With the holiday season well behind us, it is now the time of year when we assess the gifts we have acquired and try to figure out where they fit into the organizational scheme of our homes. One of the hardest areas to do this is in the children’s room, where toys easily lean towards chaos despite all our attempts at tidiness. So how does one fight the toy takeover that visits our homes after the holidays, once all the presents have been unwrapped? And how do we maintain our children’s interests in their toys old and new so that they don’t get lost in the pile?
This weekend, both my kids were in their pajamas and on our couch, deeply absorbed in their iPads, in what I imagine is a scene playing out across many couches of overindulged children around the world in this post-holiday season.
“What are you doing?” I asked them. “You have so many new toys. And old toys! Why don’t you play with them instead of watching shows and playing your tenth round of Cookie Jam?”
Of course no one responded, because both boys were in that coma-like state that occurs when I’ve let them stare at a screen for too long.
When I looked in their rooms, I realized that even though their toys are highly organized, they aren’t displayed in a way that actually lets my kids see what there is to play with. So a bookshelf lined with board games face out becomes visual white noise. Clear toy boxes look nice, but unless one really knows what to look for inside, why would a kid go and open the box? Worse, I had stacked boxes one on top of another, as a space-saving technique, which meant that to get to the heavy box of Magna Tiles, a grown up would have to haul one box off another in order to access them.
So I let the boys spend just a little more time on their screens (i.e. great parenting), and I set to work. The resulting organizational overhaul had them both on the floor, and tearing into old toys (including the Magna Tiles) for the rest of the day. My older son didn’t want to leave the house to go to a basketball game with his dad because he wanted to play with his toys – toys that he had had for years, but hadn’t noticed in ages.
Here are some tips I learned in my toy organization overhaul of my own home:
Try to replicate the preschool set up when it comes to displaying toys. Display toys in a way that your child can see them and that invite play. Keep toys at child’s eye level.
DON’T PLAY TETRIS WITH TOYS
Don’t think about fitting as much as possible into a small space. Instead, let the toy take up the space it needs. Stuff the other toys in “toy purgatory” and rotate toys every couple of days.
MAKE TOYS ACCESSIBLE
Toys stacked high in boxes with lids or tucked away in drawers look pleasing to a grownup but they don’t always invite a child to open them. Kids tend to play with what they can see. Keep boxes open and on the floor so kids can see what is inside.
PARE DOWN TOYS
The less toys that are out, the more kids will play with what they have. Too many toys tend to be over stimulating. Make some tough choices and get rid of what never gets played with.
ALEXIS BARAD-CUTLER is an essayist who writes candidly and often humorously about the "stuff no one talks about in Mom Group" for sites such as Romper, Well Rounded NY, Mommy Nearest, and other online outlets. You can read more of her work on her website, or you can follow her on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter for all her latest articles.