It’s a funny thing about kids’ toys: as they grow bigger and bigger, the toys get smaller and smaller! As you move away from the baby and toddler phases, out go the bulky, flashy, noisy plastic monstrosities and in come looooooots of little things. I’m referring to action figures, mini figures, Littlest Pet Shop, Army men, Matchbox cars, play food, Beyblades, pretend jewelry and on and on and on. Without smart systems in place to catch and corral all these little toys, they can easily end up lost or (even worse!) underfoot! Today, I’m sharing the new way we are organizing our small toys and rounding up a bunch of favorite solutions we’ve used in the past!

Clear acrylic bins serving as small toy storage

Our Current Small Toy Storage Setup

With our youngest two sons now 5 and 3, we are pretty much out of the “big toy” phrase (hooray!!!) Sure, the big trucks come out every now and then. But by far, both boys are mostly doing imaginative play with our collections of dinosaurs, cars, Alphabots, Little People, and mini figures (sometimes all at once!)

When I was trying to figure out the best way to organize and store items in our new family room, I knew these favorite toys needed to be front-and-center, stored in a way that was easy for them to pull out AND put away during playtime.

Child's hands holding clear acrylic bin full of small toys

So as I usually do, I rummaged through my extensive stash of bins and baskets and realized some plastic containers (that we normally use in our pantry) perfectly fit the shelves in our new family room cabinets. Admittedly, this was supposed to be a temporary solution until I found something a little more kid friendly. But what I didn’t realize was how perfect these handled bins would turn out to be for storing small toys!

Clear acrylic bins on white shelves as small toy storage

Not only are they the ideal size for holding lots of tiny toys (not too big but not too small), but they are SUUUUUPER sturdy and the handles make for easy carrying around. The clear design allows kids to see exactly what it in each one; and simple labels have become incredibly helpful when aaaaaaall the bins are pulled out and toys are spread across the floor.

Curious how I made the labels? Full tutorial here: How to Make Your Own Printable Toy Bin Labels (With Template!)

Clear acrylic bins serving as small toy storage

These bins fit our shelves perfectly, at a height that is easy for the kids to reach. There isn’t a moment of the day (when kids are home) that at least one of these bins isn’t pulled out and lugged around the house!

Clear acrylic bins on white shelves as small toy storage
Child's hands holding clear acrylic bin full of small toys

Other Small Toy Storage Solutions We’ve Used & Loved

Decorative Boxes

The very first small toy storage solution I ever used were some funky decorative wooden boxes from Target. They were sturdy and stackable, with easily removable lids; and they became the perfect spot for a variety of small play items.

Decorative wooden boxes as small toy storage

What I love most about using decorative boxes is that they easily fit into “adult” areas (like if you are doubling your living room as a playroom). Stowed on bookcases, mantels, or even under a coffee table, decorative boxes can look nice while still being super kid-friendly!

Decorative wooden boxes as small toy storage shown on table
Decorative wooden boxes as small toy storage shown on shelves

Little Bags & Pouches

For a long time, we have used a variety of small bags to hold tiny toys, art supplies (e.g, play-doh, markers, crayons, pencils, etc), and even puzzle pieces. These have ranged from canvas draw-string bags (love these) to clear peek-a-boo bags, and zipper pouches.

What I love most about using small bags is that they can help contain a small collection inside a bigger bin. So even if you are using a larger toy box or cube shelves (like my favorite, the IKEA Kallax!), you can still easily keep these smaller bits together instead of creating a mess in the bottom of larger baskets.

See-through Velcro pouches as small toy storage inside a bigger bin

TIP! Small bags also make it easy to take toys on the go. When heading out on road trips, the doctor’s office, or even a restaurant, we’ll just toss the bag of trains or mini figures or cards into my purse!

Baskets Inside Baskets

Up until our current home, we have mostly been storing small toy collections in small y-weave plastic baskets that either sit on short shelves or are nested into larger baskets. The trick to using small baskets (even in our current setup) is that the basket size needs to match the shelf size (in both height and depth) or else you end up wasting a lot of space.

Smaller Y-weave basket nesting into larger basket to hold small toys

What I love most about nesting small baskets into larger baskets is that you can better use up the area on shelves with a single basket, but still have well-contained organization on the inside!

IKEA Kallax Shelves in a playroom loaded with white baskets full of toys

Plastic Boxes (With Lids)

Another organization idea we still use regularly is lidded boxes such as the Sterilite snap-top boxes, lidded shoe boxes, or these hinged-lid boxes. We’ve used them for everything from LEGOs and cars to play food and doll accessories.

Plastic lidded boxes serving as small toy storage

What I love most about using lidded boxes is that they are stackable, so it allows you to store lots of collections in a single spot. That said, we’ve sometimes found that if lids are too hard to remove (like the Sterilite boxes), kids don’t play with those items as much. Flip-top boxes tend to work best, especially for smaller kids.

Plastic lidded boxes serving as small toy storage
Plastic lidded boxes serving as small toy storage in a play kitchen

Stacking Drawers

Although we haven’t used this particular solution, I wanted to demonstrate it because I think it could work really well, especially in small spaces. We’ve used these awesome stacking drawers (short, tall) for toiletries and medicines, but they would also be great for corralling small collections.

Stacking plastic drawers holding small toys

What I love most is that these drawers nest vertically, allowing you to really use up vertical space on open shelving. They come in both small and deep sizes and offer that same clear functionality as the bins I’m currently using in our cabinets (shown at the top of this post). Finally, the drawers pull all the way out, so kids can easily pull out the drawers and take them to a nearby table or floor for playtime!

Removable plastic drawers holding small toys
Stacking plastic drawers holding small toys

TIP! This same organization method could be found in any set of stacking drawers or even a rolling cart with lots of mini drawers (if you have the floor space to store it!)

How to Organize Small Toys

Whether you have lots of tiny toys or just a few, sorting them out and getting them organized is a quick (yet incredibly gratifying) 1-hour project!

  1. Gather up all the small toys from around the house. Check in the car too, as well as under couches and in bedrooms. It’s amazing where the little stuff gets squirreled away!
  2. Take a minute to declutter all the small toys. You’ll likely be shocked by how much little junk sneaks its way in from the random birthday goodie bag, classroom party, and Happy Meal. Don’t hesitate to toss out low-quality and broken items and missing pieces, or donate anything your kids don’t really play with.
  3. Sort the toys into really obvious categories that will also make sense to your kids. Start with collections (like Littlest Pet Shop and Little People); and then group others by type of toy (e.g., toy cars, planes, dinosaurs, mini dolls, etc).
  4. You will most likely end up with a random assortment of things that don’t go with anything else. That’s okay! You can lump them all together in a “catch all” bin (which I’d bet ends up being the basket played with the most!)
  5. Figure out the right solution for YOUR small toy groupings and YOUR particular storage space.
    1. Do you need the tiny toys to go inside bigger storage cubbies? Consider bags or zipper pouches.
    2. Do you need to hide small toys on open shelving unit or under a coffee table? Consider decorative boxes.
    3. Do you have short, open shelving that kids can reach? Consider open bins or lidded boxes.
  6. Load all the toys into your selected bins and add an easy-to-understand label to each one. Don’t think labels are necessary (even on clear bins)? I argue they are especially necessary for kid items; you can read more here: Why Labels Are So Important When Organizing
  7. Show kids where the toys are and how they are organized. While it may take a little bit of time for them to get used to the new system, they will most likely start to get their tiny toys out AND clean up all on their own!
Clear acrylic bins serving as small toy storage

My Favorite Small Toy Storage Products

Without a doubt, finding the right storage solution for your tiny toys AND your space is the hardest part. Here are some of my favorite storage bins, bags, baskets, totes, and pouches for tiny toys!

Collage of best small toy storage solutions

1 – Open Acrylic Bins | 2 – Lidded Acrylic Bins (All Sizes) | 3 – Canvas Bags & Pouches | 4 – Snap-Lid Boxes | 5 – Long Skinny Bins & Baskets | 6 – Stacking Acrylic Drawers | 7 – Drawer Tote | 8 – Tote with Dividers 

I, for one, rejoice when the large, bulky toys fade away and they are replaced with smaller collections. Although lots of small items can sometimes feel messier (since they are easily strewn about), I find them much easier to contain (and even conceal!) I hope the solutions I share here help you identify the best storage solution for the little toys in your house so your kids can find AND put them away with ease!

See You Soon!