Toy storage is a stress. Whether you have a giant mansion or a tiny walk up. Whether you rent or own. Whether you are a toy-buyer or a toy-eschewer. Toys, art materials, resources and learning tools – in their sum total – are a stress. The only way I have found clarity in the bits and pieces of toy chaos was to have a place for everything.
A couple of readers have emailed me and asked me how I store all of the
crap learning tools that we use on a daily basis. I thought it would be fun to give a visual as a way to answer this questions (so here you go Michelle and Allie!).
We live in a house which is terribly old, but not so terribly dilapidated. We have lots of closets and lots of places to hide stuff away, but the rooms are a little Victorian in their size (smallish), so I try to keep actual ‘stuff’ hidden and as tidy as possible.
I have a room in the house that is called the craft room, but dear readers, who am I kidding with this moniker? Craft room it isn’t. Play space, learning room and storage alcove it is. I do have my own little nook in the back half of the room, but much of the space is dedicated to Aodhan.
Cover it up
I used an Ikea window curtain and rail across an alcove to hide all of the storage I have in this room. It is perfect because the Ikea sofa table that is Aodhan-accessible, can be easily reached by pulling aside the curtain; at the same time, the room maintains its zen and calm by having the curtain drawn and keeping the white space as the focus. We built shelves above the toy storage to hold items that I don’t always want Aodhan to have easy access to: my sewing supplies, fabric, and the occasional birthday gift! The baskets have been great - they hold so much and I have been able to sort things into specific groups. They are labeled with both words and images to make it a cinch for Aodhan to get his own materials. Love it.
In this photo you can see where I keep some toys ‘out’. I rotate these and they usually include Montessori activities that he can work through on his own leisure.
On this particular day, I have:
1. A baby book of new born photos of Aodhan, Dino skeletons and Dinosaur, A book about rabbits.
2. An old Apple keyboard, a bunch of his quilted letters, his puppets from The Paper Bag Princess.
3. A robot piggy bank with coins and buttons (fine motor), Brown Bear, Brown Bear classification 3 part cards, a rock.
4. 2 bags of wooden blocks.
I rotate these once a week, making sure that there is always a good mix of learning, coupled with just plain investigating and fun.This room is also where I keep my yoga mat and an old nursing pillow that has now become a spot for our 3 year old lounge lizard to relax. His easel is also in here, but that tends to migrate.
The next room where we have materials out and available is the dining room. Kevin and I tend to try and chat after our dinner. It is a breather between dinner making (which he does) and the dinner dishes (which he also does). I have created a bookshelf that is just for Aodhan with a selection of his books and an array of toys, fun activities and some old electronics. Everything in this bookshelf gets rotated as well, including the books, which I pull and move from his three book ‘spaces’ in the house.
I would say that the living room has the least amount of toys/resources. Aodhan has his giant book basket that tends to be seasonal and theme based tucked under the electronics cabinet, and I tend to display books related to a theme along the wall with a couple appropriate puzzles and stuffed friends (right now we are exploring fairy tales). We also always have his music basket in the living room for impromptu cello concerts with his dad.
The kitchen is where so much of the art and creating happens. We built Aodhan a table that was appropriate for his height, with another Ikea bookshelf right beside. Our cookbooks take up the top shelf. On the middle shelf, crayons are in the big wicker basket right beside a selection of paper materials (scrap, cardboard, construction, tissue). The bottom shelf holds ‘the jar’. This is a giant mason jar that holds all the little bits that have no other home (marbles, silly bandz, little figures, rocks, shells, bits of jewellery). Trust me – they always come in handy. I also keep some nature materials on this shelf, which I try to rotate. In front of the bookshelf are a couple of sensory bins (in the winter, I have an indoor sandbox there).
We have absolutely no toys in the bedroom. There are a couple of baby toys that are sitting on my dresser, but they are my own little memories of his infanthood – he doesn’t even notice them as something to play with. His largest bookshelf is in the bedroom, but that makes sense because he knows that we only really hang out in there if we are having ‘Books and Boobies’ time, which is our special term for bedtime. In the spare room we keep the bigger toys, like his wooden play kitchen and his wooden doll house and his workbench.
Where are all of our art materials???? I will share a post next Monday on our art cupboard. I love it. And not just because it was in my mom’s kitchen for years and years.
It really comes down to having a dedicated space for everything and using labels. I really like Aodhan being able to access items on his own, but I hardly find him needing to go behind the white curtain, he usually seems pretty engaged in what is on display and available.
We also try to make everything feel natural, purposeful and organic. What I mean is that the toy/resource storage or display needs to feel like it fits in the room. I don’t put out (or buy) items that Aodhan doesn’t need or want to play with; things need to fit with our family flow, philosophy or balance. If something isn’t age or level appropriate it goes behind the curtain and stays there until a time comes when Aodhan is ready for it.
I feel similar to toy/resource storage as I do about baby ‘stuff’ in general – I don’t want to buy something that Toys R Us is selling as a miracle answer to clutter, when really, it is just more clutter in itself. Bookshelves and other wooden furniture feel like the right answer for our storage issues; Aodhan is able to have easy access to his supplies and toys, while I also feel organized and balanced - the toys never feel like they are taking over the house, rather they are a part of the house.
I am linking up to these great blogs.