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  • Writer's pictureKiera Malowitz

The Best Playroom Organizing Tips You Will Ever Get

Kid playing with toys that create imagination

Being a mom to 3 kids and two of those being twins, the struggle is real when it comes to deciding what is necessary to keep for a playroom or play space to be organized. I have some general 'rules' I like to apply when working with clients that I want to share here because I know how hard it is to make these decisions. These are not hard rules but things I've implemented with my team and myself when it makes sense, as well as in my own home.

Tip #1 - What Comes In Must Have Something Going Out.

This really relates to the one-in one-out rule where if something comes in, you should be getting rid of something similar in size and the same category. If you are limited on space and/or need to really clear out clutter, I recommend one-in two-out to help get you to a better place.

Tip #2 - Remember, It’s Just Marketing!

A set of anything is how most companies market to you. Just because something came in a set, does not mean you have to keep every piece. As someone that formerly worked in marketing in consumer products for nearly 15 years, you are being tricked into thinking the whole set has to stay together! This is probably one of the most important yet hardest things to remember when clearing out clutter in a playroom.

As an example, most kids that love Barbies play pretend and like to change their outfits. It's more rare that they put the shoes on. In all the playrooms we've organized, those Barbie shoes (and really most doll shoes) are in abundance but not being played with as much so my recommendation is to get rid of some of them. It's okay to separate the shoes and be done with them. And another hint here, this can apply to so many things that have many pieces.

Tip #3 - Play Rooms Create Scope Creep And Are Dangerous!

In the world of organizing, we talk about project scope creep. This is a term that refers to how we start out with a great project, and the scope suddenly expands and becomes bigger than what was initially planned. 

The same idea can be applied to a playroom. You start out wanting to have a room so that the kids can play in their own space, in theory keeping their toys there. However, with younger kids especially, they typically want to be where the parents are and not alone in a room, even if it is filled with toys. Suddenly you’ve filled a room of so many wonderful toys, puzzles, books and alike and now those items are spread throughout the house, typically all the areas that you are. 

No matter how much space you have, you do not have to fill every wall or corner! Playrooms are an awesome space to have but the mantra ‘less is more’ really needs to be applied. Read on to understand ways to cut back.

Tip #4 - Learning And Imaginary Toys Are Key In Every Play Space.

There are so many great toys out there and let’s not forget puzzles and books. But there are so many toys out there overall! You know your kid best so what you want to hear and see is that they are playing, pretending, creating and/or learning. Toys that contribute to the development of cognitive, motor, psychosocial, emotional, and linguistic skills are key (yes I googled that!). Some of the best toys are still the toys from when we grew up, like legos, magnetiles, building blocks, puzzles, match games, dolls, action figures, animal figures, musical instruments, and balls. At this age you want toys that the child has to do the majority (90%) of the “work” (Forbes article, “The Best Educational Toys to Keep Kids Engaged and Learning).

As they get older, it’s fun to focus on toys that create more critical thinking such as geraniums, crystal growing sets, STEM toys, and (still) lego sets. This brings me to my next tip!

Tip #5 - Small Pieces Are The Enemy!

Legos are probably the only exception to this because you really can’t escape legos for kids (heck, I know adults that still love their legos!). If you have several toys that have small pieces, this is incredibly hard for children to pick up and keep organized. And honestly, who wants to keep so many small pieces within their sets?! Typically I suggest a toy rotation if you have too many toys with small pieces and are having a hard time letting them go. 

Tip #6 - Clear Is Best!

Every organizer loves those cube organizer furniture pieces so that you can create order with toys by creating categories for each bin. The challenge with this is that what is advertised and shown with these organizers is canvas bins. Then those canvas bins get filled to the top. I personally love the cube organizer from Target (the 13” cubes) but then I used the large men’s shoe boxes from The Container Store because two fit in each cube AND while it’s still easy to categorize by bin, you are now creating a small bin that is easier to take out and play with and then put back. There are also canvas bins that have clear fronts if you still prefer the canvas bins.

Cube organizers with canvas bins only half full of toys

You also can SEE what is in each bin, regardless of the label. A space can still look nice using clear containment and creating labels, but especially if multiple children, sometimes just having their name on the bins is a big deal for the kids to be able to clean up.

Now, if you already have those canvas bins or larger baskets, one good rule of thumb is to only fill half way. This prevents dumping and kids can find what they want more easily. Plus, again, it's easier to put away because they now don't have a large bin filled with too much stuff.

One thing to consider: if you have an adult in the house that has ADHD and the kids are too young to know if they will too, it is especially helpful to use clear containment.

Tip #7 - Shallow And Open Bins Help Prevent Dumping!

Many times I find homes that have these beautiful wooden toy chests in them and don’t get me wrong, I was one of those parents. Then I learned through my own experience and professional experience that these are really like never never land where the lost ‘toys’ go to disappear. Pretty much the only items I like to use now for these are stuffed animals or dress up costumes and dresses. And honestly it’s typically because parents and kids have an emotional attachment to these items and aren’t great at letting these go, so those toy chests are great for storing them. 

This brings me to the idea of shallow and open bins. If your kids are dumping out toys from bins it's typically because they've created a habit from when they first could not find something and the bins are too full. This is typical when using baskets or bins that are not clear which is why I love using clear, shallow and/or open bins.Whether it is action figures, legos, dolls etc. I always recommend more shallow bins (no more than 6-7 inches tall) because once again, it’s easier to see what you are looking for and then easier to put back. 

While it’s not picture perfect, this storage organizer is another nice option if you don’t have the space for the cube organizer mentioned above with clear men’s shoe boxes. There are many styles and colors so find what you prefer. And don’t forget to label!

Tip #8 - Let's Unite Over Playroom Organizing Tips With Legos!

So many legos!

If there is one thing we can unite on when it comes to toys, Legos brings it’s own unique frustration amongst parents! Walking and suddenly feeling that pain of having stepped on a lego and then trying not to swear because really, it hurt but there are little ears around… yeah, we all know this pain!

Most of what I suggest above still works: clear and shallow bins! Your kids also may be at an age where they like to build the sets and not much outside of that. My suggestion is to get rid of the boxes and store the sets in ziploc or mesh zipper pouches with their respective instruction booklet. The key is to not have so many sets that those alone are overwhelming. I know it’s hard because you or someone you know spent good money on these legos, but let go of some when you feel legos are taking over or the kids are struggling to pick these up as it's probably become too much. 

At some stage there will be lots of loose legos, and once kids reach 8 or 9, they typically can go through a whole bin of miscellaneous legos and pick out a bunch that they don't use. Last summer my twin 8 year-olds filled a large box full of legos to donate. I never could have picked out these pieces because it seemed so random to me, but they knew exactly what pieces they would use and what they would not. 

Many times you will see legos organized by color. While I absolutely love the look of this, it honestly isn’t practical if you have more than one child. It’s very hard to keep up with and you’ll end up getting frustrated more times than not. But this is also a personal preference so you do you!

Tip #9 - Create A Category, Then Eliminate Within That Category

Similar to when we are being marketed to and know we do not have to keep all the pieces, when organizing your kids toys you want to limit the number of what exists in each category. Ask yourself, how many of X does one kid need? And if you have more than one child, know that they will share so you do not necessarily need double of that.

As an example, one child does not need 10 dress-up dresses. She could maybe have 4-5 and if two kids, limit to 8 because they can share (the number is flexible as it also depends on what else they have to play with, but you get the idea).

Another example is matchbox cars. I have seen bins filled with these and yet every kid has their favorite cars. And think about how many can they really play with even if they have friends over. 

Tip # 10 - If You Are Overwhelmed, So Are The Kids! 

I bring this up because many times we as parents, me included, get frustrated by the amount of toys taking over the house. I like to repeat this mantra that if the parents are overwhelmed, so are the kids! And that basically means that it’s nearly impossible for them to pick-up the area without stress and possible fits, and they may not play with much in the room due to the same stress. This is partly why I like to work with parents before the kids ever enter the picture, so I can figure out what is happening before diving in with or without the kids, depending on their age. 

I hope you found this to be real, practical playroom organizing tips that can apply to any play space. I think we all want our kids to have more and do more than we’ve done, but at the end of the day, it starts with setting limits as to how much they have to play with. Playroom organization is something I have constantly worked at in different houses and different rooms within each house, depending on the age of the kids; so just know that as they get older, things change and so do the rules. However, these playroom organizing tips will get you started in the right direction!


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