When I was younger, I used to joke that I would write a ‘Dear Ronnie’ column for a magazine when I was all grown up. Little did I know that one day I would be starting a Q&A column on my very own blog. Daggy name aside, I’ve been collecting questions sent to me by readers for some time now, always with a promise that I’d answer them in a blog post. As yet, I haven’t managed a single one. But since it’s the start of a new year, we are going to do this. Like for real. Seriously. So here we go…. are you ready?
One of the questions I often get asked is how I organise our boys’ toys. From what I gather, there seems to be a general consensus out there that children’s toys breed. And it’s true. They do. Big time. Often overnight, while you’re asleep. We are not big toy buyers ourselves. In fact, apart from birthdays and Christmas, we hardly buy anything for the boys. But even so, their inventory of toys is not lacking. Quite the opposite in fact.
The family room (shown above) is where our day-to-day toys live, and most of them are arranged on those two IKEA bookshelves, which I love. Sadly, IKEA actually doesn’t sell these Lack shelves anymore, which is a real shame in my opinion, but you can probably find some second hand on eBay, Gumtree or Craigslist if you’re lucky.
How toys are organised on the right bookshelf:
- Top shelf (from left to right): Wooden toys (drum strategically out of reach) and Lego creations from Christmas.
- Second shelf: Coffee tin filled with torches, 3D glasses and old mobile phones; scissors, crayons and ‘no-mess’ magic markers in Rick’s old school bag/case; Eric Carle building boxes; and basket filled with big plastic toys (e.g. cashier, laptop, etc.).
- Third shelf: Remote control cars and Tonka trucks and cars in vintage Pepsi crates.
- Bottom shelf: Plastic carwash set in small suitcase; wooden train set in Samsonite suitcase; wooden blocks in vintage train case; and crane set in its own tyre container.
How toys are organised on the left bookshelf:
- Top shelf (from left to right): Puzzles & board games; Clippo set; random broken bits that need fixing (in bucket/tumbler); and farm animals in the Samsonite train case.
- Second shelf: Creative activities and ‘thinking’ toys (e.g. beads, flashcards, Tap Tap, 3D puzzles, portable airport set, etc.) in the rectangular basket; magnetic blocks in top Lego box; Lego pieces in bottom Lego box; and standalone wooden toys (I like having these wooden toys on display because they add texture and colour).
- Third shelf: Architectural building set in green suitcase; wooden puzzles in beige suitcase; and a big black tub of cars, trucks, planes, helicopters.
- Bottom shelf: Huge wooden blocks for building roads, on loan from Rick’s parents.
As you can see, we group similar toys together, and I like to use a mixture of vintage and modern items to create fun and colourful storage solutions: suitcases, vintage train cases, Lego boxes, baskets, IKEA plastic tubs and vintage soda crates. Part of the reason I love these IKEA Lack shelves so much is because they’re roomy enough to hold things of all shapes and sizes, thus allowing greater flexibility than our previous boxy Expedit bookshelf.
Are these all the toys you have?
A wooden play kitchen lives in a storage cupboard under the stairs, along with a wooden carpark unit. Apart from the fact that this saves us valuable space in the family room, what we’ve found is that if we leave them out all the time, the boys just get bored of them. But if we only bring them out from time to time, the boys are much more interested and inclined to interact with them.
The only toys in the boys’ bedroom is a wooden crate full of coloured blocks, and they play with these after their bathtime in the evenings. Not only does this keep the toy situation simple and uncluttered upstairs, it also encourages the boys’ creativity as they constantly come up with new ways of playing with and building their blocks.
Lastly, paints, paintbrushes, chalk, bubble mix, Play Doh and outdoor type toys are all stored in an old Ikea wardrobe in the garage. Papers and colouring-in books are stored in our little kids table next to the couch in the family room.
What about new toys?
After every birthday or Christmas, which is usually when the influx of toys occur, I usually end up re-organising the toys on the two shelves. In my opinion, if our toys don’t fit on those two shelves, then there are too many toys out on display and the boys wouldn’t play with all of them anyway.
So for example, after we got home from our annual Mason Christmas lunch this year, I literally spent up to three hours that night working out which of the new toys could be combined with the old toys, re-arranging how the toys were stored on the shelves, and ‘archiving’ some of the old toys away upstairs into cupboards. By going through this process, I managed to incorporate what seemed like an enormous sack of new toys into these two shelves, whilst only having to archive two big plastic trucks and a box full of all their cooking and food toys. (Any of IKEA’s storage cubes that fit inside their Expedit shelves are great for toy archiving purposes.)
On maintaining the system…
My biggest tip with keeping toys organised is to teach your children where everything is kept and to teach them to tidy up after every play time. All three of our boys (including Jamie, our twenty two month old) know where everything goes, and they all know that before we sit down to eat or before we go out, they must help pack up the family room. They know they are free to make as much mess as they want while they play, as long as they return the room to the state it was before, which they do beautifully – even down to putting the TV remotes away in the right drawers, returning cups to the kitchen and putting the cushions the right way up on the couch.
How do you organise your children’s toys? Feel free to share your tips!