When you have four kids, an very open floor plan and a husband who (in his own words) strongly desires NOT to live in Romper Room, you face some toy storage challenges. Particularily if you also love some good home design. Time to come with some good ideas on how to store toys.
During the early years, there is no getting around some of those bigger things like a swing, bouncy seat, exersaucers and the like. And you need the kids near you when they are young so you can supervise and make sure they are safe, even when they are independently playing.
If you have older kids, you might recognize this next truth. They always want to be near you, even when they are 10. They will drag every toy to where ever you are and play with it right. there. They want to hang out with you, even when they are not interacting directly with you.
Luckily, as the kids get older the toys are blessedly more containable. We have found a few solutions to keeping toys in the living room so the kids can play where we are and everyone can enjoy the space.
One piece that has really allowed us to store a lot of toys, is open for the kids to get to and also allowed us to style well around the toys is our make shift bookcase. The bookcase is constructed of three separate Ikea purchases, two Expedit shelving units (turned on their sides), and placed on top of the Lack TV unit. Our very own Ikea hack, if you will.
We just measured the long sides of the shelving unit and walked around measuring tables until we found one that was the same width. Ikea is fairly orderly about their sizes, so even though I realize we got lucky, I think there is a good chance you could do something similar with other Ikea pieces.
Tomorrow I will talk about how I styled the bookcase with some decor mixed in with the toys. I think this allows it to fit into the room nicely and makes the toys more livable.
A second storage option that I LOVE is the Lego Storage system that I completely copied from Jen at iHeartOrganizing. Please be sure to pin it from the source; nothing about how I made this storage is original to me. I even used the same font she did. Thanks, Jen for the awesome inspiration! We have had this system for more than a year and we still love it.
I covered some binders in fabric and added bookplate labels to keep all of the Lego instructions under control. You will see some of the binders on the bookshelves above (second picture up), also. With three boys, we have an insane amount of Lego sets, let me tell you. I like to have a decorative tray on top of the storage unit to display some of the more current creations and give the kids easy access to play with them. It looks neater to have them on a tray and the kids feel like their creations are really special displayed like this.
We also have some open storage on the bookcase (again, more on that tomorrow) for the Lego people and some of their accessories, plus some jars to hold the lesser used (but hard to find in a pile) accessories.
Baskets Under Window Seat
Our living room is still in progress, so pardon the undecorated walls and missing outlet cover. Years ago we built a very simple bench to fit in our bumped out window area. I bought some very sturdy baskets to fit under the bench. They have turned out to be a worthy investment, because going on 14 years they still are in great shape and holding up well.
For years they held toys that our toddlers played with, but as the kids have gotten older and the toys have gotten smaller, they hold lesser used toys that we still want to have available for little cousins and other guests that visit. There is nothing worse than trying to entertain a toddler at a house without toys or something to do. So, to keep our friends and family comfortable, we have stored smaller collections of toys for younger kids.
Some things we have in the baskets are larger trucks, Little People, wooden blocks, Duplos (large, toddler friendly Legos) and metal/magnetic Thomas the Train tracks and cars. When our kids play with younger guests, it is like seeing old friends when they play with these toys.
This is another Ikea find. I cannot find the exact unit, so I am not sure if they have been discontinued, but there are some similar options under the Cabinets & Sideboards category. The units I purchased happened to be configurable to the type of glass, the pulls and what sorts (and sizes) of drawers could be put together.
These are two units pushed together. I love how the brown balances out the brown couch from the other side of the room and I also appreciate having the entire surface to decorate!
We store all of our considerable Matchbox (and similar) collection, as well as some wooden trains and tracks, larger car and train accessories and plastic army dudes.
Every so often, the car mats come out and either cars or trains (or both) are set up and pretty soon at least 3 of the kids, if not all 4, will play cars for a while. It is so sweet and I love how it brings even the teenagers into the mix for a precious few moments of play time. I probably could pare down what we have, but I treasure those few times a year they all play together and I have the storage room already, so for now I am hanging on to it.
So there you have it – sometimes even I, the ruthless purger and organizer can have a soft spot. At least I have some good ideas on how to store toys that I cannot part with just yet.