Toy Organization 101

White six cube grid shelving unit in kid's room with games, books, stuffed animals, trucks, and other toys organized by category and some contained in bamboo open front bins.

Organizing and decluttering your children's spaces is not only beneficial for your own peace of mind, but it can improve your children's wellbeing too. Implementing systems and structure can help children learn how to find and put away their things, reduce anxiety, and foster creativity. Additionally, it can instill a sense of pride and ownership in their belongings. Establishing these habits at a young age increases the chances that children will take care of and respect their things, and will also teach them the importance of organization and structure.

Through my five-step method, you can makeover any kids' space in your home.

1. Empty

The first thing to do is empty all the toys out of your children’s spaces. It may seem a bit overwhelming during this step, but you’ll start to feel more in control and focused as you get going. (Tip: While floors and shelves are empty, take the opportunity to do a deep clean too.)

2. Categorize

After removing all items from your children's play spaces, you can begin to classify and organize them by grouping similar items together. Create categories that are tailored to your children's specific needs and interests.

Here are some common toy categories that we often use as a guide:

  • Stuffed animals
  • Dolls
  • Figurines
  • Books
  • Puzzles and board games
  • Coloring and art supplies
  • Building blocks
  • Cars, trains, and planes
  • Dress-up items and costumes
  • Cooking and cleaning toys
  • Musical toys and instruments

3. Discard and Donate: Purging With Kids

Getting rid of some unused and unwanted toys will help you and your children keep things tidy.

During this step, consider your children’s ages and personalities. It might be fine to toss damaged toys you know your child doesn’t play with on your own, but it’s often important to involve your children in the decision-making process of what to keep, discard, or donate. It may come as a surprise, but parents often have a stronger sentimental attachment to some toys than the children themselves do. Children often have a good understanding of what they enjoy and can recognize which toys they’ve outgrown.

If your children are struggling with letting go, this can be an excellent opportunity to teach them about the importance of giving to those who have less. Explain that any items they donate will go to a child who needs toys to play with, and that child will be very grateful.

Here are a few ways to approach purging conversations with your kids:

  • Which toys do you no longer play with?
  • What do you think about giving this to someone who may not have as many toys and would really love it?
  • If you keep this toy, are you okay with getting rid of another one?
  • If you let go of this toy, you will get a better one to replace it for Christmas.
  • If your playroom is full, there won’t be room for any new toys.

4. Add Organizational Systems

Once you’ve decided what stays, it’s time to decide where each toy will live. Creating structure and zones really allows you to easily maintain the organized spaces. Once established, it may only take a few minutes to get any designated area cleaned up!

Here are guidelines for placement in kids’ spaces.

On shelves:

  • Books
  • Board games
  • Puzzles
  • Display dolls

In drawers:

Coloring & crafting supplies

In baskets and bins:

  • LEGO pieces
  • Small dolls
  • Small toys
  • Balls
  • All things automobiles
  • Big toys in bigger decorative baskets

And here are some of my favorite items to help with organizing toys.

Bamboo Open Front Bins (Walmart): Great for small toys, balls, LEGO pieces, or diapers and wipes.

Plastic Modular Storage Organizing System (Walmart): Great for art and craft supplies, small toys, Play-Doh, and small LEGOs. This also comes with small inserts that you can repurpose in drawers if you don’t need them for the bins.

Divided Lazy Susan Organizer (Amazon): Great for art and craft supplies, small LEGOs, small toys, or a diaper changing station.

Fabric Storage Cubes (Amazon): Cube bins are great for small/medium toys and dolls, dress-up clothes, and balls.

Woven Abaca Folding Lidded Cube (Target): Keep toys, balls, dolls, dress-up, and blankets contained and hidden.

5. Maintain: Engage Kids in the Cleanup

Your new system, with a clear structure and designated spaces for each item, makes it easier to involve your children in the cleaning and maintenance process. When items have a designated space and labels, it’s easy for kids to understand where they belong. Regular cleanup teaches children about responsibility and ownership of their belongings, while also empowering them to take care of what they have.

If it’s difficult to get your children to participate in cleaning, try incorporating music, games, or incentives to make it more enjoyable. I always sing a cleanup song and show my excitement, and that makes my son Kane happy to help. Remember, the goal is to establish a habit, not to achieve perfection.

Happy Organizing!


If you’re looking for in-depth guidance on organizing toys based on the type of space, check out the Feather & Nest DIY Play Area Guide.

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