This is a reader request from Rose. Thanks for writing in!
Full disclosure, I have no children of my own, but I do have nieces and nephews.
When they come over to my house to play, I have toys around the home for them, but it never looks like this unless they’re playing with the toys at that moment:
Keep it in their play areas
My nieces and nephews are not allowed toys anywhere else in the house except their bedroom, the basement or outside.
The rest of the house is adult-friendly, and if they do bring ONE toy around the whole day like a puzzle they’re working on, it better not stay in the living room or else it gets donated.
It only happened once to my niece and she cried a blue storm to lose her puzzle, but got over it.
(To be fair, my niece was warned once, and she forgot/ignored the warning and it left the home.)
All the other kids just learned by example
Only three toys out at a time
Some parents use the one-toy-at-a-time rule, but I like 3 toys for each kid.
If they try to pull out a 4th toy, they have to put away another toy first.
Cannot play with more than 3 things at once (reasonably)
Even in their play areas, set rules
When they’re done playing with a toy, they have to put it back.
If they leave out toys after they’re done playing and everyone is supposed to put things away to go to sleep or eat, it gets donated.
I don’t really make them put away EVERYTHING if they’re just coming to eat (just as long as they don’t let stray pieces wander into general walking paths).
If they are going back to play with it after, I let them leave it out.
But if they are going to get ready for bed and sleep, it has to be put away.
And NO ONE goes to get ready until they also help their smaller, slower siblings put their things away.
Builds teamwork and sibling cohesion.
One in, one out
You can also use the one-in-one-out rule in his home.
One new toy in (even at Christmas or birthdays), one toy out.
At first, it may seem like you’re punishing them but if you put a different spin to it, to show them the deeper meaning, it usually changes their mind.
I tell them they’re actually helping donate toys to other kids who may love or need them more especially at the holidays or on their birthdays.
So I hand them a box and tell them to go around picking up toys that they don’t touch or play with any longer.
Do it as a pre-birthday or holiday ritual
With the one-in-one-out rule in mind, do it yearly so it becomes a habit.
Every week before their birthday, and they’re about to get some serious toys, a big toy donating party begins.
They run around, grab everything they don’t play with (I mean EVERYTHING) and put it in the donation box.
Then they bring it with us to the donation place, and help hand the box over, so they see the full cycle of what they’ve done.
Keep a box around where ALL the toy clutter gets dumped
Kind of like a lost and found.
If they don’t pick it up in 2 weeks it gets donated regularly.
Just don’t leave it there for a year.
Use the actual storage space or furniture as an indicator
If you want an even more hands-off routine, if they cannot fit another book, and squeeze it onto their bookshelf, they have to de-clutter.
So if their toys overflow the tub and they can’t close it, they have to donate/get rid of toys.
Items you can use to organize and store toys:
Big plastic tubs
If the storage is big, then save it for the big stuff like train sets, car tracks, doll accessories, and sports gear
Any kind of plastic tub actually
You know those large yoghurt tubs? They’re small, but they’re handy.
I keep them, clean them and use them to store little tiny things like Barbie’s clothing or accessories.
No need to purchase extra, fancy storage if you can reuse what you have at home.
Sort of like this, but cheaper
Furniture that doesn’t look like it’s storage
This one is pretty standard in many homes.
Books get stored on top, and toys in the wicker baskets.
But this is my favourite, I think. The magic ottoman.
It looks sleek and is like a toybox is disguise for when company comes over
There is SOME storage I hate however.
Because toys sometimes spill out into other buckets, or get lost and have to be fished out from behind the buckets.
VERY annoying unless you only keep them half full.
Keep toys grouped as like with like
Blocks are one group, Stuffed Animals one group, Puzzles another, Books, and so on.
Also, if some toys are definitely “outdoor” toys, like basketballs or soccer balls, they should be kept outside or in the garage.
If some toys are “indoor” toys, they cannot be stored downstairs or near the “outdoor” toys, like Barbie dolls.
Label, label, label!
If you have those plastic boxes, or even those cute wicker baskets, put a little tag or label on them to help them know what goes where.
If they can’t read yet, put a picture of the item to help them, or a colour.
Red tag = Blocks
Blue tag = Puzzles
You can also ask them to decorate or draw all over it with markers to personalize their storage tubs.
It’s a good activity to keep them busy, gets them involved, creative and helps enforce the rule of putting things away in their nice boxes.
Alternatively, you can just buy clear boxes, but I find those large Rubbermaid heavy duty tubs to be the best.
Simply put: Don’t buy so much
If you know their grandparents spoil them, don’t buy so much for them.
(And ask them NOT to spoil them)
I didn’t grow up with very many toys other than blocks, and a couple of Barbie dolls and books.
But I didn’t feel deprived.. in fact, it enhanced my creativity to build and create things like my own doll house out of a book shelf.
I used tissue boxes as their beds, and so on.
My boyfriend only grew up with ONE G.I. Joe to share between his siblings.
They spent hours undressing him, re-dressing him in another outfit, playing with him on top of rocks, making him swim, etc.
One toy. 3 kids.