Toy Organization for Toddlers and Preschoolers


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 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?


  1. These are great points. I agree less is better, when there are too many toys they obviously will not be played with at one time.

  2. Oh, I looooooooooooooove this!!!!!! I am organization-obsessed, but I just hadn't figured out how to make it work with the toys. Pinning this. Thanks for sharing!!!

  3. So tidy and bright place for kids! Very nice! But how much time per day it takes from you to keep everything on the right place?

    1. Good question! Not long everyday. I probably spend about 15 minutes each week kind of resetting the boxes in the kids room. I pull them all down like they are in the picture above and put away stray pieces. We spend 5 minutes in the evening putting away the toys in the living room. Otherwise, it just take a few minutes here and there when we clean up after playing.



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