If you have young children there will no doubt be a whole array of large plastic and wooden colourful toys throughout your home.
If they are a little older you will still have an abundance of toys throughout the house.
They are taking over!
Whether you have a designated space/area/room for toys or not, they seem to take over.
The most organised of children can still be overwhelmed if they have too many toys, or if their friend(s) come over and start getting everything out. It can look like a bomb has gone off in your home when everyone leaves!
Its just too much fun to play rather than tidy up as you go, and thats absolutely how it should be, but not all the time or chaos will rule!
So how can we get organised while still making it fun to play?
Get into nursery mindset
I have taken my inspiration for this post from my daughters old nursery, and now her school.
It got me thinking that how come after a full day with a LOT of children playing on everything, did they manage to still have a tidy place?
Look closely and its simple really – they all have zones for each specific type of play, and type of toy.
They really do live by the “Everything in its place” organising rule.
So why not create more of this at home?
Children are used to this way of doing things, so naturally will be more at ease when their home reflects their nursery/school.
It stands to reason really.
Why create zones?
Zones are important for several reasons when it comes to toys
- If you are short of space then you can dot things around the house rather than all in one room
- You can group like with like so its easier to find what they want at any given time, and toys are easier to play with
- Even if you have a larger space or a whole playroom to play with (excuse the pun!), then you will be better off to work it more like a nursery/childcare works and allocate areas for specific tasks
It just makes life easier – and who doesn’t want that!
How can I create zones?
Creating zones doesn’t have to be complicated.
Using baskets, boxes, areas within a room – label with what the zone is (a picture label works really well with younger children), and make each place accessible to the child so that they can easily get what they want and put it away at the end.
Think about your childs capabilities, how easy something would be to tidy away, or to get out – and make each zone appropriate to that (as well as in the most appropriate places in the house).
For instance – having a large plastic tub for all lego and building blocks makes it a lot easier to throw everything back in after playing than if you had the original boxes for each set of lego and asked them to pack them away into those each time….
And – how much easier is it for a child to create a quick drawing before school if theres a table for them with all the pens and paper they need right by it? – rather than you having to fetch things from a cupboard each time…..
Its just about making things easy – both for you and for your child(ren)
What kind of zones can be created?
Heres a list of my favourites – but really it depends on your childrens hobbies, likes and dislikes, and even what your space can allow for.
Please don’t feel that you have to have everything in this list – I for one was not a fan of messy play when my daughter was young (thats what nursery was for!), but we loved to cook and read and draw so had zones for these activities – you do whats right and comfortable for you and your family.
Probably the most frequently used zones that will crop up in most homes.
Reading is such a key skill for little ones, and giving them a place to store their books and access them will pay dividends in their progress – as will reading with them as much as you can.
I have a bookcase specifically for my daughter in her bedroom. We felt that reading was an activity that was suitable for the bedroom as from a very young age we read to her every night – and now shes a little older she likes to read in bed herself.
If you choose to have a reading zone downstairs, then add a pillow or a comfy seat nearby so that they feel its a nice place to be.
Pens, crayons, paper, glue etc… can be really crucial to keep in one place – after all you don’t want pen marks on walls or glue sticking everything together!
Having a place to create for smaller children can be a great way to get them involved in this sort of activity as it makes it easy to do rather than storing it all away and having to spend longer setting up.
I have a small table with 2 chairs for my daughter in our kitchen so its a sociable area (but also mostly wipe-able if there are accidents!), and she loves to spend time there creating her masterpieces!
You could also have a white board, or a blackboard, or an easel of some kind – but beware of the paints and messy stuff as this may still be better off kept out of the way for some little ones until they are older (I keep mine close to this zone but a little too high for tiny hands to get to without asking first!)…..
Art display zone
How many pieces of artwork does your child produce each week? I’m betting quite a lot!
The task of giving each piece some attention can be difficult when you have so much, so its important to recognise their art and display it, if only for a short time.
Have a noticeboard, a wall, a digital photo frame (scan artwork in – its a genius idea that I will be posting about all on its own at a later date – watch this space) – but make sure that there is somewhere for them to hang their creations.
If you rotate regularly then you can easily keep the ones that really show development or are particularly gorgeous, and they will be less worried about the ones that get recycled……
In todays society its sometimes frowned upon to let the kids watch TV. However I think that a lot of TV is very educational and can be a good and productive way to spend a certain amount of time. Its also a wind-down and way to relax after a busy day.
With that in mind, I think that having a TV for the children that is in a sociable place (such as a kitchen, family room etc…) is vital, so you can still interact and they are not just staring at the TV, and so that you can monitor what and how much they watch.
Having an area where all TV items go as well works fantastically – have their DVDs, computer games etc… all set up in this one space and everything will be to hand when you need it.
This is a place for their school bag, any packed lunch boxes and drinks bottles, PE kit etc…. – so that they always know where to find it when needed.
Children are getting homework from a very young age, and so a homework zone is a great idea to ensure that its easy to complete as quickly as possible.
A desk in a slightly quieter area of the house (still so you can see whats going on, and ideally not in the bedroom as this is more their place to relax) works really well.
In fact, this could be the place that the computer sits, so you can also monitor any computer time as well.
Dressing up zone
A box of dressing up clothes is a great idea, where you can add in some old clothes of your own and some costumes that they all seem to need for school at some time or another!
Its a great way to keep everything together, and when they have friends around everyone can grab an outfit easily!
Most children have building blocks, lego or something similar – and having a box or boxes where all this can go is really worthwhile – as is ensuring that the children can easily grab and open the boxes (don’t leave them high up on shelves as they can get heavy)
Whether they are small and have lots of plastic musical instruments, or bigger and are learning an instrument properly – why not create an area where music and noise works well!
Other possible zones
There is a really never ending selection of zones you can pick, what about science based toys, a place for all soft toys, place for a collection – see what you child needs and go for it!
Don’t get overwhelmed
This all sounds like hard work doesn’t it!
Well, you have these toys in your home, so you do have to find a way to store them well, and trust me, once you’ve set up zones around the house you will thank yourself for it as you will spend a lot less time sorting things out at the end of the day, and finding lost toys all the time.
The zones don’t have to be fancy – they could simply be a box on a shelf or a mat on the floor – what matters is that similar things are together, and there is a place for everything.
It will actually help the children not get overwhelmed as well, as they will be able to see what they have so much more clearly, and probably be able to play more easily with everything.
Its also a good chance to rotate toys if you have little room in your home – as you can store away certain “zones” and have them reappear over the course of the year – so that children can get a chance to play with everything and not get blase about what they have.
Its also important that children know that they have to have a little tidy up time at the end of each play in a zone – it just makes sense for them to tidy away the craft when finished, or put the pieces from a game away after its done with.
If you leave it too long then thats when things get lost.
Remind yourself that children have to do this at nursery/school every day – so its not an alien concept to them. It may take a little time to start a similar idea in your home, but it is completely possible (and the younger you start it, the easier it will be to become a habit for them)
Get into the same mindset as your childrens nursery or school can really help when it comes to organising toys.
Work out what zones your child needs and create a space for each – whether it be along one shelf in a room, or dotted around the house – the important thing is that you child(ren) will know where to go when they want to play with something specific.
Zoning toy areas will give your child a better view of what they have, enable you to rotate toys so that they use everything over the year, and also to make tidying up that much easier.
Have fun and let me know how you get on getting your kids toys organised!