Moms Talk: Organizing the Chaos of Toys in Abundance
Last week readers gave great advice about working with a young child about learning to talk. This week, Hazelwood Patch Moms Council participant Helena Hewlett inquires about how to organize your children's toys.
It’s the middle of the night, and you’ve gotten up to grab a glass of water in your quiet, peaceful house. Inevitably, you step on the fire truck and its sirens screech. You frantically try to muffle its noise so that it won’t wake the precious children you worked so hard to get to sleep. Finally the noise has stopped.
Then as you enter the kitchen, you step on the pointy end of a Transformer and while fighting the urge to shriek in pain, you stumble backwards onto a Barbie van, scooting across the floor before finally falling onto a pile of scattered Legos.
I think as parents, we’ve all been there. Or at least we’ve all battled frustrating, toy-related foot injuries. And even though there’s not really an easy way to prevent these, there is a way to keep our children’s toys a little more organized.
If you feel like your children’s toys are constantly strewn everywhere, many without places to be stored, you may feel like your house has been overtaken by toys. You might also notice that at least half of the toys out are not even being played with, creating even less of a need to have them out.
At this point, if you're like me, you may want to put the chaos into some kind of order. In my experience, I’ve found that my son is often overwhelmed when he has too many toys out. He doesn’t even know where to begin, or with what to play. This is what led me to my current philosophy for toy organization.
I’m a very organized person by nature. If you ask my husband, probably a bit too organized. Before my oldest son Caleb was born, I had already organized every one of his tiny outfits, socks, diapers, shoes, rattles and more. His crib was perfect, like something out of a catalog. Not a wrinkle in sight. An extra blanket was folded neatly and hanging over the edge of the crib, and his mobile was perfectly positioned above where his little head would soon rest.
It was so dreamy, and ironically so, so far from reality. My husband’s response to this perfect baby nursery was, “you do know we’re having a baby boy, right? Not a baby Martha Stewart.”
Now, Caleb is two years old and has a sidekick, his seven-month-old brother Jake. I had to modify my routine a bit, but I’ve adjusted and made it work out for all of us. My idea was inspired by The Berenstain Bears, believe it or not. This was one of my favorite book series as a kid, filled with all sorts of good lessons and examples. Two particular books have rooted themselves in my mind and lifestyle, more than I even realized; The Very Messy Room and Too Much Junk Food.
In both of these stories, the bear cubs learn that their lives are in need of some order and discipline. Some of the illustrations in the books have stuck with me as well. I loved, for instance, the organized little cubbies and bins that Mama Bear helped her cubs create in both stories.
So this mama bear got to work on organizing her own house. I bought about 10 small Tupperware bins and used clear packing tape on them so I could label them with the type of toy I would be storing inside. I used packing tape so that they would not be permanently marked, and it could easily be removed later if I changed my mind and wanted to store something different in them. I bought a few shelves for my son’s closet and easily fit all of the bins in there.
Then I picked up some inexpensive stickers from a local craft store and let Caleb decorate each of his bins. I have bins that store cars, action figures, Lincoln Logs, Legos, Thomas Trains, and more. Each morning, Caleb gets to choose two bins with which he would like to play. We bring them into the front room and he dumps them, makes a mess, and has a blast.
If he wants to play with something else he knows now that he must first clean up the bins that are out. Since I have done this with him from a young age, he already understands and anticipates the clean up that must occur if he wants to get another bin down.
I have found that this method works great on so many levels, so here's my Q&A question. What are some organizational tools other moms out there use? Let’s face it, anything that keeps mommy a little more sane and can prevent some toy-related foot injuries in the future is the perfect gift!