The Best Toy Storage Solutions for Every Item In the Playroom
Ever since having our first child 10+ years ago, we have carved out dedicated space in our rental homes for a playroom. And while this approach may not be right for every household, we prefer having all our toys in one spot since it makes for centralized storage (and centralized mess!) I’ve now set up four different playrooms across four different homes; and based on the size and layout of each particular space, we’ve implemented a wide variety of toy storage solutions. Today, I’m rounding up all my favorite toy storage ideas. Whether you just can’t figure out how to store something in particular or need to give your play space a top-to-bottom overhaul, I have lots of great solutions to try!
Our Playrooms Over the Years
As mentioned above, we’ve now had four different homes with four different playrooms. Ranging in size from a small corner within the living room to a full basement (and everything in between!), we’ve had to get creative in order to perfectly fit all the toys we own into whatever space we have!
Over the years and through lots of trial-and-error, I’ve honed in on particular toy storage ideas that work really well (like IKEA Kallax shelves loaded with baskets) and which ones don’t (plastic boxes with lids). I’ve learned which toys can be within kids’ reach (train track, blocks, books) and which ones shouldn’t (game pieces, playing cards, Play-Doh). And I’ve figured out how to store toys so that kids can both play AND clean up on their own.
Let me break down aaaaaaaall the best toy storage ideas so you can find the right solutions for your own play space!
Shelves Versus a Toy Box
Before I dive into very specific toy storage ideas, I first want to discuss the value of using a shelving unit for toy organization rather than toy boxes, ottomans, or storage benches. While these other items are a great way to infuse small spaces with extra storage, they aren’t ideal for toys or how kids play. Rather, they tend to become large catch-alls with toys buried, broken, and difficult to get in and out.
On the other hand, cube shelf systems (such as IKEA’s Kallax, Walmart’s Better Homes & Garden Cube Storage Organizers, or Target’s Threshold line) allow you store toys so that they are easy to see, take down, and put away. Other advantages of using such bookcases for toy storage include:
- Shelving takes advantage of the vertical height in a room, allowing you to store more toys in a smaller footprint.
- Cubbies make for easy categorization, allowing kids to locate toys quicker and easier.
- Cube shelving is often compatible with well-fitting storage bins, which still give you that “catch-all” feature but in smaller, more manageable doses.
- Taller shelving allows you to separate toys that should/shouldn’t be within easy reach.
We have used a variety of IKEA Kallax units across our four different playrooms. And while their cubby size can’t hold every last toy out there, they can sure hold a lot in a really space-efficient manner!
Which Bins Are Best for Toys?
There are lots and lots of storage bins now available, most of which fit into standard cube shelving (see my full roundup: Stylish Bins & Baskets for the IKEA Kallax). While you certainly want something that looks nice, there are some other features you should also keep in mind for playroom-specific storage:
- Durability – Playroom baskets will get a lot of push and pull (and might even become benches, stools, and battering rams!), so you’ll want something that can stand up to kids’ rough play.
- Opacity – Clear plastic bins can be helpful for children to see what’s inside, but they also add visual clutter. You can use this trick to make mesh baskets opaque or just look for solid-front versions.
- Cost – Depending on how many toys you have, you might need a lot of baskets. Keeping the cost/basket low makes this system a budget-friendly one too.
- Variety – Toys come in lots of different sizes and shapes, so it can be helpful to have matching baskets that also come in various sizes.
IKEA Drona Bins
Drona Bins are IKEA’s basic and most affordable basket for the Kallax system. While I love their clean fronts and simple design, what I love most is their generous size. They take up every single inch of the Kallax cubby and can really hold a lot of toys including bulky items like train track, Little People vehicles, dress-up, and more.
Target Y-Weave Baskets
Target’s Y-Weave baskets are my other favorite solution for toy storage because they come in a wide variety of sizes, including extra large (great for trains, bulky trucks, and dress up), narrow (ideal for small toys, art supplies, etc), and several sizes in between.
I love that these baskets nest into each other, allowing you to store a variety of items in a single spot. They also come in a variety of colors, are fairly inexpensive (especially when bought on sale), and are easy to clean out!
What Toys Do We Store In Bins?
Pretty much everything! I’ll share lots of non-bin toy storage ideas down below. But you can be sure that pretty much every other toy we own is loaded into a bin and up on our Kallax shelves. From DUPLO blocks, instruments, and mini cars to large trucks, trains, baby toys, and more, you might be surprised what all can fit into a sturdy bin!
Labeling for Success
No matter what bins you choose to use, I highly recommend labeling them with durable, easy-to-understand labels. While this may seem unnecessary or “over the top” for a playroom, I instead suggest they are the key to establishing and maintaining any semblance of long-term toy organization.
When toys are sorted and clearly labeled, kids quickly learn where everything is. This not only allows them to find certain toys whenever they want them, but it also empowers them to clean up on their own (or with help). Labels serve a gentle reminder of where things get put back, rather than a free for all, where anything can go anywhere.
If your children are readers, simple text labels are fine. But for most kids who still use a playroom, picture labels are best. Come up with images that are easy to understand and make 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.
That said, don’t make your labels too complicated. You want them to be quick, easy, and intuitive for you and your child. Try to keep single categories of items in one basket so that the label tells the child exactly what’s inside.
Specific Toy Storage Ideas
Okay, with those toy organization basics out of the way, let’s go through all the types of toys and look at some really effective toy storage ideas!
My favorite way to store tiny toys is in small-scale bags or pouches so collections stay all together. Oftentimes, these smaller bags can be tossed into larger bins for storage.
Instead of bags or pouches, tiny toys can also be effectively stored by nesting smaller baskets into larger ones. This creates some natural separation, but still allows these items to be placed on shelves with bigger items.
And finally, small decorative boxes are great for sorting tiny toys into distinct categories (although these will usually require their own dedicated spot on a shelf).
Play food and dishes can all be thrown into a basket and placed on a shelf; however, we’ve found everything gets played with much more when it is conveniently stored right in the play kitchen itself. The key here is finding storage bins that are both easy for kids to use and fit perfectly in your particular play kitchen.
Wooden Trains & Track
We abandoned our train table years ago (and instead prefer to build layouts on the floor), so we currently use large bins to hold wooden track and track (separately). However, if you do still have a train table, we loved using a rolling drawer under the table to hold extra trains and track!
Larger wooden bridges, tunnels, and stations can indeed be difficult to store in bins or flat drawers. We ultimately moved these chunkier items to a nearby storage ottoman, but under couches or shelves can be another great location for these large bulky items that aren’t in constant use.
Dress Up Clothes
I have yet to meet a child who doesn’t love to dress up; and admittedly, I feel like we are constantly fighting the dress-up battle (masks, swords, and capes everywhere!). Our current solution is to stuff costumes into a very tall, very sturdy basket (that is also great for sword-like items). Smaller make-believe items (e.g., tools, doctor gadgets, etc) are all in a y-weave bin on the nearby shelf.
We do not have the space (nor the need), but if you have lots of dress-up clothes (especially dresses), you might want to consider using a kid-size clothing rack or coat rack, installing a low rod in a nearby closet, or even hanging hooks/pegs onto the playroom wall.
By far, our favorite way to store crayons, pencils, markers, and more is inside a caddy. Although the specific one we use has changed over the years, we like to keep these supplies within easy reach and sorted out for quick art sessions.
Art supplies that require parental supervision (e.g., Play-Doh, kinetic sand, science kits, etc) are stored in another Drona bin in my office. While some box kits remain intact, most other items are loaded into zipper pouches for easy grabbing.
I often get emails asking for ideas to store bulky toys. You know…those plastic monstrosities that are as ugly as they are awkward and clearly don’t fit into any basket or bin (but our kids sure do love them, don’t they!) They can be really tricky to store, but here are some bulky toy storage ideas that have worked well for us.
- Consider open space both above and under shelves, couches etc. We’ve had good luck placing tall items on the very top of our IKEA Kallax; and I am constantly putting long trucks, games, and other flat items under our couches.
- Does your room have any nooks or bump-outs? This floor space often goes un-used and can be a great place to store larger toys (especially those that need to sit on the floor). We use the area created by our bay window for our play kitchen, as well some other bouncy/rolling items (shown above).
- Do you have a closet or under-the-stairs nook nearby? These spaces can be outfitted with open shelving (see below) to accommodate tall, bulky items.
- Likewise, shelves on a large expanse of open playroom wall can also be placed at heights that perfectly fit these larger toys.
Dolls & Stuffed Animals
Admittedly, I can be a bit of a stuffed animal curmudgeon and am perhaps a bit too quick to purge these items out regularly. However, no matter the size of your child’s collection, large open bins tend to work best for storing plush toys. Not only can you usually stuff a wide variety of items in, but the open tops allow you to quickly see what you have and where. Over the years. we’ve used large wicker baskets, wooden crates, and even softer canvas totes. Our general rule: when the bin is overflowing, it’s time to let go of a few!
Puzzles are another toy that can be quite tricky to store. At least with my children, keeping puzzles out in the open (on specialty racks or shelves) is a recipe for disaster. Every time we’ve tried it, I find myself picking up puzzle pieces day after day after day. I also don’t feel that puzzle shelves are an “efficient” use of space, especially if you have a large collection.
As such, I prefer solutions that not only keep puzzles a little less easy to access, but also allow me to store lots of them…all together…in a basket (of course!)
Years ago, I created these perfectly-fitting Puzzle Pouches for our wood puzzles. I loooooved that they were made to fit each puzzle perfectly. They kept all the pieces flat against the puzzle itself and were easy to see, stack, and stow. But they are tedious to make; and as our collection grew, I never made more.
As a result, I turned to zipper pouches to store most of our puzzles. Although these off-the-shelf versions don’t fit puzzles quite as snug, the various available sizes do fit pretty much all of our puzzles, including the piece-only kinds (below).
However, if you love the idea of puzzles being all together but don’t want to mess with pouches, you can also stack puzzles into a larger box or bin that can get placed on a shelf or tucked into a closet/ottoman.
How you store your board game collection will very much depend on what kind of games you have, how many you have, and how often you use them.
For smaller collections, a trunk or ottoman can work well. However, getting any game out will often involve emptying the entire trunk; and it keeps games (and all their pieces) well within reach of little hands.
For larger game collections, I recommend shelves or cabinets. This allows you to categorize games (if needed); and it also keeps stacks shorter (which makes getting games out much easier).
No matter where you store your games, I always recommend corralling smaller sets into a dedicate basket. This makes them easier to find and prevents smaller boxes from getting damaged.
If you have boxes that are falling apart, re-package games into plastic boxes or zipper pouches. Likewise, re-packaging different-sized games into matching pouches/boxes can make them easier to stack/store.
Finally, consider forgoing boxes all together if the game is something you play with often. For example, we keep our marble run right in a basket on our shelf since it’s a weekly activity!
For all my very best game organization tips, see this comprehensive post: Tips & Tricks for Organizing Board Games
I’ve learned over the years that LEGO storage is very much a personal preference. Whether you organize by color, by set, or don’t organize them at all, it has to work for your home AND how you/your child plays with LEGO bricks. LEGO bricks are another “toy” that we don’t keep in our playroom, but rather dedicate a table (either in the bedrooms or basement) to this beloved activity. Dive into the various posts below to identify the best LEGO solution for your home.
Video Games & Controllers
Thankfully, many video games systems now operate on “cloud”-based servers, meaning the need to store cases of games is becoming less and less. Still, controllers, accessories, headsets, and other gaming devices still need to be stored in a way that they remain safe but accessible.
It’s likely no surprise that we are currently using dedicated bins on our playroom shelves for these items. We have separate baskets for “little kid” electronics (e.g., Leap Pad, etc) and “big kid” electronics (Nintendo Switch). All of these items are kept up high so they can only be accessed with permission.
Another great alternative is to use drawers that are part of or near where video games are played. Whether this is a coffee table, side table, or credenza drawer, keeping everything together makes play time quicker and easier.
Deciding How to Store YOUR Toys
If there’s one thing I hope this post illustrates, is that there are infinite ways to store toys. While I’d argue that most of your toy collection can be stored in bins on a shelf, so much depends on the toys you have, the space you have, and where your kids want/need certain items. If you still aren’t quite sure which toy storage ideas are best for your home, here are some final pointers to keep in mind:
- Is the toy stand alone (like a car ramp, Bat Cave, or dollhouse) or is it a collection of things (like race cars, Little People, blocks)? Stand alone items rarely need a bin or basket, while collections usually do.
- How big is the collection? If you have a bunch of similar items that should be stored together, find a basket that holds them all just right. Creating several different homes for the same kinds of toys will only create confusion when kids are looking for something specific and/or during cleanup time.
- How easily do you want toys seen? You may have toys that you want easily seen (blocks, tools, gadgets, mini figures, etc) and others you’d prefer not be dragged out without 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 do you want toys accessed? To encourage play, make sure whatever containers you use are easy for kiddos to carry and open (both for getting out and putting away). In our house, open baskets are key!
- Don’t know how to start? Finally, if you don’t know how to even start sorting and organizing your toys, refer to my How to Organize Anything post, which will guide you step-by-step through the entire process!
I’ve been wanting to compile all these toy storage ideas into a single post for quite some time now! I hope what I’ve shared here not only motivates you to tackle your playroom organization, but also provides some real, concrete solutions for the specific toys in your home. I realize I didn’t quite cover everything (I am a Boy Mom, after all!), but hopefully the methodology and systems I’ve outlined here get you well on your way to organizing your playroom so that it perfectly suits you, your family, and your home!