If your playroom looks more like a tornado zone than a warm, inviting place to play, don’t worry, you are far from alone. It’s not easy to stay on top of things with small children running around! On the other hand, a messy, disorganized playroom isn’t exactly enticing for children to play in and can be a real cause of stress. The good news is, that you don’t have to spend a fortune or be Martha Stewart to design a playroom that will be fun and easy to keep tidy.
- Take a day or two to ruthlessly de-clutter. Toss anything that is broken or missing too many pieces. Toys that have been outgrown can be donated, sold or put into storage. Pull everything out of toy-boxes, off shelves and out of closets and give the whole room a thorough cleaning.
- Sort the toys that you remain into categories e.g. blocks, puzzles, cars, dolls. If you have an excess amount in any one category, consider giving some away or boxing up the excess to rotate in later. Remember, children are overwhelmed by too much choice and have an easier time settling into a game when they don’t have too many potential items to choose from.
- Once you’ve sorted things into categories, look for a logical place to store them. Blocks can be stacked on a shelf or put into a large bin on the floor. Puzzles should be stored out of reach of younger children – look for wire puzzle racks to keep them neat and to make it easy for children to pull out one at a time. Small toys can be stored together in small bins on a shelf. Larger toys can each have their own spot on a shelf or be stored together in a big toybox. Make labels (with pictures for younger kids) so that everyone knows where each item belongs.
- Take an idea from kindergarten classrooms and divide the room into centers. You’ll want to have a place for children to do arts and crafts, a housekeeping area, an large clear spot on the floor for building and a performing arts area. Don’t worry, these areas don’t have to be big, just a corner will do, the idea is to reinforce the idea of a place for everything as well as provide inspiration for your children’s play.
- Provide a desk or small table for your child to work at in the arts and crafts area. An easel is another good addition, but if space is limited, you can use a table top easel or paint an area of the wall with chalkboard or dry erase paint. Keep art supplies organized in a rolling caddy or in a closet. Seldom used, messy supplies should be stored out of easy reach of the children.
- Housekeeping isn’t just for girls! Don’t feel like you’re limited to just a toy kitchen here (although most children do enjoy them). You can add a tool bench, ironing board, dress up chest and any other toys and props that can be incorporated into pretend play.
- Ample floor room for free play is a must in any play room. A cheerful area rug can define the area and provide cushioning and warmth. Store building toys, floor puzzles, vehicles and other toys that require room to spread out near this area.
- The performing arts area is where your child gets to be a star! A puppet theater doesn’t take up a lot of space and will allow your child to put on shows for family, friends and even their stuffed animals. Costumes and musical instruments will also be at home in the performing arts area. If you have the space, consider mounting a child-friendly mirror to the wall so that your child can check themselves out!
- Now that your playroom is organized, enlist your child’s help in keeping it that way. Even young toddlers can be taught to tidy away toys when playtime is over. Older children should be taught to clean up one area before they move on to the next and should be expected to put everything away when playtime is done. A responsibility chart can help older children develop these important habits. Parents should also get into the habit of having consistent expectations and give children clear instructions.
- To keep things under control, adopt a one-in, one-out policy. Enlist your child’s help in finding toys that they no longer want to play with to be given away. You can encourage your young entrepreneurs by letting them find toys to sell at your next yard sale and letting them learn first-hand the benefits of getting rid of clutter.
As a father of five I am all too familiar with the battle to keep playrooms tidy. Prior to making aliyah, I worked for the online retailer, Today’s Concept.