with a new toy or game is a lot more fun than cleaning up so my kids are often all too eager to fun off and leave a trail of toys in their wake. Once I stopped allowing them to do so, the chaos in our home was greatly reduced. Thankfully, with enough reminders and practice, they even started to clean up after themselves before moving on to something else. Such a pleasant surprise!
Set a timer
Like so many other areas of motherhood, timers are our friends. We sometimes set a timer for an hour and have the kids clean up as the day goes along. Our kids frequently play in the basement while I’m upstairs cooking or working so if one of our little ones has jumped from activity to activity we can be greeted by a pretty big mess before too much time has passed. Having a little check in and mini cleaning session can help to keep complete chaos at bay, which makes the final clean up easier and a little less traumatizing for me and the kids!
Setting a timer can also turn cleaning up from a chore into a game. My almost three year old never wants to clean up, but if we turn it into an activity by saying, “Show me how fast you can do this” or “Let’s see if you can do this before I count to ten,” he’s thrilled! It’s funny how a simple change in perspective can turn a task we dread into something we can’t wait to do.
A toy rotation is one strategy that I haven’t personally tried, but I’ve heard great things about. Basically, a toy rotation is just dividing toys into different groups and changing them out every so often. This way some toys are available to play with while others are temporarily put in storage to be used again next month or season (the length of the rotation is up to the family).
I love this idea because I’ve heard that children can end up feeling overwhelmed by having too many choices. A toy rotation helps to eliminate choices because certain items are off limits, but the kids don’t panic because the toys aren’t donated or gotten rid of.
Some families also have toy libraries where the kids have to ask for toys in order to play with them, but we’re haven’t gotten that desperate yet. I think that strategy (and the number of times I’d be asked for different things) might drive me crazier than the messes I’m trying to avoid.
Those are some of the simple strategies that are working well for my kids, but I’m always looking for new ideas and ways to improve. I’d love to know what are your favorite ways to handle toy clutter? Do you use any of these strategies in your home?
Emily is a wife and stay-at-home mom to her four children. She’s currently sharing the good, bad, and ugly in her journey to creating an organized and decluttered home on her blog My Love for Words. She also shares recipes, crafts, home decor ideas, and thoughts on life and motherhood. When she isn’t blogging, she can be found reading, cooking, or homeschooling her kids.