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Creative ways to organize children’s toys

After weeks spent in hunter/gatherer mode, parents who snagged the toys of their children’s dreams during holiday shopping now face a different challenge — what to do with all those new playthings.

Toys aren’t nearly as fun when merely strewn about a playroom, easily taken for granted but rarely used. Bringing order to playthings helps your children appreciate their value and practice skills they’ll need for a lifetime.

It’s easiest to organize toys when we’re not overwhelmed with far too many of them.

If toys once cherished feel tiresome, consider helping your children pick a few older things they’re comfortable donating to kids in need, then deliver them together to the charity of your choice.

Some organizations serving refugee families, victims of domestic violence or families facing homelessness, appreciate donations of new or gently used items such as toys, books or clothing. Check before heading out so you’ll know what sorts of things your favorite charity actually needs this time of year.

For younger kids, consider rotating toys between the toy closet and play space. Toys kept out of sight (and out of reach) for several weeks or months often feel new again after parents take them out of hiding.

For the toys your children are currently using, find a storage system that fits your own family’s style.

Tidier types might enjoy creating labels together for clear stacking bins, whereas others might be happiest placing toys in a couple of large plastic tubs.

Letting your children help choose the containers might up the odds they’ll actually get used. So will finding ways your child can decorate those containers. Think stickers for plastic and crayons for cardboard.

Bookshelves anchored to the wall for safety are great for storing all kinds of toys. Pick one shelf for dolls and another for trucks — then label them accordingly with pictures and/or words.

Plenty of places sell fancy bins, but it’s easy to make your own by recycling and decorating shoe boxes, large oatmeal drums, round cookie tins and photo boxes.

If bookshelves look too cluttered, insert a curtain rod with springs along the top, then add a lovely drape, sheet or piece of fabric to conceal the contents.

Finding ways to store toys is an early exercise in problem solving, and sorting toys uses skills important for early math and reading.

Hat boxes that make pretty storage when stacked. Photo: Ornamentz.com.
Hat boxes make pretty storage when stacked. Photo: Ornamentz.com.

Creative solutions for specific toys

Action figures: Hang shoe or jewelry organizers with several small pockets on doors or walls — then let your child fill the pockets with small toys.

Art supplies: Place a door atop two short bookshelves, giving your child a space for storage and creating. Keep supplies in re-purposed peanut butter or jam jars.

Balls: Place them in cloth laundry bags (with kid-safe drawstrings), then hang the bags on a row of wall hooks.

Barbie dolls: Give each doll individual slots in a shoe-storage unit. For older kids, use picnic baskets or stacks of vintage suitcases to store dolls, clothing and accessories.

Building toys/trains: Keep parts inside plastic bins that fit under your child’s bed.

Games/puzzles: Stack horizontal shoe shelves or make room in an extra linen closet with several shelves.

Stuffed animals: Install a high shelf across one or more walls in your child’s room, or make a kid-safe hammock for extra soft toy storage.

Small electronics: Decorate a tackle box or tool box and designate spaces for various accessories from chargers to batteries.

A few more tips

For assorted items hard to fit elsewhere, consider using large round hat boxes. They’re easy to stack and add a decorative element to your child’s room.

Choose furniture that serves a double purpose, such as footstools that open up to reveal storage space.

Consider hiring a professional organizer to help with more creative ways to organize children’s toys.

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