Your child’s playroom is one of the areas of your house most prone to organizational pandemonium. That’s because children aren’t naturally neat, and playtime can result in a toy explosion. The good news is there are systems you can install in your playroom to help keep things under control.
The key to the success of this process is to involve your child. The truth is, a messy playroom with an overabundance of toys is just as overwhelming for a child as it is for you. If you teach your child from an early age how to pick up after themselves, you won’t get stuck sweeping in every day and cleaning up a mess every day. Let’s be honest, you have enough to worry about aside from picking up a room your children can learn to clean themselves.
Mary Poppins was right when she said that making cleaning a game instead of a chore helps turn it from drudgery to fun. If you find ways to keep the experience positive, they will be more likely to jump in to help. Adapt the games for the children’s ages. Older children can play word and color games. Younger children might need a little more guidance.
If your child can walk, they are old enough to help pick up. Even children as young as one can pick up blocks and put them in a bin. Make sure to give them lots of positive reinforcement when they do, even if it isn’t perfect. At first, it may only be a few items they pick up. But as time goes on, they will learn that cleaning up earns them a shower of praise. Just like any skill they learn, children learn better by doing.
When you set out to reorganize your child’s playroom, approach it less like a decor project and more like an opportunity to teach your children important life skills. Through this process, they will learn to realize how much they have, what they like, what they don’t like and how to stay focused.
Giving isn’t always natural to children. It is something you will have to teach them. Help your child realize that letting go of stuff they don’t need is fun. When they select toys to give away, tell them that they will go to other little children who are less fortunate than them. Read them books that reinforce this message, such as The Giving Tree, Boxes for Katie or Mama I’ll Give You the World.
Just as you would organize a master closet or your laundry room, use our method in the playroom. Go through the steps with your child: Edit, Categorize, Contain, Curate and Personalize. This includes purging things that are no longer needed; dividing them up into related categories; putting things in bins, baskets, on shelves, etc; adding accessories and decor to match; and creating systems that are personal to what works for you and your child.
Here are some other tips to get your children involved in playroom organization:
1. Don’t keep toys that aren’t age appropriate or are broken.
Your five year old doesn’t need a rattle or a play mat. As you go through the editing process with your child, talk to them about how they are too big for toys they played with when they were a baby. Talk to them about how there are other babies or younger children out there who would get a lot of joy from those toys they don’t need anymore.
In addition to discarding broken toys, go through markers and pencils and toss ones that are dried out. Discard puzzles that have missing pieces.
2. Set up systems your child can use.
If toys and books are stored on shelves that are too tall, children won’t be able to put things away. If you use drawers that are hard to open and close, they won’t be able to use them. Make sure that you are selecting systems that are simple and easy for a child to use. We love this storage option from Ikea. You can choose shelving or storage boxes to fit what you have to store. This storage unit from Design Within Reach is also an attractive way to add storage to your playroom.
3. Make sure your bins are clear and/or small.
When you know what you have, it's easier to find things. The same goes for children’s toys. Clear bins that show the contents are a great way to help your children know what they have.
Small bins are better for children’s items as well, so that the bin doesn’t become a dumping ground for too much stuff. The larger the bin, the more toys will get dumped on the floor at playtime, and the more that will have to be picked up. This storage drum from Buy Buy Baby or this striped basket from World Market are perfect child-friendly options. This art box is great for storing paper, colored pencils and other art supplies.
4. Put up wall storage options
Wall storage opens up the room for more storage. Use magnetic boards, strip bulletin boards, floating shelves, cubbies, etc. This will give you more options for different kinds of toys and books.
5. Label, label, label
Labeling helps you stick to your categories and know what is in a bin or basket. This is especially helpful if your bins aren’t clear and you can’t see into them. As your child learns to read, you use it as a teaching time when they pick up.
6. Regularly clean and disinfect playroom toys
Since children are known to be germ carriers, they can often transfer them to their toys, where they can live for days. Regularly disinfecting your toys removes viruses and bacteria and ultimately keeps your children more healthy.
7. Instill in them the practice of picking up.
Just as they have rules and patterns they must follow at school, you can encourage organization by having your children get in the habit of putting a toy away after they play with it. This may take some practice, but once they get in the habit of it, your playroom is less likely to look like a bomb went off.
8. Set a good example.
Now that you have taught your child the art and importance of organization, make sure you are modeling it in your home. Children watch what you do more than what you say and will imitate your behavior. If you make cleanliness and organization a regular habit in your home, they will too.
A playroom doesn’t have to be overwhelming if your children are involved in the process of keeping it clean and organized. It can be a place your child learns invaluable lessons that they will apply for the rest of their life.