Over the years, I have tried dozens of organizing strategies for the playroom. Who doesn’t love clean lines, order and almost no clutter? But the perfect playroom is all of this and also an inviting space that encourages creativity and inspires hours of non-technology play.
Your kids might be the type that love to build forts and villages, and layer their play with bins and bins of toys. While it is amazing to watch their imaginations run wild, it is just as important to clean up properly and start with a clean slate once the excitement is gone.
In order for this cycle of play and order to continue, it only works efficiently if every single toy has a designated spot. This allows for cleaning to be done quicker and easier, and really allows for overall organization. When the playroom is a mess, you might find that kids won’t go in it. But when it is clean, it’s inviting and their imaginations can run wild!
Below are five tips for keeping the playroom clean, tidy and organized. Each suggestion might not be the one-all, solves-all, but these strategies together have been proven to be very successful!
This may seem a bit obvious, but it is the most important tip of all. You may have heard that there are two levels of cleaning:
Level 1 – Picking up
This is when the kids, and maybe you, pick up all of the toys, put everything away in its place, and possibly give the room a quick vacuum and dusting. It’s sufficient to do this day-to-day or week-to-week.
Level 2 – Thorough Clean
This level of cleaning is suggested before any holiday, birthday or event, and should be done especially when you know new toys will be coming into the house. Doing this once every two to three months is a great goal to help maintain order and mix-up the layout.
You may want to warn your kids before diving in and starting this very serious task. If they are old enough, you may even want to enlist their help. They might not really enjoy it, but it’s good for them to learn where things go and take responsibility for their possessions. It also can teach them to be respectful of the work that you do and appreciate what has been done for, or given to, them.
This type of clean literally means going through every single shelf, bin and basket. Small toys and pieces oftentimes end up in the wrong spot, and it is very frustrating for kids when they want to play something specific and cannot find all of the parts.
Consider using this time to reorganize the placement of everything. Visualize how your kids play with their toys and try to place everything that they might use together close by. An example of this pairing would be placing their rolled-up car mat next to their matchbox cars bin and alongside their bin of car tracks. Now, everything needed to play with cars is in one easy spot.
If it is before a birthday or holiday, discuss how new toys will be sorted, and set time to make some extra room. Because they are excitedly anticipating their new surprises, they will hopefully be pretty good about saying goodbye to a few things to help free up space. If you have an idea of what new toys your kids will be receiving, keep that in mind when tackling this task. Of course, kids want to play with their newest toys frequently, so keeping that the focus really helps.
It is so important to give everything a designated place. Is it big enough to stand on its own? If not, then it needs a “house.” Think about how and when your kids will be playing with it. If it is frequently used and needs little adult oversight, then open bins and baskets work best on low shelves, racks or in cubbies. If it is something that requires adult supervision, or if it comes with lots of small pieces, consider placing it higher up on the shelves so that they need to ask an adult for help getting it down. This way you are alerted whenever these items are coming out.
Limit the Lids
Bins with lids may look nice and neat, but this one extra step can ruin the entire clean-up process! Little kids often have trouble opening and closing lids properly, and older kids can even be lazy about it. Oftentimes bins end up looking disheveled as the lids get tossed around and even broken. Because of this, bins without lids, totes or baskets work best. And any of these with handles will make it easier for your kids to pick up and carry around.
Save the bins with lids for really small toys such as LEGO pieces or messy toys such as play dough. If the blocks were just in a basket, a simple spill has the potential to really increase clean-up time or result in a lot of lost pieces. And since play dough dries out quickly (even in its little containers), bins with lids are great for both of these playthings.
Sometimes kids need a little guidance to get started. Look around the playroom for toys that are not as commonly played with and figure out a way to incorporate different items together.
Maybe a bin of construction trucks and Lincoln Logs could be mixed together. Dump out the logs on one side of the room and line up the trucks on the other. Now tell your kids to pretend it is a giant construction site. Watch them use their hand-eye coordination as they move the trucks across the room, fill them up with logs, transport the logs to the new building site and create a masterpiece.
Sometimes you might be in the middle of something and feel like you do not have the time to sit and play, get creative or deal with another interruption. However, if you take a few minutes before starting a task to set up a scenario like the one mentioned above, kids will often occupy themselves for a much longer amount of time. These few minutes could result in you being less frustrated with them, and they’ll have more fun playing with something that you helped them construct – even if you don’t stick around for the actual playing part.
Technically this is not a tip for the playroom, but it helps to control what new things come in.
If your kids are lucky enough to already have a lot of toys, then consider giving them fewer toys for birthdays, holidays or special occasions. Instead try:
Instead of toys, consider asking certain people to only give your kids gifts of experiences. This will limit additional clutter, and your kids will get to enjoy some really fun family outings.
This may become easier as your kids get older and grow out of the toy phase, but you do not need to wait. Practical gifts can be good for younger kids too. Try keeping a list on your cellphone throughout the year, making notes of the things your kids ask for when out and about. Many times, it will not be toy related and will actually be something very practical, such as a new suitcase or new set of gel pens. These items may not end up being their favorite gifts, but at least you know they will love them and use them!
Lastly, as you go through these steps, keep in mind that a playroom isn’t supposed to stay highly organized. There will always be new messes and a regular need to tidy up. Reorganizing and rearranging can inspire new play, so don’t give up on the playroom – even when it feels overwhelming.