Well, the holidays are over…the tree has shed most of its needles…the leftovers have all been eaten or thrown out…the gifts have been unwrapped.
The holidays may be over, but for many parents still feel as though their home has been overrun by and army of Little People, Barbies, and Leap Frogs – lead by General Elmo with all his gear. So, how do you even begin to find the carpet underneath the mess of toys and boxes?
Where do you expect to put all this stuff in a home that was already overflowing? Here are a few tips to organizing your child’s toys now that the holidays are over.
1. Trash the Trash
Too often, after the fun and glitz of the holidays have past, parents find themselves sitting in living rooms filled with half empty boxes or deftly stepping over land mines of crumpled wrapping paper and bows. Start by doing a thorough cleaning of all the trash in your home.
Throw out the boxes, cartons, bows, wrapping paper, and wire twist ties that hold everything together. You may have been tempted to keep some of this packaging in case a gift needs to be returned – now’s the time to make that decision. Either pack it back up in the box to be taken back to the store, or toss that packaging immediately.
A word of caution: before you throw anything in the trash, be certain to check every nook and cranny for important non-trash items. All too often an instruction book, battery cover, or key part to a gift gets inadvertently thrown out with the trash ruining what could have been an awesome gift.
2. Separate the Old from the New
The new toy phenomenon is sure to capture your child’s attention for at least a couple of weeks. As they sit in post-holiday bliss, take the opportunity to go through the old toys. Are there some that can be moved to a new location? Take a box from the toy room and move it to the bedroom.
What about the toys that are no longer age appropriate? Store them for future children or consider donating to a Goodwill, Salvation Army or St. Vincent de Paul store. (Get a receipt – those donations are tax deductible) How about the toys that are broken or missing pieces?
Throw them away! UNO Attack just isn’t any fun without the “attack” and Hungry Hungry Hippos just stay hungry unless they those little marbles to eat.
You’ll have to be the judge of how to handle this purging with your child. For some families, it may work better just to go through the toys without the children – with the parents making the majority of decisions and saving a few key decisions for the child.
For others, it would be considered a crime to even think about touching a toy without checking with junior first. However you decide to handle it, make sure your child understands the value of getting rid of toys.
Talk about how a child who didn’t get any toys for Christmas will benefit from his willingness to part with the old tool-bench he never plays with anymore. Ask her to consider saving her Dora play set for her younger sister who will love it next year.
This purging process can be full of moments ideal for teaching young children the value of giving – or throwing out – something they don’t need, want, or use anymore.
3. Store it Away
Ever since I first became a parent, my favorite kind of toy has been the kind that is self-contained.
The Lego set that comes in it’s own storage box, the Little People Noah’s Ark set where all the animals store away in the bottom of the ark, even the Barbie playhouse with garage that could hold all 6 Barbies, trunks full of clothes, and the Ferrari.
These toys taught me the inherent truth in the following age old adage: out of sight, out of mind. As a parent, it is a lot easier to manage the clutter and mess of children and their toys if each toy has a place to go when play is done.
There are literally thousands of different toy storage options – you need to find the one that fits your space and budget best. Whatever you decide, keep in mind that you’ll need large storage space (like toy boxes or large shelving) as well as small storage space (like baskets, buckets, or boxes).
Once you have your storage solutions in place, organize the toys by use. Use your common sense to put toys that go together in the same location – this will help your child learn where things go and make clean-up time easier on everyone.
For younger children, consider labeling the toy storage with words or pictures to help remind them where things go.
4. Relax – but don’t Quit!
The key to keeping your child’s toys organized is keeping up on the clean-up. Set aside 5 minutes each day to have your child help in picking up the toys and putting them all back in their appropriate spots. Just that 5 minutes can make a world of difference for you at the end of the day.
At the same time, don’t stress about the mess. Children are messy creatures. They don’t always put something away when they are done with it – they rarely clean up after themselves – and they don’t mind stepping over and around a minefield of toys to get to the dinner table. Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed.
If nothing else, try to remember that you’ll get to go through the whole organizing process again next year after the holidays have passed.