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Toys, toys everywhere: Winning the battle against messy rooms

Nikki Stevenson

Nikki Stevenson

Nikki is a parenting writer and a mom to three wild boys who keep her on her toes (and occasionally make her question her sanity). With over 15 years of experience in the parenting industry, she has more tips and tricks than Mary Poppins on speed dial. When she's not typing away at her keyboard, you can find her sipping on coffee, hiding in the bathroom for five minutes of...
Created on Oct 30, 2023 · 6 mins read
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Let’s take a moment to picture the scene. You’ve finally got the kids to bed, collapsed onto the sofa, a cup of coffee in one hand, remote in the other. The quiet whisper of peace finally setting in. Suddenly, you feel it. That unmistakable, cringe-inducing crunch beneath your foot.

“Another victim of the LEGO uprising,” you murmur to yourself, prying the plastic interloper from your foot. Welcome to parenthood, where you could probably build a life-sized LEGO model of the Taj Mahal from the number of pieces strewn across your house. And that’s just one toy.

Every parent has experienced the joy (read: soul-deep terror) of venturing into their child’s room, only to encounter a scene of utter devastation. It’s as if Toys ‘R’ Us threw up in there. Teddy bears locked in eternal tea parties, action figures sprawled on the battlefield (or the floor), and LEGO pieces scattered like landmines. Don’t even get me started on those teeny tiny Shopkins. Who knew something so small could cause such pain?

For anyone navigating this minefield daily, my commiserations. Welcome to the club. Grab a bag, check your feet for rogue LEGO, and let’s dive in, shall we?

A tale of teething and tidying: The toddler times

Back when my boys were toddling around, with their chubby little fingers grabbing anything within reach, our house was a whirlwind of large, chewable toys and objects. Safety was our main concern, so small or pointy was a definite no-no. My life revolved around phrases like, “No, don’t put that in your mouth!” and “How on earth did you manage to reach that?”

Tips for organising during the toddler years:

  • Make tidying up a fun game: Nothing gets a toddler going like a fun song or a race. Turn tidy-up-time into a dance-off or a challenge.
  • Use big, open bins for storage: This makes it easy for your tot to access and return their toys. And it saves you from tripping over that giant, stuffed giraffe.
  • Toy rotation: Keep some toys out of sight and rotate them every few weeks. This keeps their interest alive and reduces the clutter.
  • Use a dishwasher to sanitise toys: Yep, you read that right. Many plastic toys can go through a dishwasher cycle for a deep clean. Always check the label first!
  • Soft toys can often be machine washed: If they’re looking a bit grubby, throw them in a pillowcase and give them a spin. Again, label-checking is your friend here.

The era of action figures, dolls and LEGO galore

As the toddler years receded, action figures made their way into our lives. The boys developed distinct interests, and their room started to reflect their personalities. And yes, their love for LEGO simply evolved. From large, chunky pieces designed for their little hands, they graduated to more complex sets of bricks. Our vacuum cleaner bore the brunt of this newfound love. Is it even a real family home if your vacuum cleaner hasn’t choked on a LEGO piece yet?

Tips for this phase:

  • Compartmentalise: Storage with different compartments is a lifesaver. It works for a wide range of toys: from Barbie’s accessories to LEGO sets.
  • Dedicated doll zones: Create a specific space for dolls or action figures and their various accoutrements. A shoe organiser on the back of the door is an excellent place for Barbie’s shoes and handbags.
  • Embrace the under-bed storage: Trundle drawers, roll-away bins, stuffed toys – they’re all excellent for freeing up floor space.
  • Shelves, shelves, and more shelves: Shelves are a godsend. Install them around your child’s room at varying heights for displaying and storing different toys.
  • The one-in, one-out rule: For every new toy that enters the room, an old one must leave. Teach your children to donate what they don’t use.

The great hand-me-down debate: Navigating between siblings

When you have multiple children, toys start to acquire a whole new status: potential hand-me-downs. This can be a minefield. Suddenly, you’re not just a parent; you’re a referee in the intense negotiations of who gets what, when, and why.

Tips for managing the hand-me-down hustle:

  • Establish boundaries: Make it clear that some toys are personal and some are for sharing.
  • Keep a toy inventory: Knowing what toys you have and who they belong to can save a lot of arguments.
  • Let them negotiate: Encourage your kids to discuss and decide amongst themselves. This can teach them valuable skills about compromise and negotiation.
  • Ensure fair treatment: If a toy is handed down, make sure the younger sibling gets some new toys too. This prevents any feelings of resentment.
  • Encourage gifting: Let the older sibling ‘gift’ their toy to the younger one when they’re done with it. It can be a great way to foster a bond between them.

Toy storage: The art and science

Admittedly, as your kids get older and their toys get more… diverse, shall we say? Storage becomes less about hiding the mess and more about making it work for your family. You know you’ve hit peak parenthood when you start getting excited about storage solutions. But trust me, there’s nothing like the thrill of finding that perfect toy box that fits just right.

Tips for effective toy storage:

  • Maximise your vertical space: Floor to ceiling shelves can work wonders in making use of every inch of space you’ve got.
  • Use the corners: Corners can be great places for corner shelves or other storage solutions, giving you more space in the main area of the room.
  • Multi-functional furniture: A bench that opens up to reveal a toy box, a bed with drawers underneath, a coffee table with storage – multi-functional furniture is a godsend.
  • Labels are your friends: Use labels to help kids understand where each toy goes.
  • Regular decluttering: Keep a regular schedule for sorting through toys. You’d be surprised how much can accumulate.

The spring cleaning guide: Out with the old

Keeping your children’s rooms organised isn’t just about the day-to-day tidy ups. It’s also about regular decluttering and letting go of the toys that are no longer needed.

Tips for spring cleaning:

  • Schedule it in: Just like any other household chore, decluttering needs to be scheduled. Whether it’s once every season or twice a year, make it a routine.
  • Involve the kids: Allow your children to decide what toys they no longer want. This encourages a sense of responsibility and decision-making. I suggest this once they are a little older – toddlers will hold onto one-legged toys as long as possible!
  • Donate, recycle, or sell: Not all toys need to be thrown away. Many can find a second life through donation, recycling, or selling.

As parents, we all fight on the frontline in the battle against mess. Sometimes it feels like we’re losing. But with a little creativity, a dash of flexibility, and a sprinkle of patience, we can at least make it to bedtime without stepping on a rogue piece of LEGO. Well, one can dream. Here’s to winning the small victories in the great toy war!

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