How to Organize and Store Toys, Arts, and Crafts

by | Home, Organization



The very word might make the super tidy-obsessed moms (like me) cringe.  How on earth is it possible to corral alllllll the things?  The odd-shaped, bulky, non-stackable things.

When our oldest was born, almost exactly 13 years ago, it was so simple.  Each cute puzzle and shape sorter sat on a shelf, like her own, personal toddler classroom.  But I quickly found out that adding siblings, varied interests and developmental levels equaled disorganized baskets and bins and toy boxes scattered with “miscellaneous” pieces.

I’m a big believer of teaching independence to children and determined that I was not going to spend the remainder of my 20’s and 30’s picking up toys.  So I got busy developing some toy systems that seemed feasible and sustainable, both for myself and our growing kiddos!  Here are a few tips I have learned along the way:

Control the Chaos


We regularly purge the toys.  When my kids were young, I did this when they weren’t looking!  Now, they are responsible for the task and we try to clean out at least twice a year.  I make sure we have a really thorough “clean out” in October or November…just in time for Christmas.   We do a second purge in the spring or summer.  By making this a routine part of our year, we never have a huge, overwhelming pile and the toys maintain general control rather than chaos.

How to Purge


This depends a lot of on the ages and stages of your family, but in general, here is how we do it:

  • Take one section at a time and empty everything.
  • Sort into keep, donate, sell, toss piles.
  • Keep items are evaluated for how they can best be organized and stored (we will talk more about that a little later on). Donate items are taken the same day to the thrift store and trash bags are taken out of the house before anyone can change their minds!  Our kids set aside items that could get a little cash at our yearly yard sale and we set that cash aside for vacation spending money!
  • There may be some items that you want to keep but are not being used by anyone. Particularly when my children were really young, I would set aside the nice, developmental toys for the next sibling.  Now that we are grown out of those stages, I have a bin in the attic for a few, choice keepsake toys.

How to Organize Toys


As with every area of our home, I organize items into “like piles.”  I can’t very well store items until I know the quantity and size of the items in that category.  Once the toys are grouped into like items, I can evaluate the best way and location for storing them.

When items are grouped into like items, it is also easier for my children to be able to see if they have too much of a kind of item and they often purge a little more at this point.  Win for us all!

I also evaluate the importance of items, how often they are played with, and by whom they are most used.  This helps me to be able to store them in more functional ways too!

Tips for Storing Toys


This is a much more complicated part.  Once we were able to develop a system that really works for us for storing the toys, it has always been much easier to control the chaos.  You might need to try several different ways before you find something that really clicks for your family.  And I am finding that organizational systems need re-evaluated as our children grow and have different needs.

Here are some general ideas that work really well for us:

Small items: (cars, doll clothes, balls, imaginative play, blocks)


We have a wonderful vintage hardware cabinet with drawers.  Each category of item is stored in its own drawer.  Items for the youngest kiddos are stored in the bottom drawers where they are more easily accessible.  This also works with bins on a shelf or cubby.  *Tip: for small children who cannot read, picture labels are really helpful!  It might not look as cute as a pretty tag, but training them to independently clean up after themselves is a beautiful thing!!!

Medium items: (larger toys that don’t fit in a bin)


A simple bookshelf, particularly with adjustable shelves, is great for neatly lining up these awkward toys.  If you have a closet, consider adding shelves for these types of toys.  It is very nice to have them behind closed doors, if possible!  I found that a toy box was difficult for little people, but once they are a bit bigger, that option can work too!

Large items: (play kitchen, doll house, toy workbench)

We tried to invest in quality items that went with the aesthetic of our home.  These bigger toys are wonderful for imaginative play and from a teacher’s viewpoint, are really important!  But they don’t need to be an eyesore either.  Work them into the layout and décor of your space, as much as possible, and you’ll find that they work for you instead of against you!

How to Organize Arts and Crafts


We are definitely at the stage of parenting where our children are really into arts and crafts.  While they don’t have nearly as many toys, the amount of paint, crayons, DIY crafts, paper, and popsicle sticks can accumulate quickly!  We use small, clear bins for all of these items.  As with toys, like items are put together.  For example, all the crayons are dumped into one clear bin.  This works much better for us than crayon boxes!  Bins that are stackable make storage and organization easy for everyone!  We can also see when we are running low on any particular arts and craft supply item!

My kids love craft kits.  We keep a shelf where these boxed items are lined up.  The kids can see the original packaging this way, and the crafts are more likely to be enjoyed rather than all stacked up, collecting dust.  Once the craft is completed, the box is tossed and they know they have room for a new craft or kit!

We were able to build a closet space into our playroom to use for arts and crafts.  Shelf space is perfect to stack the clear bins.  If you’re able to find a closet space in your home, consider building in shelves to organize all those supplies!  I love for my kids to be creative and I have found that they enjoy getting out the supplies and doing just that when I have it all organized and accessible for them!

Where to Store and Organize Allllllll the Things


This can get tricky depending on the space you have available!  There are many different ways to store and organize toys.  In our old house, we had big cubby units and baskets.  In our current home, we use a huge hardware drawer unit for toys and a small closet with shelving for arts and crafts.  There are lots of options for a range of budgets and I’ll link a few at the end of this post for you!

If you are lucky enough to have large closets or extra closets, consider adding shelving and storage units to hold toys and games, especially the ones that you would prefer behind closed doors!  Closet doors are valuable real estate too and over the door organizers are a great way to store stuffed animals, small games and toys, and even books!

Below, I’ve linked some great options for toy storage and organization.  We either have or have had several of these options and some are ones I use in my classroom as well!  I hope this post is helpful to you and gives you some inspiration to control some of the chaos…and have fun in the process! 




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