Dress ups are so fun and imaginative! They let kids create, explore and really show their personality. But when it comes to containment and tidiness, they’re certainly not the neatest activity. When playing dress-ups, kids always drag out every single item to make their choice, even when they end up wearing the same superhero outfit each time. My tip for storing dress-ups: go to the op-shop or tip shop and find a vintage suitcase or two and keep dress-ups in there. This makes clean-up super quick. Kids, especially pre-schoolers, can easily plonk items in a suitcase to put away. Don’t go buying cute, fancy dress-up hangers because, I can assure you, you will be the one hanging everything back up. Afterwards, the suitcases can be neatly stacked in a corner or stored under a bed.
Tubs that fit the toy
When buying a new toy, think about how you’re going to store it. Where can you see it living in the house? Does it have a space already? Do you already have storage for it, or do you need to buy a new tub? Often we make the mistake of buying the toy, getting it home and then trying to find a spot for it, or trying to stuff it into a tub that it doesn’t fit into. When purchasing a toy, purchase the storage to go with it – and make sure it fits!
Oh, the wonderous joy of never-ending artwork! How do we tame it? Tell me the ways! One of the joys of having creative young beings is receiving their beautiful artwork. However, joy can easily turn into overwhelm at the sheer volume of artwork produced! And it can be tricky to store: it’s not all A3-sized paper. Sometimes it’s box work, sometimes it’s slabs of butchers paper, clay models, bead necklaces, ‘sewing’, sculptures, popsicle sticks… In fact, now that I’ve stared listing them all, I’m thinking that this is whole other blog post of its own! However, my main tip is this: if you have a young artist in your life, encourage them, give them room and make an artwork tradition that suits your family. Get them to choose their favourite pictures and stick them on the fridge for a bit. Once they come down, keep them in a 52-litre tub stored at the bottom of a wardrobe/linen closet. When you have enough, send a collection away to make a book. There are some fantastic businesses that do this for you.
When it comes to bulky items like box work, make a family tradition here too. Let kids play with their creations until they fall apart and/or take photos of them and make a box work album. For my son, we made a tradition where he brought his box work creations home from school and put them on his top bunk. At the end of the semester, I put them in our garage. He may occasionally ask me to get one out to play with. We’ve also taken pictures to make a box-work book. Finally, I told him to choose his favourite 10 pieces, and they are now in our deep storage. And the rest? We had a fire (which he joyfully lit) and away they went. I do need to explain here that my son did box work every single day at school for a long time. He has Autism and his reward for doing his tasks at school was box work. So it was not just a small collection of box work and we don’t have a big house. So we had to come up with a meaningful way for him to celebrate his work, honour his favourites and let go of the rest. And there lies the key when thinking about children’s artwork: think about how you can celebrate it, treasure it and let go of it in an honouring way.
The best storage tip for Lego is to look at how your child plays with it. Do they build the set and want it to be displayed on a shelf, never to be touched again? Do they build the set once, then it comes apart and goes into the big pile, never to be resurrected again? Do they like doing the same set over and over? Do they only ever build their own creations? Do they make Lego towns, scenes, stop-motions? Knowing how your child plays with Lego is the key to finding out what kind of storage will work for them. I have a little guy who is obsessed with Lego. He loves to build a set once and leave it intact for a while. Over time he pulls pieces off the set to create other things, and eventually it’s all mixed into the ever-increasing pile. For ages I tried taming the Lego. I got containers and sat sorting Lego for hours at a time, only for the containers to be emptied out and mixed up. I soon realised that was how I wanted it, not how he wanted it. So now our Lego sits in an empty single box-bed base with drawers in the lounge room, and my boy is as happy as ever sitting amongst it, creating his creations. For children who love building the same set over and over, invest in lunchbox-sized containers that are all the same brand so they stack together neatly. Put each set (and its instructions) in its own container. Depending on the size of your collection, this may end up taking up a lot of space. You may need to set up a dedicated space to store sets this way.
Sticks and stones, shells and mud kitchens, bulky toys, cricket bats and balls, toy trucks, such is the joy of outdoor play. My tip for the never-ending rock collection: have a dedicated bucket near the door for rocks and stones. An outdoor toy box is your best storage solution, make sure it’s watertight, bug-proof and snake-proof, and can fit your bigger, bulker outdoor toys. It will get messy and need a regular clear out. Sandpit toys can stay in the sandpit – just make sure you have a cover and pull the cover over the sandpit at the end of play.