Getting kids (and sometimes other adults) to put the toys back in the correct spaces can be a real challenge. If the organizational system of the toys isn’t set up to work with your family, the toy clutter can be a real pain! So how can you organize toys so they can go back to where they belong? I am sharing my tricks for how you can get things back into place for good!
Organizing Toys So They Can Go Back Where They Belong
Keep It Simple
The biggest issue I see when it comes to toy organization is that there are too many steps for the kids. When there is more than one step, let’s say remove a lid to put a toy in, the likelihood of that task getting completed is drastically reduced. The reason being is that kids need easy. The easier you make it the better off you will be when it comes to tidying up toys.
To keep things simple, give each bin one specific type of toy category. That is that bins’ purpose. Let’s say you have all the cars and trucks in one bin. Only keep cars and trucks in that one bin. Or maybe you keep all the doll stuff, no matter what type of doll in a bin. That is on the only thing that should go in that bin. By doing this you are keeping things simple so everyone can follow. If something doesn’t fit into one of your bin categories, then I would strongly suggest you think if it is truly worth keeping. Seriously!
So keep your organizational system easy. I have helped over 100+ families set up their playrooms so I have my playroom design plans which can totally help you keep things simple. Get yours here.
Another tip to organizing toys is to teach your kids the order of everything. So start by showing them what goes where. Maybe get them involved in the process because they will be able to maintain what you just organized.
I have some tricks for teaching order in some of the blog posts listed below:
Another thing to help keep toys organized is to be consistent. That means that you have to follow through on whatever organizational system you created and make sure the kids keep up with it as well. If you decided that you would clean up all the toys every night, then stick to that plan. When you stick to the plan and be consistent, the toys will end up back where they belong. It is when things are not simple and we are not consistent that everything gets disorganized.
My suggestion for being consistent is to include cleaning up as part of your wind down for bed routine. Have the entire family help put things away before you go up to bed. It helps when you include it in the routine because you will stay consistent because it is part of your routine!
Use Natural Consequences
Natural consequences are just actions that happen naturally from either doing something or not doing something. Let’s say your child doesn’t want to clean up. So they throw things into a bin and say they are done. Well the following day, they can’t find that particular toy that they didn’t actually clean up. Now they have to search everywhere for that toy. That is a natural consequence for not cleaning up. Now in order for this consequence to be as effective as it needs to be, you (the adult) should not help find said item. It should be on the child since they did not do their job in helping clean up.
Another natural consequence is toys getting ruined because they were not put away properly. The act of realizing if you don’t take care of your things they get ruined is a true life lesson. Long story short, I had a client who would keep replacing toys that were ruined because they “felt bad”. This was no fault of the parent for wanting the best for their child, but when you continue to replace the toys that the kids are breaking, then what lesson are you teaching? When we actually got to the reason why they were buying replacement toys, it was clear that the kids needed to take responsibility for things. So we changed what and how they stored their toys. And if a toy wasn’t put away in the correct bin at the end of the night or left out to get eaten by the dog, then they would not get a new one. They would have to buy it with their own money if they wanted to replace it.
These natural consequences are what will teach the kids how to take care of their things so when they are older, they can do these things without thinking!
Another organizing toys trick I have is to label everything! And I mean everything. The biggest challenge to keeping things organized is where to put things. So when there is a label on a bin, it is crystal clear what has to go where. For younger kids I recommend picture labels. For older kids, you can easily do text labels. But no matter how you do it, make sure you add that label! I have a ton of label options that you may find helpful.
Use Natural Breaks
Keeping the toys organized can be done if you tidy up the toys during natural breaks. This works well for younger children who tend to go through more toys than older children. When I am talking about natural breaks, I mean things like lunch time, nap time, or any time you are leaving the house. These are natural breaks in your day that can be used as a signal to clean up.
To use natural breaks, I would add tidying up to your routine. Let’s say it is lunch and after lunch is nap. Create a before lunch routine that includes cleaning up the toys before you go to eat lunch. Give yourself a buffer of like 15 minutes to clean up. This will help with the transition to a new activity because you tidied up the space and it feels natural because you are about to eat a meal.
Frame Things In A Positive Way
Now use these natural breaks to clean up and frame them in a positive way. So instead of saying “after you clean up, you can eat lunch,” say something like “when we are done cleaning we can eat lunch.” The reason to reframe the task this way is to stop cleaning from being a “have to” task to something that is just part of your routine. Think about when you “have to” do something. It feels heavy. But if it just becomes part of your routine, it doesn’t seem as daunting. It is a weird mind trick to play on yourself but it helps you change your focus. Those small things will make a big difference later in life.
Organizing toys to put back where they belong can be done if you follow these steps. Keep the organizational system simple. Teach the kids how to maintain the order you created. It should be easy because you kept the organizing easy. Be consistent with your tidy and expectations for the kids. Use natural consequences if the kids don’t clean up or take care of the toys. They need to learn so let them learn how to care for their things. Make sure you label everything. Use natural breaks as clean up times. Things like meals or naps make great breaks and you can set cleaning up into your routine before you start a meal or go down for a nap. And frame your cleaning request in a positive way so the kids never feel that cleaning is a daunting task. This will help their mindset on keeping things tidy as just what you do instead of a task that feels heavy.