If you have anything to do with children, then you know they are adorable little mess magnets! My kids are a little older now but when they were younger, they could undo a room faster than I could reset it!
I have always believed children are overwhelmed and/or overstimulated when they have excessive amounts of toys that are not in any particular order. And when researching for this article, I came across multiple studies showing us that when we cut the excess from the lives of children, they focus better and have less stress.
But getting rid of toys is complicated. What do you keep? What do you toss? So I am going to break it down for you with my 3-step system - declutter, simplify, organise.
DECLUTTER - Before you go in armed with your rubbish bags, recycling bins and donation boxes, let's examine and observe first. Spend some time watching your kids play (on their own, with siblings and with friends over). Make notes on what toys they are naturally attracted to. Can those toys be used in many different ways, by kids of different ages and genders? How are those toys benefitting your child/ren? Aim to keep toys that evoke imagination and pretend play, such as a puppets, dolls, figurines, cars, balls, and art supplies. Toys that can be completed or mastered are great, but limit them to 20-30% of your overall toy inventory.
Pro Tip: Getting your kids involved in the decluttering step can be a wonderfully, positive learning opportunity. However, you know your child best. If you think it is going to distress them in any way, either do it without them or agree to put some toys away for an agreed period of time and if they haven't asked about them, they can go.
SIMPLIFY - When we get rid of toys, we are giving our children extra space and time to innovate and be resourceful. But it's important to keep in mind that as they "detox" they might experience boredom before they figure out how to get back to the basics of play. Don't fill this temporary void and boredom with more screen time. Once you push through the detox period you will see some pretty amazing things coming from your child's play. Sort the remaining toys into categories. Vehicles, dolls, stacking toys, building toys, figurines balls, arts & craft, etc. Once you have done this, it is easy to see which areas you have too many toys. Do they really need all 57 cars?
Pro Tip: Embrace the power of labels. Your kids may not be at the age or stage of recognising letters just yet, so use a picture with the words.
ORGANISE - When toys are buried in the bottom of bins and toy boxes they are difficult to access. When you store toys at the top of the closet they are difficult to access. If we want kids to play with toys and engage, they need to be out where they can see them.
I suggest placing toys individually on shelves (as shown in the picture). Use short, shallow bins or trays to keep toys contained - that way kids can easily see what is inside. The last thing we want to do is invite our children to dump bins all over the place. And toy boxes invite dumping.
Pro Tip: Use containers with in-built dividers to store LEGO in colour ways. All red together, all yellow together and so on. Keep the instruction books in a binder or magazine holder next to the container.
When we arrange the toys with care we are teaching our children to do the same. They are learning to care for, value, and clean up their belongings, rather than to toss them haphazardly into a box.