If there’s one truth universally acknowledged it’s that kids take up space. Whether it’s in your bed at 4am or a Lego takeover of your living room on a Sunday afternoon, kids fill up your home as sure as water fills the space it’s given.
And deep down, we love them for it. Their uninhibited desire for games to reach beyond the confines of their room and their love for being in the same room as others is enviable. It’s hard to resist your little one’s plea to be in the same room as you while they play no matter the noise or the minefield of toys that threatens to destroy the soles of your feet.
But all the same, creating a dedicated play space is as much for your kids benefit as it is your own. A space dedicated to play is a place to foster creativity while also creating boundaries and style in keeping with how you like to live.
The challenge is that with more of us living in cities and with smaller homes, the dedicated play space can get squeezed out. It’s unlikely to be a separate room so you’ve often got to get creative to make a space that fits within the confines of your wider living space.
Great storage for kids’ toys
No doubt you worry or complain that your kids have too many toys. You’ll promise yourself that you are getting rid of some or when it comes to next Christmas they’ll make do with just one new thing, but it somehow doesn’t happen.
Maybe the answer is to think about toy rental. It’s a great sustainable way to bring new toys into your kids’ lives. But there will always be favourite toys your kids want to keep, so finding creative storage solutions in a living space is key.
Storage sounds boring, but it’s about a lot more than putting things away. Yes, it’s about tackling the challenge of a small space, but it’s also about trying to encourage kids to be content with what they have and learning to play independently with confidence and creativity. It’s about helping them re-discover the joy from toys they love and understanding how to handle boredom and apathy. That’s why there are three key considerations to toy storage:
Accessibility – can your kids get to the toys they want or are they always reliant on you to get toys out for them? Sometimes asking for help to reach toys is good. It keeps the mess under control and it helps you encourage contentment with the toys they have out already. On the other hand, there’s a lot more creative freedom for kids to mix and match toys and invent new games when they can. Plus access means no excuses when it comes to tidying up!
Awareness – Kids easily forget what toys they have when they’re shut away, but can become overfamiliar with toys they can always see. The right storage solution can help kids rediscover their love for toys they’d forgotten about without them being buried in a place they’ll never be play with again.
Aesthetic – In small spaces where your living area and the kids play area overlap, how stuff looks matters. There’s also the question of whether you want toys to be a visible feature or would rather they are totally hidden away.
So if that’s the criteria for finding great storage, what are the options? Here are three possibilities:
Storing your kids' toys in cabinets
If you can create dedicated space for storage it can be the perfect solution. These low, built in cabinets are a great way to keep toys tidy, accessible and also create space above for other features (books) or nooks for sitting.
Storing your kids' toys in baskets
Moveable, accessible, and easy for your kids to learn how to put things away. They’re easily moveable so you can bring select toys into the play space before tidying them away. It does put toys on display which you might not be a fan of in a small living space, but a curated selection of toys that your kids can see will encourage them to play independently without a big set up fuss.
Storing your kids' toys in hampers
More discrete than baskets, but still accessible. If you can contain the situation to ensure you don’t end up with an overflowing hamper (our soft toys struggle to stay in our beautiful, but small wicker elephant hamper) it’s a dream scenario. This range of colours and styles is beautiful and incredibly practical for those toys – from blocks to train sets – that are probably best kept in a bit of a jumbled muddle anyway.
Make use of active storage
We like to think of active storage as ways to store things that have a natural home with the toys your kids play with. For us that’s using our kids’ toy kitchen to store their toy kitchen utensils and food. It goes together naturally, it’s shut away, but its accessible when they want to play. If the endless stream of cups of pretend tea throughout the day are anything to go on, it works well.
Active storage might include having a permanently set up tepee or tent that can be used to house books, dressing up clothes or anything else that can be enjoyed with the tepee. It could be a walker with toys in or an old fashioned school desk table that houses craft activities under the lid.
Use storage selectively
Not everything has to be accessible. In fact, using inaccessible storage is a great way to build contentment and encourage depth of play with a rotating selection of toys each week.
If you’re big on the aesthetic of your home or just don’t have much space to be able to have lots of toys out, toy rotation might be the solution. Shut away the vast majority of toys and allow each child to choose a handful of toys to play with that week.
These can be neatly arranged and kept out and accessible while the rest remain out of sight. For more ideas on toy rotation read more here.
How to store children’s books well
Books are delightful and kids love them. But it can be a challenge to stop your house turning into a library. The big question is often whether to hide them away or make them a feature.
In our house, telling our kids to go and look at a book is a way to get them to calm down or get some space when things are becoming too much for them. Accessible shelves that allow them to reach and choose the books they want is an important part of why they love stories so much. Even while they can’t read for themselves, being able to access the books and tell themselves the stories they know so well is a great.
Storing books well means showcasing the books they love so they can easily pick them up. A combination of a curated display and a good system of rotating the books week-to-week is probably the way to go if you have the space.