Conquer Clutter - How to Manage Your Kid’s Playthings

31 January 2018

how to manage preschool stuff toys

Preschoolers need lots of stuff like food, a bed, clothes, shoes, toys, art supplies, books, balls, and so much more. The list is long and just seems to grow as fast they do. More specifically, keeping toys under control in the home is a big challenge for many parents. And it’s a problem that seems to increase as your child grows. So, I want to share how keeping up with your child’s clutter is actually possible.

As you know, your child’s things tend to accumulate and outgrow their designated space. Soon your toy box is overflowing and that shelf for art supplies is crammed with paper, yarn, and paint. While the amount of stuff will vary from family to family, these six tips will be helpful in reducing and managing the volume of your child’s playthings:

  1. Consider your own motivation for purchasing toys. Most children don’t buy toys for themselves--somebody else does. So, if there are too many toys in your life, ask yourself, “Why do we have so many toys?” A healthy look at your own motivations may go a long way in solving this problem. For example, consider limit your purchasing with a budget. If you budget for other things in your life like clothing, groceries, you already understand how this idea helps keep your spending and consumption in check. Consider starting a monthly or even a yearly budget for toys. Enforcing a predetermined budget amount will help in limiting your toy purchases. It will also encourage more careful toy purchases, and avoiding reacting to new “toy fads.” My blog, Super Toys, has lots of helpful information on selecting long-lasting toys that encourage your preschooler’s creativity. And if you happen to have extra cash left over, you can save it for your child’s college fund or a family vacation or ...
  2. Sort and simply.  Start sorting through the toys to separate out anything that is broken, has missing pieces, or that your child no longer plays with. Work together with your child on this first step, and you will probably will be surprised by your child’s willingness to let go of some toys. So many times we keep toys long after children’s interest has waned because we think they will play with the toy again sometime. Donate those unwanted toys, or pass them on to friends with preschoolers who can use them. And put off buying those cute containers to organize things in before you go through the sorting and simplifying process. Use shoe boxes, plastic bags, or whatever you have around to sort things. Wait until the sorting process is over to buy the right size and amount of nice containers. And our Sorting Stuff blog, part of our Learning Anywhere, Every Day series, has more entertaining ideas for day-to-day organizing with your preschooler.
  3. Contain, label and elevate as needed. Once you’ve sorted and decided on where you will put all the toys and supplies, put each set or collection in a different container. Then, after you’ve put things in containers and in their specific spaces, label them. It is a good idea to invest in containers with tight-fitting lids if you have babies and toddlers who will inevitably break into art supplies meant for your older children. Or, you can keep those dangerous items, like scissors, on a higher shelf. The key here is storing things in a way that is accessible for the child that will be using it. For example, your preschooler can reach the shelf and open the crayon container, but it’s not possible for your younger ones who aren’t allowed. Then take your little one on a tour: “This is where the cars go; this is where the art supplies go.” Check Part 2 of my blog series, Support Your Preschooler’s Language Development - Listening for ideas to make sure your little one is actively listening to you.
  4. Decide on a “home” for toys. Once you’ve downsized your child’s collection of stuff, it’s time to find them a new home, a place to store your toys and supplies. Now that you have toys and supplies sorted out, you can figure out exactly how much space you need-- and want-- for each different kind of plaything. Outside toys like balls, sleds, should have a space, arts supplies should have a spot, and so on. Commit to keeping them contained to their place in your closet, garage or bookshelf.
  5. Make 2 toy rules.In order to maintain the order you just established, set up two very simple rules that even the youngest toddlers can understand. Even if you think you’re too crazy busy to do this, keeping these ideas in mind will definitely help:
    • First, only one toy set, collection, or activity out at a time. So, no getting out the train set while you’re playing with playdough. This prevents your child from creating huge messes of toys and other materials that are overwhelming for both your little one and you to have to clean up.
    • Second, once you’re through, put it back in its place. So, when your preschooler is done playing with blocks and is ready to play with art materials, no problem. She just cleans up the blocks, maybe with your help depending on her age, and puts it back in their container. Then. she’s free to pull out the art materials.
    • Remember, it will get easier as your little one knows what to expect. Even if it’s a challenge for you to reinforce these rules, keep in mind that getting used to these two rules will actually help ease your little one’s transition into preschool and kindergarten, where these rules are generally practiced in the classroom. Our Get Ready for Big School - PreSchool Skills Checklist for more tips on how to get your preschooler used to these and other routines.
  6. Maintain your system. To keep your order in place, you will need to be very vigilant for at least the first 2 weeks to make sure toys get put away back in their containers and into their homes where they belong. This goes for both you and your child, so remind your little one, your family and yourself!  And if something’s simply not working, like that shelf is too high, or that container is too small, then change it so it does work! If you keep at it for a couple of weeks, both you and your preschooler will soon have the habit of putting toys back in their labeled containers and spaces. And when you get a new toy or art supply, you will know exactly where it should go. Victory!!

Keeping toy clutter under control isn’t easy. But it is possible by following these few suggestions. What of these six suggestions did you find the most helpful? Let us know your feedback right here. And when you’re all finished with your decluttering, check out our Pure Imagination activity collection for preschool fun without any toys at all!