Toy Organization for Toddlers and Preschoolers

10.29.2014

My first child was 4 months old when I discovered just how quickly toys can take over. Toys just have this tendency to multiply and spread all over your house, your car, your diaper bag...If you aren't careful they can easily take over!

That's why I decided pretty early on that I wanted something more organized and structured than the free-for-all playroom system. I spent some time on Pinterest, blogs, and parenting books looking for ways to make the most of the toys we have and while limiting the mess and confusion.

But you have to understand, my goal in organizing my kids toys isn't cleanliness or perfection. We still have a messy house, and I frequently find stray toys in the most unusual places!

Rather, my goal is to set up an organization system that is easy to maintain and helps us use the toys and space we have in a way that maximizes fun and minimizes stress and fighting! 


So before we get started, here are my two theories about toys that govern pretty much everything we do.

1. Less is more. The less toys you give kids to play with the more creative they will be, and the less mess you have to clean up afterward.

2. Out of sight, out of mind. When toys are stored out of sight children will often forget about them which makes them ten times more fun next time you happen to pull them out of the closet next.

So with those principles in mind let me show you how we organize our toys! 


1. Regular Toys

I store almost all of the kids' toys in cloth bins on shelves in their closet, out of the toddlers' reach. These particular bins came from Walmart, and they work pretty well. I do NOT allow the toddlers to play with the bins because they try to climb on them, sit in them, stand on them, and basically destroy them. Individual sets of toys (like the teapot set or all the small cars) are stored in clear plastic bags so I can easily glance into a bin and see what's there.


I used to sort the toys so that certain types of toys were in the same bin, like all the small toys were in one bin, and the stacking toys in another. However, I actually found that it works best for us to just keep the bins kind of random (plus, I don't have to remember what toys go in what bins). Each morning I pull down ONE bin from the top of the closet, and the kids get to play with whatever is inside. Because the bins have all sorts of toys in them, there is usually something for everybody.


The kids are welcome to play with whatever toys they have down however they want, and I don't make a big deal about keeping all the pieces together or even keeping the toys in one room. Because we have so few toys out, finding all the pieces at the end of the day really isn't a big deal at all. Remember, less is more when it comes to toys!

2. BIG Toys

Of course, not all of the toys fit in the top of the closet. The toddlers currently have three bigger toys that are kept out in their room or in the bottom of the closet. Yep. Only three, and one of them is an easel. 

This is where the out of sight principle comes into play. Because they see these toys everyday, they don't really want to play with them! I used to store bigger stuff like this out in the shed, but I didn't like all the clutter out in the shed either. Now I just sell old toys they don't play with and use the money to buy new ones.



We also have these three bigger baby toys that have served all of my children well. We need no more, and we probably couldn't live with less. This particular set of toys provide hours of entertainment to babies between the ages of 6-15 months. They are worth their weight in gold! 

They don't really have a home right now. We just move them where we need them. When they aren't being used they go in the closet in the nursery or stored away under the crib.





3. Stuffed Animals

I used to think stuffed animals were pretty useless, but apparently they are actually quite popular with the 1-3 crowd. For the most part I weed out stuffed animals my kids don't LOVE, and I do my best not to have two of anything. We have one lion, one snake, one opossum, one rabbit...you get the picture.

I store them in the green tub in the bottom of their closet, and the kids know where they go. At night they each pick a buddy to sleep with and all the rest of our furry friends sleep in the closet. *And as a bonus, the green tub doubles as a rocket ship!*



4. Books and Puzzles

We keep books and some puzzles out on the shelf in the kids room all the time. I usually limit the number of puzzles out just because we have so many, but books are fair game. One of the things I love about this box shelf is that the toddlers can easily put the books away themselves without the whole row of books falling down as with traditional bookshelves. 



I do try to keep board books on the bottom shelves and the nice books in the top spaces to keep them out of the baby's reach, but mostly I have just reconciled myself to the fact that letting kids "read" means losing a book to rough hands every now and then. It's a sacrifice I'll gladly make if it means my kids have access to their books and will keep reading!

*The toy cars are just bonus toys. They take up too much room to be put in a bin and they fill the blank space in our shelves nicely. 


5. Baby Toys

We currently keep all the baby toys on a shelf in the living room. It's not my favorite storage solution since I'd rather have toys out of sight, but this does seem to work well enough.

It started as a place to keep one or two things for Little Bear, but it also serves as a convenient place to put stray toys we find after the kids go to bed (hence the plastic dinosaurs). I'm convinced the toddlers would ignore this shelf entirely if their little brother didn't like it so much. But alas, as soon as I pull out a toy for the baby, the toddlers insist on dumping the rest of the toys in the floor and then fighting over which ever one Little Bear had first. Sigh.




6. Supervised Toys

These are what I call our "table time toys". They are toys with small pieces that require some level of supervision, and I definitely don't want them falling into the hands of the baby. Here's what's currently in our table time boxes.



1. Foam shapes and felt pieces
2. Flash cards and matching cards
3. Play-doh
4. Balloons and stickers
5. Lacing cards, beads, and pipe cleaners
6. Chalk, pom-poms, and magnets.

*So a little FYI, use a hole punch and clasp rings to store flash cards together. No more baggies, boxes, or loose cards! 

I keep our boxes in the dining room on a shelf along with our art box. Most of the activities can be done at the table, but they don't have to be. I at least put up a baby gate to keep the small pieces contained in one area.



So there you have it! I think I covered most of our toy selection, although come to think of it, we do have a tub of small plastic balls under a bed somewhere...

Found it!



I'd love to hear from you! How do you organize toys?

Enjoy the Silence

10.22.2014

This is what happiness looks like. My kids. Sleeping. 


This quiet that invades my house is goodness. I can hear the ticking of the clocks and the quiet whirl of the ceiling fan. The sun shines through the window and makes the piles of clothes on my kitchen table look almost inviting. 

I love these moments. I never really appreciated silence until I had kids. I used to think that silence was boring and was always looking for more entertainment, more conversation. 

It's not hard to find in a world as fast paced and noisy as ours. Radios, music, television. You can't even walk down the aisle at Walmart without TV advertisements suddenly jolting you out of focused concentration. 

However, I've learned in my short years of motherhood, that there is truly beauty in the silence.

These past few weeks during our move we were without internet. It was mostly an inconvenience. One of us would have to go out at least once a day to find WiFi. From banking, to blogging, to friends, email, Bible study helps and the source of all information ever (Google), our whole lives are online. 

At least that's what I thought. 

But once I adjusted myself to the idea of being offline, I really started to appreciate being unplugged. I focused my time and attention on all the myriad of things I had to do here (and there was plenty!). I was never bored, but I had plenty of time for the little things that sometimes get forgotten. 

Things like tea parties, hide and seek, and really good books.

My kids are used to this type of unplugged silence. They live here in the moment, never wondering about what someone else is doing on the internet. And while they would love a little "iPad time," I think they genuinely prefer to simply run and jump and play. All of us together. 

Over the past few weeks I've gotten to enjoy that simplicity. I was reminded that I don't have to be plugged in to be productive. There is so much work and learning here to do at home with these little ones. I don't need Pinterest to be creative, and I don't need to post a picture on Instagram for something to be fun. 

I can be happy here with these little people, in our own little world of stuffed animals and Dinosaur Train, without all the noise and distraction of the world. 

And now that we have internet again? Well, I'll enjoy that too. There is no harm in a little noise sometimes, as long as we remember to stop every now and then to enjoy the silence. 



Memorizing James: Learning the Art of Biblical Meditation

10.20.2014


I often write about the difficulties and challenges I face as a mom of three little ones. Some are unique to me and my family (like the time my kids locked me out of the house while I was chasing chickens in our backyard). However, I think most of what I write about, the stuff that really matters, is the kind of stuff we can all relate to in one way or another. That's why this topic is so important to me. Because I think as some point we all struggle making time for Bible Study. 

That's been me for the best 6 months or so. In fact if I'm honest with you, my Bible reading plan fizzled out sometime in March (when I birthed my third human being and become 17x times busier). 

It wasn't just a lack of time, but also a lack of focus and motivation. I started to feel like I would read and read and never really get anywhere. I usually do my Bible Study while the kids are napping which means the time I have varies greatly day-to-day, and it never fails that just as I start to really get into a passage someone wakes up crying ending my time in the Word and leaving me just wanting more. 

I was frustrated, and I felt guilty about spending so much time reading and never really feeling connected. 

Then my husband had this idea a few months ago to memorize the book of James together. Yes. The WHOLE book. We've memorized scripture verses together in the past, but this project was much bigger than any we'd undertaken before. 

I was reluctant and honeslty didn't think I'd ever actually finish. If I didn't have time to really read my Bible, how would I have time to memorize it? 

But I followed him. I committed myself to working on a couple new verses everyday. I said what I knew aloud to myself in the shower. I practiced during the day caring for my kids. My husband and I quizzed each other to pass the time on long car trips. 

The focus of my devotional time went from just reading and studying scripture to meditating on it, and I loved it! 

As I returned to the same passage day after day, week after week, I found that I was learning more and connecting to the text far more than I ever did when I was constantly reading. Instead of skimming the surface and moving on, I found myself repeatedly returning to a well that never runs dry. It is still amazing that even after having memorized the entire book over a month ago, I'm still learning new things about the text. 

The big picture and the small details all become clearer as I spend more time meditating on the verses in context. It's not just about memorizing but internalizing the lessons.  The time of intense focus on one passage of scripture has pulled me so much deeper into my understanding of scripture and breathed new life into my relationship with God.

It took us a month to memorize the entire book. It was fast, but I was motivated! And when I was officially done with James (I'll never really be done. I love it!), I instantly started devoring other books of scripture. With the Book of James always playing in the background of my mind, I saw the writings of Peter and Paul with new eyes and new understanding and new questions! 

As a busy mom of little ones, my life is unpredictable, and the time I have to be still and quiet, Bible open in my lap is hit or miss somedays. But now I never miss that precious time I spend in the Word. I repeat those chapters I know slowly in my head while I do laundry, drive, or make dinner and I meditate on them as I think about ways they apply to my life and my salvation. 

And the number of chapters I know is still growing! As I write this I have my Bible open to 1 Peter 2, stealing a second glance at my verses for today before heading off to make lunch. My hands may be busy and my kitchen full of chaos, but my heart and my mind belong to Jesus. 

Have you ever memorized a book of the Bible? Which book? How did it change the way you view scripture and Bible study.

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