Our Real-World Playroom Transformation

Our real-life, real-world playroom transformation. You can do this too, I promise.

This is a guest post from regular contributor, Natalie LeBlanc-Dawson, who blogs at www.becominggranola.com . 

Our first official playroom!

We’ve been living in our home now for more than 7 years. We definitely bought a bigger home than we needed at the time, knowing that we would, one day, fill it with children. And here we are, present day, expecting our third child in a matter of weeks.

There is one room in our home that has never really been used for its real intended purpose until now – a designated PLAYROOM.

Our real-life, real-world playroom transformation. You can do this too, I promise.

The basement:

Since our home has 3 floors, everything is pretty spread out. 3 bedrooms upstairs, the living room and kitchen are on the main floor, and then there’s the basement. My husband has his “Man Room” that is all decorated with New York Giants gear. There is a laundry room as well. But there is also a 4th bedroom. For years, it’s been used only as storage.


For years, it was so full of furniture and boxes that we just kept the door closed. The only reason we ever went in there was to access a freezer.

Then there were kids.

A couple years ago, we attempted to clear a small play area so that we could reclaim our living room from all the toys. But even then, there was still TONS OF JUNK pushed off to the sides of the room. The play area was barely used since the kids did not really enjoy being surrounded by all our stuff.

playroom2

Now we have puzzles, games, Legos, train sets, cars… Tons of toys that will be fairly inappropriate for an adventurous new baby to have access to. And it would be great if the kids could play freely and not worry about being too loud. So over the holidays, we finally decided to seriously transform our basement bedroom into a room they would love to play in.

The transformation:

We cleared everything out and started from scratch. We were ruthless. We made many trips to drop off donations. We cleaned out old binders from work and university for recycling. We got rid of CDs, books, textbooks, DVDs. There are still a few things that need to go but they will be tackled during the next couple weeks of pregnancy nesting.

playroom3

We organized the multitude of Lego that my husband has kept from his childhood. Our children are still too young for the complicated sets so out first organizing task was to separate the “specific to a set” pieces from the standard building blocks. It took quite some time but now I can rest assured that I will no longer go downstairs to find the whole room covered in small pieces.

playroom4

 

Since the playroom is relatively small, it was important to us to keep as much up off the floor as possible in order to give them enough room to play. I also wanted something up high enough that the kids could not take bins down by themselves.

So new wall-mounted shelves were in order. This way, I am hoping to never have all the bins emptied on the floor at once.playroom5

The room is now clearly divided in two. On one side, we have the play kitchen and accessories. It’s not used nearly as often as it once was so I see us possibly getting rid of it soon. There’s also a small table they can use for colouring.

I have my large rocking chair in the corner. It was my favourite chair to sit in growing up. I use it now for crocheting when the kids are playing. I see myself very soon nursing a new baby in that chair, so it will be staying for a while.

On the other side of the room, we have the Lego bins and their large play mat. Both kids are huge into playing with trains and cars so this has been the popular side lately.

 

playroom6

We originally only had 2 shelves but decided that a 3rd would be useful (we were right!). The top shelf has adult board games and baby toys since we will not be needing those for a while. The bottom shelves contain toys that they can pick and choose from. We are trying to get in the habit of enforcing that if they want something to come down, then other toys have to be picked up and put away in thheir places. I’m really liking the clear bins for storage.

An ongoing task

Since this is THEIR room, I’m trying to not worry about how messy it gets, but I do ask for it to be all cleaned up once a week so I can vacuum. There is still a lot of work to do. We’d eventually like to paint the room and we are still in the process of clearing out more binders and workbooks.

Purging and decluttering items from our home is a task that I believe will never truly end for us. As the kids get older, items will come and go and our needs for specific spaces will change. But I am glad that although it has taken us over 7 years to finally do something about it, this room will be greatly enjoyed for the near future.

Hi! I’m Natalie.
I’m a navy wife and mother to 2 wonderful kids with another on the way. When I’m not running or crocheting, I’m trying to figure out the best way to organize our crazy life all while trying to remain calm and feeding everyone real food. I blog atBecoming Granola, and you can find me on Facebook too.

Get Your Kids to Clean Their Rooms – Without Bribes, Threats, or Punishment

Teach Your Kids to Clean Their Rooms ... Every time you ask. (Without threats, bribes, or punishments.)

Teach Your Kids to Clean Their Rooms ... Every time you ask. (Without threats, bribes, or punishments.)Kid Stuff.

It’s everywhere.

Toys and books litter the living room floor, clothes are all over their bedrooms, and somehow there’s garbage mixed in with everything. Food wrappers, scraps of paper, pieces of trash that look to your child like they could be “something” with just a little bit of glue, glitter, and ribbon added.

Why are there dress-up clothes on my kitchen counter? And wouldn’t it be nice to crawl into bed without smashing my legs into a Lego creation that magically found its way beneath my sheets?

I know this is reality for SO many of you. I’m sorry.

But there’s a way out. And the best news is, it doesn’t involve threatening, punishing, bribing, or tricking your kids.

A quick search about kids cleaning rooms led me to so many blog posts…

I wanted to see how other people view this “problem” before I wrote my version. The titles make me want to scoop everyone up into a big group hug.

At Your Modern Family, the “works every time” rule about cleaning is that the kids go to bed 5 minutes earlier for each piece of clothing mom has to pick up from the floor. I’m sorry, but in my house, bedtime is after dinner and bedtime routine… any earlier and my husband or I would have to leave the dinner table to make that happen.

Sacrificing our family dinners? No thanks! And making bedtime into a punishment? You’re ASKING for bedtime “issues.”

Mommypotamus wrote How to get your kids to clean their rooms in 16 easy steps. But really the “steps” are jokes about how frustrating it can be…. and then the post turns out to just be an advertisement for a webinar about getting kids to listen. Helpful, huh? An example?

“Step 11: Ask them if they heard the news story about the giant mice that are taking over dirty playrooms across the country.”

I love Mommypotamus, but this post made me feel sad for anyone who clicked it hoping for actual help.

Then there’s the uh-oh bucket. The idea is that you pick up all of the toys that have been left “out” and put them into a storage container. And you hold them hostage. Then, the kids must do chores in order to earn them back.

Isn’t this poem “cute”? (Read: Not the kind of “lessons” I want my kids to remember me teaching them, as they reflect on me in their old age – Mom is a tyrant toy kidnapper!)

YOU LEFT IT OUT
MOM PICKED IT UP
SHE’S GOT YOUR STUFF
YOU’RE OUT OF LUCK
TO GET IT BACK
MUST DO A CHORE
AGAIN ITS YOURS, JUST LIKE BEFORE

Problems with this? Like I said, YOU are the tyrant toy kidnapper, the bad guy. And chores become punishments or payments, not just something kids do because you’re part of a family where everyone pitches in to help.

Plus, you’ve got an ugly rubbermaid tote container sitting out all the time, and you’ve become some weird kind of Monopoly banker who has to monitor toys in / toys out versus the currency of chores done. Is that a job you really want to add to your list?

Other titles I didn’t click on to read?

How to Trick Your Kids into Cleaning Their Room – I don’t know about you, but tricking my kids isn’t on my daily to-do list. I prefer for our relationship to be built on trust.

Is Your Room Mommy-Clean? Checklist –  This one promises a checklist so your child can see if they met all of your insane requirements for a clean room. If I were a kid, I’d likely try to “fudge” it to get through the list faster, feel smug when my mom “approved” my room (knowing I had things hidden in places they didn’t belong), and develop a me-against-Mommy mindset in which Mommy is a weirdo obsessive control-freak and I’m just trying to be awesome. I mean, depending on what type of kid I am….

And another popular strategy is the “you can only have one thing out at a time, and you have to clean it up before you get another thing out” one. I hate this one. HATE. Because part of learning creativity and practicing innovation is using seemingly unrelated things together. This is SO IMPORTANT to allow our kids to explore!

If I never allowed my kids to play with the dump trucks along with the toy horses and dress-up playsilks, they wouldn’t have invented this game where they tie a silk to a truck, and then “tow” a horse behind it, or “buckle in” the horse in the dumper of the truck using a silk so the horse can ride.

Sometimes my kids use the dollhouse along with blocks, legos, horses, and vehicles to make a whole town, complete with a farm, playgrounds, additional furniture they create themselves, a parking lot, roads, and so on.

So how do I get my kids to clean up their things, without any manipulation?

  1. Lead by example. My kids see me cleaning up my own things, putting things away when I’m finished using them. My bedroom is ALWAYS tidy. And at least once a day, my children see me do (and usually help with) a quick general pick-up of everything around the house.
  2. Declutter. You know as well as I do how hard it is to keep the house tidy, let alone actually CLEAN, when there’s all sorts of crud scattered around getting in the way. If you’re having trouble with Step 1, start by decluttering your OWN things so that you can start leading by example.If you’ve got yours under control, help your kids declutter their belongings before you start expecting much in the way of cleanliness from them. Starting a toy rotation system can be a way to jump-start this. There’s no commitment to actually getting rid of things – it’s just stored (by you) in a closet somewhere.

    But actually decluttering items for good will have the best long-term results. If you and your kids are ready, you can start by asking them about each item:
    – Does this toy still make you happy?
    – Are you all done with this, and ready to let another kid play with it and have it?
    – Is this one of the most fun toys for you, or do you like playing with your other things more?

    Please don’t tell your kids to get rid of things in order to “make room for new toys.” It sets up the expectation that more is always coming, and if you do this, you shouldn’t be surprised if your kids start bringing you things they’re “bored with” and then immediately asking you for some new thing they saw a commercial or an ad for. That’s not how this works.

  3. Give each toy a home. Each toy or category of toy should have an actual “home.” In our house, playsilks go in one basket while hats and other accessories (ties, tiaras, whatever) go in another basket. Legos are in a basket together in a cubby on the shelf. The dollhouse and its furniture and people go in another cubby on the shelf.

    We have a basket in a cubby for small vehicles, while the larger trucks get to “park” on the top of the shelf, along with the horses. Another cubby-basket is for miscellaneous smaller items (their boogie boards, travel Tegu sets, Frozen peg people, a weird light-up wand thing that used to be part of a sword that broke, plastic tops they got from a birthday goody bag), and our train set is in another cubby-basket.

    On the other side of the room, there’s a basket for wooden blocks, and in the closet, blankets for forts or other imaginative play are on the floor.I listed all of that from memory. Because when things have HOMES (and there aren’t too many “things” total), it’s easy to know where everything goes and what everything is. It’s the same for kids. If my children want to play with the trains, they know exactly where to find them. And when it’s time to clean up, if there’s an empty cubby, it’s clear something is still “out.”

    You can use labels if you want (and I made these gorgeous ones if you’d like to), but it isn’t a requirement. If you choose to, be sure to label the item/container AND the shelf where it belongs, so that the kids can match them to clean up.

    Tip: NEVER tell your kids, “Put this away.” “Away” can mean anything – shoved under the bed, in the closet, behind other toys, anything.
    ALWAYS say, “Put this where it belongs.” There is only ONE place where each item belongs. Its home. That is where it should be returned.

  4. Make the toys easy to put away. As an early childhood education major in college, I have been in countless classrooms in my adult life. And when I was a preschool teaching assistant, my lead teacher did things no differently from what I had seen over and over… the unit blocks (those awesome wooden blocks we all LOVE to build with) were on shelves, sorted by size and type, often with cut-out construction paper shapes for the kids to match so that they could put them all away correctly at the end. (Like in this picture – Just what every kid needs. A puzzle to do when they’re FINISHED playing.)Want to know what happened in EVERY SINGLE CLASSROOM? Kids would excitedly scoop all of the carefully-sorted blocks off the shelf and happily play with them until clean-up time. Then, they would spend at least 10 minutes trying to put them away properly. Often, a teacher had to help, and constantly correct the child about which blocks go where.

    The result? Wasted time and energy, to satisfy the teacher’s neurosis about “sorting.” Less time to play. More “correction” (which can sound like nagging). More frustration. I have even had kids tell me they like blocks but didn’t want to play with them at school because clean-up was too hard. Some kids would only play with blocks at the beginning of the period, then sneak away to do other things so the other children would be stuck with the cleaning-up task when play time was over.

    Don’t do this to your kids! If your KIDS want to sort their legos by color/size/shape or by “kit” (older kids), let them. But if we’re talking about a 3 year old with 400 Duplo bricks? Just put them all into one basket.

    When I was a kid, my little sister and I had a billion wooden unit blocks. They belogned in a big wicker laundry hamper. All together. Clean-up was NOTHING. So easy!

  5. Use natural consequences. So many parents seem to think the word “consequence” means “punishment.” And they completely forget the “natural” part.

    Let’s explore some unnatural consequences:Leave a piece of clothing on the floor? Bedtime is 5 minutes earlier. (Why? Mom said so. Unnatural.)
    As an adult, if we leave a piece of clothing on the floor, does it affect our bedtime? No.

    Leave a toy in the living room after bedtime? It goes in a box until your earn it back by doing a chore. (Why? Mom’s rules. Unnatural.)
    As an adult, if we leave a crochet project “out,” do we have to mop the kitchen before we can have it back? Nope.

    Your room is messy? No dinner until you clean it up! (Why? Mom can’t think of anything else to “take away” that will make you clean. Unnatural.)
    Guess what! Adults can have a messy bedroom AND still eat dinner – in the dining room, at a restaurant, anywhere!

    This makes no sense.

    So what IS a natural consequence, anyway? Well, think about what happens to you, as an adult, if you don’t clean up after yourself.

    If you don’t put your keys on their hook (or in their home, wherever that is) as soon as you come into the house, you’re likely to have to search for 10 minutes to find your keys the next time you want to go somewhere.
    Tell your kids: “Put this where it belongs, so you can find it the next time you want to play with it.”
    If they don’t, they’ll realize the natural consequences sooner or later, and you can say, “Gosh, I wonder where your green car IS! Did you check in the car basket? It isn’t there? I guess you didn’t put it where it belonged when you were done with it… goodness, I hope you can find it. Good luck.”

    Have you ever left something you cared about “out” instead of putting it where it belonged? And then something happened to it? That crochet project you left on the couch which the cat decided was great for clawing… the beautiful picture your child made you, which you didn’t hang up before the kid came back with scissors and made confetti… the leather purse you shoved into your closet instead of carefully replacing, which now has permanent creases and cracks.
    Tell your kids: “If you care about this, you’ll take care of it and put it where it belongs.” For smaller kids, you may help them think of things that might happen if they don’t, adding, “Otherwise, it may get broken or stepped on or the dog may chew it up.”
    If they don’t, once they realize the natural consequences, “Ohh I’m so sorry to see that your horse’s leg snapped off. How did that happen? Oh, someone stepped on it? I’m very sorry to hear that. It’s too bad it wasn’t on the shelf where the horses belong so it would be safe!”

    Or what if you leave your own laundry scattered around, or don’t unpack from a trip fully? Then where is that green shirt you want to wear? Didn’t you just do laundry? Oh right, it’s still in the suitcase/in this pile/somewhere around here, still dirty… GAH!
    Tell your kids: “I know you love that shirt! If you want to be able to wear it again soon, make sure it goes in the laundry basket so that it gets clean the next time I do laundry.”
    If they don’t, once they realize the natural consequences, “I’m sorry, but that shirt is dirty. Why don’t you put it in the basket right now so it can get clean next time. You’ll have to wear something else today. After you get dressed, would you like to help me start a load of laundry so that your favorite shirt will be ready again soon?”

  6. Help them. Patiently. Even with your behavior as a good example, just a few toys, clearly defined easy-to-use homes, and experiencing and learning about natural consequences, it may still be hard for your kids to clean up at first. Cleaning up after ourselves isn’t an instinctual behavior. It’s a learned one. And anything that’s learned requires some teaching and practice.If your kids are having a hard time cleaning up after themselves, ask them if they’d like you to help them through it. I generally try to stay as hands-off as I can during this process, unless they’re really stuck about something or having trouble getting started.

    Go by categories of item. First, have your kids clean up all of their clothes, into the hamper. Then, see what other category will make a big difference. Are there 38 books on the floor? Have them pick up books next. Ask, “Where does this belong?” for each category, and if they’re not sure, remind them.

    If your kids are a little older and won’t get confused, you could have each kid pick a different category or toy to work on simultaneously. So, one kid could clean up books while the other works on gathering and taking apart the Legos and putting them back into the basket.

    Take your time when you’re helping them through the process. You’re not helping them to get it done more quickly. You’re helping them in order to give them the skills to do it on their own later. Explain things. Model. Demonstrate. Thank them for a job well done.

    Remember, you are a teacher, not a drill sergeant in this process.

  7. Don’t expect or require perfection. At least not at first. If your kids come running to you, announcing that they’ve finished cleaning, and they’re beaming with pride, what do you think it’ll do to them if you go in and start pointing out everything they’ve done wrong?I don’t always “check” after my kids clean up. Sometimes I do, and usually act like I’m about to get a wonderful surprise, “You’re done? Wow, can you show me!?” and they grab my hands and skip down the hall to show me their work. I give them big hugs and say something like, “You had so many toys out but now it’s clean again! Look what you did! Don’t you feel proud? Thank you for helping keep our house nice.”

    Sometimes, especially if I’m in the middle of something, when my kids come to me to let me know they’re finished, I ask them to double-check their work on their own. Often, they find something they’ve forgotten, and they feel proud about having found it the second time. Sometimes I’ll look after that, but sometimes I don’t, and I’ll say something like, “I believe you.” “I know you did it.” “I trust you.” or “I’m sure you did a great job.”

    Other times, they didn’t actually do an awesome job, and things really do need to be corrected before the room is anywhere near clean and tidy. Keeping in mind the role of teacher, not drill sergeant, I’ll point out a few larger errors.

    “What are these pens and stickers doing in the Legos? How will you find them the next time you want to draw or do crafts?” They laugh and put the pens where they belong.

    “What on earth? Are these dollhouse people mixed in with the cars? Where do they need to be?” A kid will shout, “In the dollhouse!” and they race to put them away in their home.

    “I see… three things that aren’t where they belong. Can you find them?” This starts a hunt, with each kid exclaiming, “I got one!” as they find them.

And with all of this modeling, guidance, practice, and habit training, nowadays, all I have to do is ask one simple question IF my kids ever grumble about cleaning (which they rarely do).

The question I ask my kids is:

“Do you care about your toy?” (Or shoes, or backpack, or whatever it is they don’t want to put away.)

And since we no longer own things we don’t care about (see Step 2), the answer is a quick, “Yes, I do,” followed by swift action.

I hope that if you’ve made it to the end of this, you’re walking away feeling empowered, not overwhelmed.

Parenting with honesty, respect, patience, and empathy might challenging at first, and feel awkward compared with using bribes or punishments, but in the long term, you’ll never regret your choice to give it your best shot.

How to Implement a Toy Rotation System

How to get started with a toy rotation system - Tons of practical advice and tips, plus 10 steps to starting a system from scratch (AND a printable checklist).You love your kids.

You want them to be creative, to explore the world, to use their imaginations. You want them to learn, make connections, and grow. You want to encourage their interests, support their passions, and broaden their horizons.

And for many families, the playroom is where it all goes down.

But there’s a problem that happens in playrooms.

It’s the same kind of problem that happens in your own closet if you’re not careful. You know the feeling that you have too many clothes and nothing to wear? Kids get that too, with toys.

When they enter a playroom that’s full of toys, but there are things they’ve outgrown, things they don’t like anymore, and mismatched pieces, it’s pretty overwhelming.

What would make you look at your closet, let out a frustrated groan, and then choose the same yoga-pants-and-tank outfit you usually wear? That’s the same feeling that makes the kids leave their playroom and grab the pots out of the kitchen cabinets to play with.

There’s nothing wrong with wearing yoga pants and a tank top, and there’s nothing wrong with the kids playing with cooking pots. But wouldn’t you rather those things happen on purpose, instead of as the only alternative to an overwhelming number of choices?

Toy rotation is a huge help in those situations, and I’m happy to share with you how to get started.

But first, let me tell you where I’m coming from. If you’re already on my email list, you probably know that I used to be seriously addicted to office products, and you’ve seen the photo-proof.

And I was every bit as into “kid stuff” too. Before I even had children. Well before my daughter was born, I had a huge collection of children’s books, educational materials, and toys.

Why did I already have such massive numbers of toys?

I studied Early Childhood Education in school, where people were always telling me that my school would most likely not have the budget to afford even the simplest classroom materials. So I kept an eye open for great deals, and bought books and manipulatives to save for my classroom. Then I spent a couple of years teaching (where it was true that we didn’t have a lot of resources or much budget) and doing in-home childcare. After that, my husband and I were expecting our little girl and I transitioned into being a stay-at-home-mom.

Most of what I had was appropriate for preschool-aged kids. I even wrote in a blog post while I was pregnant, “I have a LOT of books and toys and stuff for 3-5 years old. Our baby girl is gonna be SET in a few years.” (You can also see pictures of the mess in that post.)

Nearly five years later, my little girl is a full-fledged preschooler, age 4. Plus, we have a little guy who’s 2 but likes to play with whatever his sister is playing with at the moment. Both of them have been on the receiving end of countless gifts and hand-me-downs. It’s so sweet that so many people care about and love my kids, and want them to be happy!

But it all adds up, and without a toy rotation system, my kids would have had a chronic case of “‘So Many Toys and Nothing to Play With.”

In the last 5 years (and 3 houses), I’ve learned SO MUCH about toy rotation, storage, and organization, beyond what I had learned in my early childhood education curriculum.

Why is a toy rotation system something kids (and parents) love?

  1. Kids don’t feel like there’s “nothing to play with” when all of the options are good (age-appropriate, in working order, no missing pieces, liked by the child) ones.
  2. Kids can get right down to business of playing when there are not too many choices causing “paralysis by analysis.” (Like when you sit down at Cheesecake Factory and receive their 38-page menu filled with delicious choices, which causes you to not be ready to order until 45 mintues later.)
  3. Kids periodically get fresh choices of toys to play with, so they have the same excitement of walking into a toy store or visiting a friend’s house, where things are DIFFERENT! and NEW!
  4. All of the gifts lovingly given to your kids have a chance to be really focused on, loved, and played with, because they won’t just be on a shelf or a cubby full of bins filled with 400 other toys.
  5. Clean-up is a cinch when there’s not too much stuff out at once.

Check out my simple, bright, open-ended playroom tour for an example of what all of this looks like when put into action!

If you’re just getting started with a toy rotation system, this is what you’ll need to do.

1. Gather EVERYTHING in one place.

If you plan to rotate books too, include them here. If not, just gather ALL of the toys from the far-flung corners of your house into one place. It doesn’t have to be the place where they’ll end up. So if your kids’ toys will normally be in the bedroom, you can gather them in the living room for now (so you can work on it while the kids sleep). The important thing is to find every toy.

Grab a few empty boxes for decluttering too, and any storage bins you plan to use for the toys.

2. Declutter.

Having everything in one place is pretty eye-opening. I mean, I knew I had a lot of toys and children’s books, but when we moved into this house and everything was in one place for me to deal with, I realized how insane the quantity of toys was.

Do a first-pass of everything, and declutter as much as you can. There’s no need to save outgrown toys, things you or your kids aren’t seriously looking forward to using in the future, or the less-favorites of several items in the same category. Broken toys and pieces of incomplete sets should leave too.

If you need some more encouragement to declutter, check out these 3 *Different* Questions to Ask Yourself When Decluttering. They don’t only apply to your own stuff… they apply to everything.

3. Organize like with like.

Building toys, dramatic play or imagination toys, educational toys, manipulatives, dress-up things, active toys, noisy toys, puzzles, and so on.

4. Declutter again.

When you organized the toys and put like items together, you might have discovered that you have a ton similar things in a certain category. Maybe you have 38 dollhouse dolls, dozens of puzzles, or 7 different sets of building toys. If you decide that’s too many, you can go ahead and get rid of some more stuff. Other kids will be happy to play with it, and your kids will still have plenty!

Double check that the toys aren’t using these 4 excuses to get you to keep them.

5. Determine your space and limits for “in rotation” toys.

I aim to have one toy or set of toys (like a basket of small cars) per cubby shelf in our playroom. Sometimes a few items are on the top of the shelves, and dress-up clothes or larger toys aren’t included in that limitation. But my general idea of checking whether too many toys are out at once is the same no matter what.

My other limit is that if the kids have all of their “in rotation” toys out at the same time, they still should be able to clean up without overwhelm (with some guidance since they’re small). If that isn’t possible, it’s too much.

I also want to be able to clean up the area in less than 5 minutes myself.

Your space and limits may look different than mine, but having guidelines like that will help in the maintenance of your toy rotation system.

6. Choose a collection of toys to have out together.

Remember your “like with like” categories you created? Now’s a good time to look at each one separately, and pick one or two from each (depending on your space and limits). Maybe one building toy, like blocks, would go well with the small plastic dinosaurs, and playsilks.

I always imagine what the kids could do with the toys together when I choose each collection. They could build volcanos and mountains out of the blocks, and the playsilks could accent the landscape with grass, water, and lava. Then, they could use the dinosaurs in the world they’ve created.

Of course, it never actually goes down like that (unless I guide it). But it’s nice in my head and the possibility is there.

If you’d rather just kind of randomly choose toys, that works too.

7. Store the rest, out of sight.

Keep your categories together, like with like, in containers if possible, to make rotation easy when you’re ready to swap the toys out for “new” ones.

Or you can do what I used to do when I did in-home childcare, and have one box for each month of the year, each with its own toys and books. This was a great strategy when I had a lot of seasonal or holiday-related manipulatives, lessons, and toys, and didn’t want to forget about any of them.

Wherever or however you store the out-of-rotation toys, make sure that they’re out of sight of the kids. This could be in a locked closet, on the top shelf in your bedroom closet, or in an area of the garage on shelves in bins. If you store the out of rotation things where the kids can see or access them, you’ll find they aren’t stored for very long

8. Decide on a rotation strategy.

Will you rotate on a schedule, or as you notice kids are getting bored? Will you wait for them to ask for something out of the closet? Will you allow them to “shop” for new toys, or will you choose which will come out?

When my daughter was a baby, I rotated toys about once a month, but kept the ones that still seemed challenging and interesting to her in rotation. I put away the too-easy or too-hard ones, and brought the too-hard ones back out a couple of months later.

I’ve been experimenting with something new lately. Instead of letting the kids “shop” in the closet like I had been doing recently, I ask them which toys (from memory) they’d like. They are ALWAYS happy with their choices, and I’m learning which toys are their favorites, and which I can declutter after a little while.

9 Maintain the system.

Make sure more things don’t “sneak out” without putting some things away first. If the kids get frustrated or have a hard time cleaning up, double check your space and limits and make sure you’re still honoring the boundaries you set up, or change your guidelines to fit your current situation.

Just remember though… if you have fewer toys to maintain (even out of rotation)  in the first place, you’ll have way more time on your hands. Only keep the good stuff, and if you realize later something doesn’t make the cut, declutter it. Keeping an eye out for more to declutter is part of the maintenance!

10. Experiment, observe, and have fun with it!

What happens when your kids have fewer toys out? What if you only had building toys out (but all 7 types at once), or set up the play area as a miniature house, instead of having a wider variety of types of toys? What would the kids do if you put away all of the toys, and filled their playroom with blankets and pillows instead?

Now you’re ready to start a toy rotation system!

Go ahead and download my printable checklist of the 10 Steps to Starting a Toy Rotation System! That way you can work through them without having to constantly check back to this page.

Toy Rotation Checklist - How to get started with toy rotation (More details about each step are at the blog post).

And if you’re ready for even deeper toy organization, click over to grab some labels for your containers or shelves, to keep things in order.

Printable Playroom Toy Bin Labels and Planning / Tracking Checklists

Start now!15 minutes is all it takes to get started decluttering, organizing, and homemaking

It’ll take less than 15 minutes to print out the checklist, gather a couple of boxes for decluttered toys, and grab your containers for toy storage.

Put everything together in your work area so that as soon as the kids go to sleep tonight, you can get to work on your new toy rotation system the whole family will love!

Simple, Bright, Open-Ended Playroom Tour

You have been asking me to share more of my home with you, so that you can see how the things I homemaking methods and techniques I talk about look in action. I share a bit of this stuff on my Instagram account (say hi on IG if you follow me over there!), but I’m happy to give a more in-depth tour on the blog.

A couple of weeks ago, I shared my garage with you. This week, I’m sharing my kids’ playroom. My children share a bedroom, so that we could take advantage of this sun-filled room for playing during the day. We love this room!

The playroom changes a lot. We have simple furniture that’s easy to move, not too many static decorations (just a few things on the walls), and everything that’s “loose” is for playing. The room is totally open-ended, and my kids can exercise their imaginations here.

Here’s the tour of our simple, bright, open-ended playroom.

Simple, bright, open-ended playroom tour.

The little couch and chairs are Guidecraft furniture from my teaching days, and I recovered some of the cushions with fabric from IKEA. My daughter hand-sewed the purple pillow at school, as a Mother’s Day gift to me. I’ve proudly displayed on my bed since then, but recently she “stole” it for her baby doll.

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Simple Kid Lunches – 5 Steps to Never Running Out of Ideas

Extraordinary Mommy guest post

Check out my guest post at Extraordinary Mommy about how to never run out of ideas for your kids’ lunches. Ever. It’s my step-by-step guide to figuring out what to feed the kids in general, getting them involved so they have a sense of ownership, and how to use the system on a daily basis to make exciting, delicious, healthy meals your kids will actually eat.

Emilyinstagram-lunchspiration

 

I also include four different lunch planning charts (for different styles of diet and planning) which will help you stay on top of the school-lunch game.

SDD-Printable-Lunch-Ideas-Chart-Paleo