One of the hot and fun (for me, at least!) topics that often surfaces in the mommy circles are toy and play area MESSES and how to make it less...messy!
Since I love organizing, I thought I'd share a few things (nothing fancy and expensive that's for sure) that work in the Cole house to keep messes at bay (some days at least!)...please comment on what's working well for you and your crew too!
By the way, we live in SMALL SPACES and don't have a lot of closets to work with, so we understand it is a CHALLENGE!
This is the boy's closet where I keep their toys bins.
1. Keep many of the toys in an area only YOU can access if possible, especially when the kids are still small and have a hard time keeping totes & bins organized on their own.
*note with this idea: studies have actually shown that kids are more "intellectually stimulated" and engage in "better play" (whatever that is!) when toys are not just all piled in a huge box and mixed up but are divided into themes so they can play with a "group of toys"
2. Make a RULE that if they want a bin of toys to play with (i.e., food stuff), they need to pick up and EXCHANGE it with what they had been playing with (i.e., action heroes).
3. Another RULE that makes a parent's life easier: TOYS STAY IN YOUR ROOM/TOY ROOM...unless you are playing with them.
(Can you imagine not stepping on hot wheels or getting Legos jammed between your toes every time you walk through the living room? Amazing!)
4. Classic but wonderful advice: Get a new toy, get rid of an old toy.
This is a little shelf in the kid's room where they
keep their individual bins of toys they select from
the "toy closet" for the day.
5. After a birthday or Christmas, we (yup, WITH the kids! It helps them learn streamlining for life) get out three bags labeled: Give Away, Storage and Keep. We then go to town and sort through bins and boxes to make sure we're not just hoarding stuff someone else can use or that we could put in storage for when the younger siblings are older and could enjoy those toys.
*You could take this one step further and make it a lesson in giving by having the child come with you to donate the toys somewhere special or put them in a nice basket for a friend or someone at school that may not not have too much!
6. Our little mantra for the toy area: "A place for EVERYTHING and everything in it's PLACE!"
7. Give the kids ownership: they can each have their own color for a tote (i.e., Jude is always red) and a backpack (for overnights, travel, day trips) in their favorite theme!
8. Personalize it! Give their toy area/room a splash of the kid's unique personality: their favorite color of paint, a mural of something they love or even a comforter in the theme of their most loved characters.
9. Organize outside the box: what are ways you can help the kids stay tidy in a unique and colorful way? The "backpack tree" (left) was created after I got tired of the kids leaving their backpacks on the floor. It only took about an hour to paint a tree, sponge on some leaves (using a cut out stencil made from paper) and bright letters then have my hubby drill in 4 or 5 hooks so they can "hang their bags on a letter tree" now!
*If you aren't artsy or can't paint on the walls, you could cut out brown contact paper for the base and use pretty green shades of scrapbooking paper for the leaves...ta-da! Or, check out this tree that can be purchased at http://www.rosenberryrooms.com/417-dotted-tree-peel-stick-appliques.html for $39...just add your own hooks!
10. Lego mess headaches? This is a neat idea my husband actually came up with for super easy Lego clean up...
1. Get a TOTE the size to fit ALL your Legos (we keep BIG Legos in a tote and TINY Legos in a different tote) then line the tote with a bed sheet. Pile the Legos on top and when it's time to play, simply open sheet...Legos stay on the sheet.
2. When kids are done playing, simply fold up corners of sheet and replace in tote!
3. Slide under a bed and label accordingly, it's that easy!
*I'm loving this website with neat kid appliques if you have a little extra cash and want to give your child's room a special touch...
Here's some of their cute "mural kits":