We have several small ‘play spaces’ tucked into nooks and crannies of our little old house.
There is a little table tucked in near our big dining table, an easel that often lives at one end of our tiny kitchen, and a corner of our living room that is dedicated to toys.
We don’t have lots of room for toys, nor lots of child friendly storage in our house, actually we don’t have much storage inside our house at all, so we rotate toys.
Every few weeks I change around the toys that are available in the living spaces of our house. Depending on what the children are interested in and what stages they are at, I get out a selection of toys that they have open and easy access to, all the time.
Because we have a range of ages (almost 8 years old – 1 year old) I try to choose toys that are safe for everyone to have play with. They may not all be toys that the baby is interested in or able to use the way an older child would, but they are all toys that he plays with in his own way and all are safe for the occasion chew too. We also use higher shelves to store toys like little Legos and non-board books so that they are safe from Noey, but accessible for the bigger kids who use them on the big table or when the baby is asleep.
We use lots of baskets and boxes on the shelves so that things are easy to get out, and move around, and easy to pack away.
I usually try for a selection of toys that include something to build and create with, something to pretend with, and something to read. That usually covers pretty much all the learning areas you can thing of. I mostly stick to ‘open ended’ toys that can be used in lots of different ways (this helps with the range of ages too) and I think about the sort of things the kids are into at the moment and try and include those things too.
On our shelf at the moment (from left to right, bottom to top):
- A basket of baby toys, including posting boxes, soft books, cars and some other favourite toys
- Duplo – despite having moved on to ‘little Lego’ last Christmas all the kids still really love the Duplo.
- A basket of wooden tree blocks – some of these stick blocks and other home made wooden pieces
- A basket of wild animals, with a few fairies and elves who’ve also found their way in too
- A basket of board books, and in front of those are the wooden rainbow, fire and water blocks we love so much.
- A box of kitchen and cooking accessories – because my big boy is going to be a real chef one day!
- A selection of little toys for the bigger kids – tiny animals, dominos and the counting frame.
- Little Legos
We also have a big basket of basic dress-ups, hats, bags and necklaces and simple doll accessories, and a small table with the magnadoodle in the same area as our toy shelves.
We have art materials and puzzles and games in a separate closed cupboard which the big kids can access, and the girls and Morgan both have a stash of special toys in their rooms.
They are always able to request other toys that are put away, but keeping the ‘out’ toys to a minimum helps us manage in this small space and helps everyone keep on top of the packing up.
Sometimes I wish that we had a separate ‘play room’ so the kids had their own space, and so I could just shut the door and walk away from the mess. But I really love that our children play and work in the same spaces that the adults play and work. It means that someone is always close by to help when needed, and it also means that we spend more time together, sharing and doing the things we love. To me, this is what family is all about.
When the renovations are done (how many times have I said that phrase??) we’ll have both more storage and more space, but I still plan to manage our play spaces in a similar way. Though by then Noey should be almost old enough to not destroy a permanent writing/drawing area!
How do you manage the toy chaos in your house?