Every parent of a toddler wants to know this secret: how do you keep your toddler entertained and interested in their toys without cluttering the entire home or draining your wallet? Most toddlers have the attention span of a goldfish, but possess the lungs of an airhorn. We’ve all experienced a toddler tantrum that could easily be avoided by getting organized and thinking ahead. I know you’re probably thinking I’ve taken crazy pills, but my husband has come up with some pretty genius solutions that have really helped us redirect our toddler and keep him interested in both independent and parent-participant playtime.
Instead of organizing your toddler’s toys in a way that makes everything accessible, the first thing you need to do is get toys out of sight. How does this help your toddler, you ask? Well, if your toddler is anything like my toddler, you’ve probably experienced a messy mountain of mismatched toys strewn across the living room, playroom or bedroom and you’ve had to navigate though the toy minefield in the dark or during a tantrum. It’s overwhelming to clean, and it’s overwhelming for your toddler. Less is more.
Divide your toddler’s toys into categories. It can be as simple as building blocks, soft toys, and interactive games or it can be thematic (i.e. Toy Story toys, Big Hero 6 toys, The Avengers, etc.). As long as you have a system that works for your child’s interest, categorizing will help you get organized.
My husband, Brian, likes to use Ziplocs and lunch boxes to thematically organize our toddler’s toys. Why lunch boxes? Brian stumbled upon metal character lunch boxes in a toy aisle and realized the lunch boxes were the perfect size to house our toddler’s Marvel Playskool Heroes and Fisher-Price Imaginext Super Friends, which are little action figures that are small enough to be held in a toddler’s hand but large enough not to be a choking hazard. At around $3 to $4 a piece, we’ve accumulated quite the collection of little heroes. These figures stand about 2-3″ tall and fit nicely inside a metal lunch box.
Metal lunch boxes are compact and stackable. With easy, secure closure and infinite theme possibilities, keeping small toys organized, like those pictured above and Disney Figurine Playsets.
Although just Ziplocs and a cabinet work in a pinch, lunch boxes make organizing your toddler’s toys exciting, and toddlers love being able to identify toy sets by the containers.
For everything that can fit in a lunch box, we thematically categorize and store in a closed cabinet. Larger toys that cannot fit in a lunch box get stored thematically in backpacks. This is great for toddlers and parents who are on the go, too, because a backpack filled with wonderful distractions can be easily grabbed, put in the car, and brought inside any destination (i.e. grandma’s).
Perhaps the most important concept is to keep the Ziplocs, lunch boxes, and backpacks out of sight. At the beginning of playtime, let your toddler pick out a bag or box. Open it with your toddler. When my toddler gets bored with one set of toys, I have him put the set away before he can have another. He understands and has even begun putting sets back in the box or bag before asking for a new set. Then, we grab another box or bag. My husband refers to it as “toy-cycling”, or cycling toys in and out of playtime. We keep some toys in the cabinet and others in the closet. Each week, we toy-cycle between the cabinet and the closet, and we rotate the sets daily (or hourly, or every ten minutes….I mean, we’re talking about toddlers, here).