Toy Storage Solutions for the Playroom
Alright friends, this post has been a long-time coming! If you ever think bloggers can pull a space together in a snap – don’t be fooled…sometimes it is WORK! As I mentioned in Tuesday’s post, getting to where we are at in our playroom right now has taken a lot of effort and a lot of trail and error, spread across an entire year (say what?!?). And that was just to get the space organized. You’ll soon see that our playroom has a bunch of “pretty” projects left to do before it’s really “done,” but from an organization standpoint – we are finally there! Today, I want to pickup where I left off on Tuesday by showing you all the toys I kept in our playroom after “the great purge” and give you a tour of the toy storage solutions we are using (and loving!) now!
For anyone who is new or catching up, here is a brief overview of the playroom until now. Truth be told, this sizable loft at the top of our stairs was one of the main reasons we jumped for this house when we first toured it (almost) two summers ago. Excess space like this isn’t common here in Southern California homes; and we knew this ~10×12′ space was ideal for a play area for our two boys ages 1 and 7.
This view below is standing right at the top of the stairs as you come up to the second level.
We tried so many different configurations just to get the furniture right up here; and it took an even longer time getting the furniture we did have space for to hold the toys we had accumulated. As I shared on Tuesday, it wasn’t until I finally got rid of our half our toys that the playroom finally came together from both an aesthetic and functional perspective.
In the photo below, I’d like to direct your attention to the shelf along the back wall, the blue trunk, and the green media cabinet (please ignore the fact that they are woefully mis-matched right now – that will be fixed next!). These three storage units contain about 90% of the toys in our house. I say 90% because all of our Legos are in Henry’s bedroom, we have a large wicker basket of baby toys on the first floor for Sam to play with, and we have a basket of outdoor toys in the garage. But everything else…is right there!
I told you on Tuesday that significantly pairing down our toys not only changed the way our older kid played (better play, longer play, less boredom, less asking for new toys), but also led to a more functional, more intuitive and easier-to-maintain playroom. Let’s go unit-by-unit so I can show you not only what we kept during the great toy clean out, but also how we have it all stored for easy play and easy cleanup!
Toy Storage Shelf
The majority of our toys are stored on this 4×4 IKEA Kallax shelf. On this shelf, I utilize three different types of baskets to contain different types of toys. Figuring out what belonged in what kind of basket took a lot of experimenting…primarily guided by the size the collection and the size of the items. Further, both our boys (ages 1 and 7) play in this playroom, so I needed to be strategic about what was placed where.
Along the bottom row, we use four black IKEA DRONA bins to hold larger items and collections. Many of you regular readers know I rely on these bins a lot. Not only are they super inexpensive, but their size is SO generous. You can REALLY fit a lot of things in those bins so they are great for large, bulky toys.
In these four black bins are: Little People Vehicles | Larger Trucks and Cars | Wooden Train Track | Dress Up Clothes.
Moving up the shelf, you’ll see a considerable collection of my all-time favorite baskets (Y-weave baskets from Target). I use these baskets all over my home so Lord, help me if they stop making them! Not only are they plastic, wipeable and durable…but they come in a variety of colors and sizes so you can easily find something that will work in your home!
First let me chat about the 8 “medium” baskets on the middle two shelves. Full disclaimer: I bought these years ago, and Target no longer makes this size. Which honestly, is a total bummer, because they are my favorite size. They have a shorter height than anything they make now…which means they hold a good amount of stuff but there is ample room when on these shelves to peek in and see what’s inside (which is great for exploring kiddos!). This smaller size is also perfect for little ones to be able to pull the basket down, carry it to where they are playing, and then put it back when playtime is over.
Pssst – although Target doesn’t carry this size, here are the dimensions for reference in case you find something similar: 14 x 11 x 8 – and these ones from Walmart are practically identical!
In our 8 medium Y-weave baskets are: Duplos |Matchbox-style Cars and Planes | Fisher Price Train Set | Baby Toys | Fisher Price Blocks | Little People and Animals | Wooden Trains | Tools and Gadgets
Along the top row, I use four flatter Y-weave baskets (now called “Medium”) for smaller toys.
I use these baskets along the top shelf for a few reasons. One, I couldn’t get anymore of the discontinued medium size baskets. But also, we had some smaller collections that not only required smaller baskets, but also needed to be up higher out of reach of the baby.
Originally, I really, really struggled with how to corral our smaller collections of toys without wasting shelf space or using too-big baskets. Then…just this season…Target released smaller baskets that fit INTO the larger baskets! These nesting baskets now allow me to store smaller collections of toys in a way that is equally as accessible but a bit more organized than tossing everything into a big open bin.
Plastic Bolts for Play Forts
Sidenote: I originally purged this space long before Christmas. However, these pictures were just taken this week so they reflect the toys received for Christmas and Sam’s birthday. Not only did we do another mini purge before Christmas to clear space for new toys, but we also worked VERY hard to minimize the amount of toys the boys received. Both boys got bikes, books, and a few games…and Santa brought this fort-building set. Although we needed to find ways to store the poles and bolts (see above and below), it was much easier than having to find homes for lots and lots of new toys. Plus – we’re a big fort-building family so these have been well-loved by all!
Media Hutch Storage
Before the great toy purge, every single nook and cranny in our playroom was filled. There wasn’t a bare spot on the shelves, and both the trunk and media cabinet were crammed full. Now, the media cabinet holds our modest puzzle collection…
…a bucket of musical instruments and a remote-control car…
…and video games and controllers.
Finally, let’s take a look inside the blue trunk, which is most often used as play table, bench for watching TV/playing video games, and a stage!
Inside the trunk is our game stash. We are a big game family, so we’ve amassed quite the collection. During the purge, I did go through and get rid of duds we didn’t like or any that were missing necessary pieces. I also re-boxed up games into new containers if the original packaging was falling apart. I love using this trunk for game storage for a few reasons:
- The size of the trunk keeps our game collection from exploding – we pretty much have to use the 1 in:1 out rule.
- The lid is too heavy for the baby to open.
- Bigger kids can pull out a game, close the lid, and play on the top!
And the Reading Nook?
You all might remember a few months ago, I showed you how we transformed an awkward nook just at the top of the stairs (and across from the play space) into a reading nook. Well…it’s still there! But it doesn’t have near the clutter it did before. All that remains is the canopy, a bean bag chair, the Bat Cave (which all the kids LOVE!) and an empty shelf. And it still functions as a fun little nook for the kids to hide, read, cuddle and play. As weird as it is for me to show you an empty shelf, I wanted to tell you something about it. Even though it’s empty, the kids play with it ALL the time. The baby crawls through it like a tunnel; Henry will play “house” with his little stuffed animals; and it has been a pretend restaurant or refreshment stand on many occasions. By leaving this shelf blank, it’s allowed the kids to use it in ways I would have never imagined!
A Note on Labels
Labeling in a playroom can be a little controversial, but I’ll just quickly share our experience. For the first few months after our playroom was purged and sorted, I didn’t have labels on the baskets (simply because I never got to them). Our system kept up and was working fine; but during clean up, I’d get a lot of “where does this go, Mommy?” and I’d notice a lot of things just getting mindlessly thrown into any ol’ basket. The day I put the labels on the basket, I could see a shift in Henry during play time and during clean up. Not only could he (and his friends!) easily see what was in each basket, but cleanup went so much smoother when it was obvious what belonged where.
That said, don’t make your labels or your system too complicated. You want it to be quick, easy and intuitive for you and the child. Try to keep single categories of items in a single basket so that a single label tells the kid what they need to know. Although Henry can read, I knew picture labels would be a quicker and easier long-term solution for Sam. When choosing pictures to match your baskets’ contents, don’t overthink it. Come up with an image that is easy to understand and makes some sense. But even if it’s a stretch (like our Army Men label for our mini figures), the child will quickly learn and associate the label with what’s really in the basket.
In deciding what to keep:
When I purged half the toys in our playroom, I primarily used the guidelines set out in Simplicity Parenting…of course also leaving behind the cherished and loved toys that Henry always played with. In case you missed the details as you read through, here’s a list of everything we kept:
Magnetic building toys (these and these) | vintage Fisher Price dollhouse people and furniture | Art supplies (basic) | fort building set | Duplos & Legos | Matchbox cars and planes | Fisher Price Train Set | Baby toys | Fisher Price Blocks | Fisher Price Little People and vehicles | Wooden train and track | Gadgets, tools, and dress-up | Games, puzzles, and wii (and accessories) | Musical instruments | Dollhouse | Bat Cave | Car Ramp
(I wish I could hash out a list of what was tossed, but it was so long ago, I don’t even really remember! #mommybrain)
In deciding how to store it:
As I said, it took me a lot of trial-and-error to get these storage systems working just right. Now that we have a system in place that 1) holds everything we need it to, 2) is easy to take down and put away, and 3) looks great…here are some things to keep in mind when trying to find the right toy storage solutions for your home:
- Is the toy stand alone (like the car ramp, Bat Cave, and dollhouse) or is it a collection of things (like the racecars, Little People, blocks)? Stand alone items rarely need a bin or basket, while collections do.
- How big is the collection? If you have a bunch of similar items that should be stored together, find a basket that will hold them all (or pair down until they all fit). Creating several different homes for the same toy will only create confusion for the kiddos when they are looking for something specific and during cleanup time.
- How easily are the toys seen? You may have toys that you want easily seen (blocks, tools, gadgets, mini figures, etc) and others that you’d prefer not dragged out without your supervision (Play Doh, puzzles, art supplies). Any toys that you don’t want pulled out easily-and-often should be placed in concealed baskets, behind doors, or up high.
- How easily are the toys accessed? You might recall from my post on Tuesday that I mentioned we originally putt all of our toy collections into lidded boxes. Although the boxes were clear and the kids could see what was inside, the lids alone prevented them from pulling the toys out. To encourage play, make sure whatever containers you use are easy for kiddos to carry and the contents inside can be easily accessed (both for getting toys out and putting toys away). In our house, open baskets are key!
Phew! So there is the nitty gritty into what and how we are storing everything in our playroom! I hope you found these ideas and pictures inspiring and encouraging…and if you’ve come across a toy storage solution that is working awesome for you, please be sure to share it in the comments! So what’s next for this space? New pillow covers, new color on the media cabinet doors (bye-bye green!) and new paint on the game trunk, then this space will be as cute as it is functional!
Have a great weekend!