How to cut the clutter and avoid toy overwhelm
A guest post by Erin Murphy-Fish from Nappy Cakes by Erin.
One of the many first things learnt as a new mother is how quickly the house can become cluttered with toys. Toys, toys and more toys. Scattered across floors, stored in every nook and cranny of the house, in prams, in bassinets/cots, in car seats, in nappy bags, on benches, lounges and tables. You name it, there is a toy. And before you know it, what once was a tidy, organised home, has fast become nothing short of resembling Santa’s workshop on Christmas Eve. But cutting the clutter and avoiding toy overwhelm is straightforward, once you have a few tips and tricks up your sleeve.
Create a toy rotation system
- Choose a location. I recommend choosing one area to begin with and an area where your child plays the most. Once you have an effective system you may decide to venture into creating a toy rotation system in other play spaces within the home
- Collect all the toys. Take a look at what toys you have and what toys you want to include in a toy rotation (toys you don’t mind seeing on the floor and are safe on the floor if you have little ones)
- Sort the toys. Categorise and declutter the toys as you sort. (I love using KonMari and the traditional keep, donate and toss piles)
- Deciding what toys to keep can sometimes be tricky. I like toys that are versatile, durable, fun and foster higher order thinking (problem solving, decision making and critical thinking). Some toy examples are: blocks, recycled materials, puppets, figurines, vehicles, animals and books
- Organise the toys. There are lots of ways to organise toys (colour, size, shape, favourites, alphabetically, age appropriate) but our favourite way is thematic. Eg. Animals, transport, dramatic, imaginative, construction etc.
- Decide on storage. There are a variety of ways to store toys that fit your space (remember to create a space that fits your life). Our favourites are plastic tubs with lids, flexitubs, cube storage with boxes/baskets, shelves with fabric boxes (be sure to check out Sara’s blog on fabric boxes). We currently use three sets of cube storage (one in the common space and the other two in bedrooms) with baskets to match the room decor.
- Once you have finalised storage of your choice, place toys in their allotted spot. You may choose to label for an extended learning opportunity and convenient packing away. Labels can be photos, words or a mix of both.
- Choosing a rotation system. There are a few different ways to rotate toys – cyclic, direct swap/substitute, interest based or random. And the frequency could vary from daily, weekly, fortnightly or even monthly. What works for us at the moment is a cyclic mixed interest based rotation on a weekly basis. Our toys are rotated at the beginning of each week. Things to remember if you plan on trying a toy rotation: they take time and trial and error to work smoothly. If at first, things aren’t going to plan, take some time to reflect, seek solutions, inspiration online and be persistent whilst recognising the limitations of your kids to avoid toy rotation burn out. (Stay tuned to our page for an upcoming blog on this very topic).
Organisation stations are not a new idea and in fact most of us have them in some way, shape or form (mudrooms, launch pods, kitchen bench tops, dining tables, spare room wardrobes, cupboards, filing cabinets, plastic crates, craft trolley’s and command centres). They are usually located in a central space within the home for all users to store items they need to enable a smooth, quick and easy exit or transition between tasks. Organisation stations are an ideal storage solution to avoid toy overwhelm particularly with craft supplies (cardstock, papers, stamps, stickers, paints, pencils, crayons, textas, paintbrushes, sponges, pipe cleaners etc). Our favourite product at the moment is the Sistema utility trays and crates. We love them for a few reasons-they are stackable to maximise space, clear in colour so you can see what is inside easily, available in a wide range of sizes and have the utility tray for convenient sorting.
Zone cleaning schedule
Keeping a house organised can be a tough gig, add children to the equation and it can get much tougher. So, who here uses a schedule to maintain organisation to avoid feeling overwhelmed?
We adopted an organisational idea called “Zone cleaning” found over at The Fly Lady. This has meant dividing our home into five zones for the sole purpose of cleaning. Each week we tackle a different zone to maintain organisation and avoid feeling overwhelmed with clutter. One of these zones is our play space. We set the timer for 15minutes and actively clean and organise this zone. The idea is not to start so big a task that it can’t be completed in the designated 15minutes. Up for the challenge? This one you can start straight away.
Pack away routine
Encouraging children to pack away and to be organised from an early age provides them with many valuable lifelong skills such as responsibility, decision making, pride, appreciation and value. However, it can sometimes be an onerous task for us parents.
Here are our favourite ways to make packing away a fun and productive experience for everyone involved.
- Use an online interactive timer
- Sing songs whilst packing away
- Join in and all help pack away together – many hands make light work
- Use transition times as a teachable moment (I will be there once I put these blocks away)
- Labels are a great way to help children with packing away (pictures, photos, words, or a mixture of a few)
- Packing away following a visual timetable (so not necessarily the same time each day but in the same sequence). This helps children learn what is to be expected and it avoids packing away coming as a surprise. We love the routine cards available as free printable from Be A Fun Mum
- Keeping a few of their creations together on display
Drop toy basket
Hands up if you find yourself throughout the day picking up toys to be packed away in their respective rooms only to get distracted with another job in sight and then forget what you were putting away in the first place? Or you are continually putting toys away leading to frustration and overwhelm? You are not the only one. Our suggested solution is trying a ‘drop toy basket’.
Once a toy has finished being played with and needs to be packed away in another room, but, time or the situation doesn’t permit this, pop it in the drop toy basket (located in your common space). This way, toys are off the floor, out of sight and out of mind. At the end of the day when you have time, pick up the basket and zip around the home putting the toys away.
I hope these five tips inspire you to tackle play organisation, alleviate the feeling of toy overwhelm and provide you with the opportunities to celebrate play. If you have some other tips, please share them below-there is always something new to learn.
To read more about play organisation and celebrating play join our Facebook group. Or to follow and share in our journey of motherhood follow Nappy Cakes By Erin on Facebook. To browse our nappy cake collection, head on over to the Nappy Cakes by Erin website.
I’m Erin, a Mum of two, wife and Primary School teacher. I’m also the owner of Nappy Cakes by Erin and the founder of Celebrate Play – a FREE series of content focusing on PLAY.
I live a very busy, yet simple and enjoyable life in Sydney. My greatest passions are family, organisation, gift-giving, helping others and lifelong learning. My passion for organisation has always been evident, but it didn’t truly emerge until I was a beginner teacher with my very own classroom. I loved creating pretty and practical teacher programs, classroom resources and setting up fun and inspirational learning environments for my students. Many years later with the likes of social media, organisation blogs and Pinterest at my fingertips, my love for organisation has grown and due to experience, hindsight and MOTHERHOOD, my organisation has evolved to a whole new level to include meal plans, play plans, launch pods, command centres, daily schedules, toy rotation systems, creating inviting play spaces and opportunities to share my ideas and experiences with others.
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