If you have children under age 10, you can understand the struggle between keeping kids engaged and keeping your home in order. In today’s homes, play is no longer limited to the playroom or bedroom–toys are generally available throughout the home. And this can make the appearance of untidy chaos.
Data from Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century (Arnold, et. al) suggests that each new child leads to a 30 percent increase in family possessions during just the preschool years. Purchases from parents, grandparents, and multiple sets of relatives from blended families, mean large amounts of incoming objects. Paired together with children’s art and schoolwork, it becomes hard to find an open countertop in the house.
One of the best strategies for dealing with toys is to create zones where certain types of toys and certain types of play are allowed. These zones allow for only one category of toy to avoid the piles of plastic that tend to spread from room to room. For example, in the Family Room you might declare this space a Media Zone. In this room it is okay to have books, board games, puzzles, and video games. The storage in this room would reflect the category allowed.
Another zone can be for toys with small pieces or figures, such as Legos or GI Joes, where either the bedroom or playroom would be optimal so that they do not get under the feet of your guests or other house members. Homework is best zoned where there is access to a desk and supplies. Toys for the outdoors can be stored away in a specific zone close to the outside such as a garage, basement, or mudroom.
And for the bedroom, this is a great place for kids to keep favorite toys or valuable possessions. This zone helps teach our kids how to give special care and attention to items they deem valuable. For certain valuables, shelves that are higher than normal might be best for storage. And don’t forget the arts and crafts zone. This might be a place where only supervised play is allowed and items needs to be stored away out of reach and behind closed cabinets.
Involving your children in planning and maintaining the zones in your home is an important behavior to model for even the youngest ages. Where to keep toys and how to store them shows concern for care and reinforces the idea that play has a time and place.
And most importantly, it is important to recognize that our children can be easily overwhelmed with copious amounts of toys of every kind laying everywhere. If it is difficult for adults to manage, it is surely difficult for kids to sort through and understand. A simplified toy strategy is just the ticket for shutting the door on continuous clutter.