Toy storage presents a unique challenge. Toys often come with numerous parts and pieces, and children quickly familiarize themselves with every single one. Then, when an obscure piece goes missing, the room must be ransacked in order to search for it, or so it is believed by the small inhabitants of the space. It is possible to keep track of all the parts and pieces, but a system is required in order to do so effectively.
Below you'll find some kid-friendly guidelines designed to make toy storage more manageable.
Get the kids involved in the sorting process. Make piles for each of the different types of toys: dolls, cars, action figures, building blocks, etc. Make note of the size and number of containers you need before you go shopping. If need be, take pictures of the piles with your phone for reference. Sorting and storing toys by type makes it easier for children to find what they are looking for. It also makes it easier for them to put their toys away.
While it is important and useful to sort and store toys according to type, it's important not to go overboard. A single, open container is often the best solution for sorting. Resist the urge to divide things further.
Sorting all the Legos® by size and color may make perfect sense to an adult brain. After all, it’s easier to find the right piece if they’re organized this way, right? I guarantee you it won’t make any sense to a six-year-old. For him or her part of the fun is in the finding. And putting them all back into those little slots is way too much work!
The same is true for toy cars. It's much easier for children to toss all the toy cars into a large open container than it is to try and fit each car into a separate slot of this ready-made car carrier. As an adult you may like the look and order of the carrier, but unless you want to be the one putting the toy cars away at the end of each play session, opt for the simpler storage solution.
The easier you can make it for your child to put things away, the more likely your child will do so without a fight. Look for toy storage solutions that make it simple for kids to find what they’re looking for and simple for them to put their toys away when they are finished with them.
Choose open storage containers whenever possible – By eliminating lids, you and your kids have one less thing to keep track off. In addition, you eliminate a step in the clean-up process!
When using closed containers for toy storage choose containers that are easy for little fingers to manipulate. The simplest containers have lids that simply set on top. If you prefer a lid that somehow hooks in place, snap lock or sliding lock lids are generally much easier than the older style lids that wrap around the ends of the box and click in place. Also look for clear containers so that the contents are visible.
Simple set on lids are the easiest for children to open. They are also more likely to get dumped inadvertently.
Slide-lock containers are fairly easy for small fingers to manipulate.
Snap lock containers vary in terms of difficulty in opening them. Test these out before you buy them.
These older style containers are fine for older kids but difficult for small children to open. You basically have to pry the lids off, and that's hard for small fingers to do.
Your children are going to outgrow many of their toys over time, but good storage containers will remain functional indefinitely.
The goal is to make your children as self-sufficient as possible when it comes to caring for their stuff and keeping their room clean. You do this by making it as easy as possible for them. Save the high shelves for the stuff that requires adult supervision.
While most plastic storage boxes are designed to stack easily on top of one another, doing so in a child’s room can be counter-productive. Without fail, the container on the bottom is the one your child will want, making it necessary to move all the other containers in order to access it.
Stacks of containers are burdensome and difficult, if not impossible, for children to manipulate.
If you must stack due to space constraints, try to limit stacks to no more than three high (preferably two). Remember to keep it simple and set your child up for success. See the photo at the top of this page for an alternative to stacking.
Just because your child has enough Mega Bloks® to fill a bathtub doesn't mean they all have to be stored in one uber-large container. Containers will be easier for children to maneuver and will hold up better if they are kept to a reasonable, kid-friendly size.
Split large collections into multiple containers, or consider paring the collection down so it all fits in one moderately sized container.
make it easy for your kids (and their friends) to remember which toys go in
which container, thereby making it easier for kids to put their toys
For pre-readers, create labels using a picture of each type of toy. For older children, pair the picture with words.
The box the toy came in is usually not designed for toy storage and will quickly break down and become useless. There are some exceptions – toys that come in plastic tubs, for instance, but generally speaking, original packaging is meant to be disposable (recyclable).
can’t tell you the number of cracked or broken storage containers I've thrown
out since becoming a parent. Kids are
just hard on containers without even meaning to be. They drop them. Then throw things into them at high
velocity. They empty them out and use
them for target practice for everything from bean bags to dart guns. They step on them.
Sometimes they even stand or sit on/in them. In this rather grainy picture you see my oldest son at about 9 months 'playing' Barbies with his older sister. His idea of play at that age was to take everything out of the storage container and climb inside. You can see how this might be hard on containers over time.
Toy storage containers need to be able to withstand a lot of love (a.k.a. abuse).
Don't settle for cheep.
You won't save money if you have to keep replacing the container. Choose durable options.
What to Look For
Foldable/Collapsible Fabric Baskets and Bins
These are generally made of durable canvas fabric and are designed to be flexible, making them perfect for kids’ rooms.
Available in a variety of colors, sizes and styles, plastic containers are probably the most versatile toy storage option on the market.
There is nothing more kid-friendly than a storage container with wheels. Kids can easily transport toys to a desired location and back (and have fun doing so). WARNING: Your kids will push each other around in any container that has wheels.
A container with handles is obviously easier to carry than one without. Be sure to choose sturdy handles that won’t snap in half from overuse.
Also look for handles that are connected via a small metal rod that extends from one end of the handle to the other through some sort of slot in the container. Handles that simply snap in place will quickly come off. Furthermore, the little grooves the handles fit into are likely to snap off, making it impossible to reattach them.
Cubbies & Cubes
There is a reason preschools and day care centers use these things. They are extremely versatile. They make it easy for children to identify, retrieve, and replace toys.
These versatile gems are specifically
designed for toy storage. They look a
lot like a bookcase. Instead of shelves,
though, they have metal or plastic rods that are designed to support removable
plastic bins. They provide ample open
storage at kid height.
What to Avoid
Large Toy Boxes
These relics are the opposite of versatile. Toys are jumbled together in a disorganized mess making it difficult for children to find what they are looking for.
Often the entire contents of the box are dumped on the floor in a search for one specific toy.
Small children aren't even able to reach the toys at the bottom of the box.
What’s more, children are likely to catch their fingers in the lid or try to stuff one another inside.
Wicker is delicate, and children, generally speaking, are not, at least not in their handling of things. Wicker cracks, snaps, and peels fairly easily.
Kids are notorious for picking at the edges of a wicker basket where the end of the wicker is just barely visible – gradually pulling bits off until the basket looks like it had a run in with a machine gun.
Kids regularly trip and fall on storage containers during an exuberant play session. Sometimes they even whack one another with them.
Metal is too unforgiving and potentially dangerous for a child’s room.
Wooden furniture is obviously fine, but small, individual wooden containers are not recommended.
Like metal, wood is unforgiving and potentially dangerous.
Decorative boxes can make beautiful
storage solutions, but they are not sturdy enough to stand up to the kind of
use a young child’s room demands.
When selecting toy storage for your kids’ rooms, try to look at the space from their perspective.
Options that are durable, versatile, and functional will best meet the needs of both children and parents.
By setting your kids up for success, you make it easier for them to do what you want – keep their rooms clean.
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