How about some playroom ideas that will actually help your kids clean up?
A few weeks before M was born, in a flurry of nesting, I finished the playroom organization that I had started a year ago when we first moved in! Today I’m sharing the photos with you and a bit of information about how I keep all the toys for two kids under control in a tiny apartment.
I had originally kept the toys in the space near the kitchen that is meant to be the breakfast nook. But as my kids got older, they needed a larger area to play. I was tired of toys encroaching into the kitchen. So I decided to flip the books and toys. The books that used to be in this small second bedroom are now in the nook and all the toys live in this room. The kids still play over there sometimes–they play all over the house and that’s fine with me–but the toys have their homes here.
So that brings me to my only rule: A place for everything (and everything in it’s place)
A giant bin for toys is going to give you a giant mess. It may be fast to clean up because you dump everything into one big box, but every time your child is looking for something, the entire thing will be dumped out to find it.
Instead, sit down with your child and all of the toys. Get them excited: We’re going to create a fabulous playroom!
First you should decide what to keep. Get rid of toys that aren’t played with so your child can focus on what he or she really loves. How you do this will depend on your child. You can have a discussion and decide to donate some toys to children who don’t have any. Another route would be to hide the toys you think your kids wouldn’t miss and if they don’t notice for a month, sneak them out when nobody’s looking.
Once you have the favorites, decide how to organize them. Involve your children. The categorization has to make sense to them if you expect them to maintain the system. Make labels. My son actually typed ours. He was involved in every step for maximum buy-in.
My daughter is 2.5, but she can understand where to find things and where to put them back. (She may not always want to, but that’s just the phase she’s in right now.) I don’t require that my kids clean up throughout the day but we usually pick up around dinnertime and I don’t get much resistance. We talk about having a nice clean space so that we can start something new and about keeping things organized so we can find them. Most importantly it’s a fast and easy process that can almost feel like a game: tossing things into the right box and getting it all back on the shelf.
When we moved in to this apartment, we realized that our chest of drawers wouldn’t fit in our bedroom. So I decided to use it in here. I love being able to store things in it! Don’t let yourself be limited by traditional storage thinking. Use what works most efficiently in your space.
On top of the drawers, I keep a few little keepsakes: a lamp that belonged to my great-grandmother, the bell I had in my classroom, and a decorative plate. (The plate has since broken!) I also keep art and craft supplies in these little paper boxes from IKEA. Though I love the idea of keeping items like this accessible to my children, it’s just not practical in this small a space that we rent. Things I store up here are paints, crayons, markers, stickers, and office supplies. I like that it’s easy for me to access yet out of reach for my little one.
The small top drawers also hold office-type supplies. And the large drawer has homeschool supplies like activity books, supplies for experiments, containers and special materials for projects. This drawer will eventually be reorganized. I have plans to put the majority of these things in the closet, but I’ll explain the closet situation later.
The bottom three drawers are available to the kids. They hold large and awkward things like building supplies, games and puzzles. I also created an Inspiration Drawer. It’s basically a drawer for miscellany and loose parts. I change things out randomly and occasionally add new bits and pieces. My son went through an “I don’t know what to do” phase a few months back and the Inspiration Drawer was my answer. If he asked me for something to do, I’d suggest looking in there to find something that sparked his interest.
Our little play space also doubles as a home office. My desk and computer(s) are in here. I can sit in this room and work while my kids are playing. Also, since we don’t have a television, the computer doubles as one. We hang out in here and watch Netflix too.
I hate to see paper clutter, so there are a few things I do to minimize the amount of home office stuff I have.
- Use paperless billing.
- Sort mail and recycle before I even bring it inside.
- Don’t keep anything unless it’s necessary.
- Organize those kept documents in three-ring binders. I have three: Important Documents, Health Care, and Identification.
- Have an in-progress folder for things I’m working on or need to do.
I’ve put a lot of effort into finding a “home” for absolutely everything. I think it’s essential for my sanity. If everything has a place, you can quickly find what you need and return it to that place. You can also tell someone else where to find it, as moms do a thousand times a day. It may seem silly, but I like for things to look nice. When my surroundings are aesthetically pleasing, it gives me an incentive to keep it up. Clean begets clean.
I didn’t do much to the walls except for this map from Dino’s Illustrated Maps. But my kids have started hanging up their artwork in here. It works out great because it makes the space their own and, I mean, the refrigerator is only so big. Under the map is our unused crib mattress that’s covered with a furry blanket. We use it for lounging around, cuddling, reading, watching something on the computer or playing.
The last part of the room is the yet-to-be-finished closet. But I have a good excuse, I promise. You know how I had a baby recently? Well, my mom came to stay with us for a month and my mother-in-law might also come for a visit soon. So we moved things around in this room to accommodate a bed and we needed the closet to be at least partially empty for them to use. Inside I have: linens, tools, books, suitcases, sewing supplies, decorations, and other household items. I’ve got it pretty well organized, but I want to put most of my homeschool supplies and files on the side that’s now empty. After my husband’s mom comes, I’ll get to work on that. But right now I’m still thinking of how to categorize and store things. Plastic boxes? Drawers? Files? I can’t quite figure it out.
So that’s the tour of our playroom-slash-home office. The two key lessons: don’t have too much stuff and find a place for absolutely everything. It’s the only way to live in a small space!
How do you manage your kids’ toys? Any advice for the homeschool stuff?