Play is essential to the healthy development of children because it can improve their cognitive, social, physical, and emotional well-being. Play helps your child build confidence, feel loved, happy and secure, develop language and communication, and boost physical and social skills, making it one if the most important things kids can do.
But… play is messy.
A child’s playroom is often the messiest in the house. And rightly so – mess generally means they’re having fun. But the thing is, a playroom doesn’t have to be messy. It is possible to have order and still play happily and well. You just have to follow these tips.
First things first, sort EVERYTHING! Before you buy any organisational boxes, baskets or new toys, go on a mini-rampage and separate everything into four distinct piles – “keep”, “donate”, “trash” and “another room”.
Once you’ve got that all squared away, you’ll know how much storage is necessary, what kind of storage you need to purchase for your space, and how to create an easy play-flow for the room. Be honest with yourself as you go: is my child really attached to this toy or is it me that’s holding on? Would my child notice if some of these toys were to disappear? Does my child ever actually play with this? The more honest (and brutal) you are, the more your child will be able to enjoy a free-flowing space. Why clog their creativity with things they don’t want or need?
Now you’ve donated, thrown away and stored what you don’t need, it’s time to sort your “keep” pile. The best way to do this is to sort by activity. This way you can designate certain activity areas that best suit your child and the things you know they enjoy. Ideas include a reading corner, craft corner, Lego station, playhouse corner, imaginative play area, zoo rug, figurine tower, puzzle space, or ‘dressing room’.
Once you have created your activity piles, measure how much space each pile takes up and think about appropriate storage solutions. How can you best display the toys your child gravitates to most? How can you support a rotational system? What options are available? Do you want budget storage solutions or quality and stylish storage solutions?
As you measure, map out your space. Draw a picture if it helps. Will everything fit in? If not, is there anything you could take from your “keep” pile to add to your “another room” or “donate” pile?
As you sort your “keep” pile, give everything a clean with safe cleaning solutions. Young children tend to put toys and objects in their mouths, so you don’t want to use any harsh or toxic chemicals. Most plush toys can be washed in the washing machine on a gentle wool cycle and with mild wool detergent. But avoid washing anything old and precious or those with batteries, a music box and foam bead stuffing
Some rubber and plastic toys can go in the dishwasher, and for the others, you can soak them in a disinfecting solution (try 1 part tea tree oil, 5 parts vinegar, 20 parts water) for an hour before scrubbing with a toothbrush. Toys with batteries will benefit from a sponge bath only and wooden toys can be wiped over with a slightly damp cloth that’s been dipped in a solution of equal parts vinegar and water.
While your toys are soaking, the room itself should be empty so you can give it a good clean. Once it’s clean, you can start bringing in your storage solutions. If your child has a lot of Lego, consider adding a colour coded drawer system. If your child has lots of little toys, consider an alphabetised cubby system that doubles up as a learning tool. Labelling is fantastic for managing where things go, but don’t go too nuts with labelling. Kids’ preferences change rapidly, so your playroom will change too. Keep labelling simple with these label-ready storage cubes.
If your child is old enough, get them to help you fill the room. This is the best way for them to get to know your new storage systems. Teach them where things should belong and check that they are happy with the space. All the organisation in the world won’t matter if your child is just going to wreck the space again. It’s crucial that they are on board from the moment things come back into the room.
Keeping the playroom tidy shouldn’t just be your responsibility. In fact, giving your child the responsibility of tidying their own designated space is a really good thing to do. Get them enthusiastic and used to tidying by:
When it’s nearing the end of play time, give your child a five-minute warning. This way they’re not surprised when you suddenly announce it’s ‘put away’ time. Verbally announcing that there will be a transition into tidying shortly will help prepare your child for what’s to come.
Some may call it bribery, but incentives are a great way to get kids to understand that in order to get something we want we sometimes have to work hard for it. Let’s say your child loves balance bikes. Why not offer one short ride once the toys have put away in their correct place?
Young children need clear instructions. Simply saying “tidy everything up” won’t get you too far. Instead, offer some instruction in the form of “Can you please put the dolls in the house and the zoo animals back in the drawer?
If tidying is made to feel like a chore, your child will learn to hate it. Instead, make them realise that tidying can be fun. Crank up the music and test them to see if they can put everything away by the time the song is finished. Sing your own tidy up song. Dance as you do it. Work together. Whatever it takes to make tidying time a fun and happy time.
If you start your child early and you make tidying up part of your everyday routine, it won’t seem like a big deal. Eliminate nagging by listing tidying the playroom on their daily routine chart. Soon enough putting their toys away will be just as much routine as brushing their teeth, combing their hair and getting dressed.
Followed these tips and think you’ve got the playroom down pat? Why not start with our tips for cleaning your child’s bedroom in less than 10 minutes.