As a parent, SO MUCH TIME is spent cleaning up after your little ones. It's kind of like the sub-job to parenting. In an effort to streamline the clean up process, I, like I'm sure many of you, have invested in all types of organization and storage solutions. In fact, I've probably spent just as much on baskets, bins, and buckets to attempt to organize the chaos as I have on the actual toys themselves. The problem that I've found with the stow-and-hide method is two-fold: first, those same baskets and bins that were supposed to control the mess are actually breeding grounds for more disaster. Various parts and pieces are never returned to their original spot, mutilated goldfish and pretzel crumbs get smushed down into the bottom of everything and with each clean up session, more crap just gets jammed into the bins. Secondly, it's as if my kids know that the bins are a disaster and unless one remains well organized (I do try to keep all the legos and musical instruments together, for example) then they are less likely to pull out the bins and play with the contents.
When we got our new playroom set up, we brought in a large shelving unit from our living room to house the television and toys. I have found that by displaying the toys openly on the shelves, rather than sitting a basket on each shelf to disguise the toys, my children are much more likely to play with things. The designer in me enjoys it because I enjoy switching things out and having a new look every few days and the mother in me is happy because my kids are more entertained. Stick something up there that they haven't seen in a couple of weeks because it was buried in a bin and they are entertained for hours! It's also a great way to test if they actually still want to play with things or if it is time to clean things out and hand the toys down or donate them. If a toy sits on the shelf for a long time and they don't request to play with it, I know it has probably run its course.
This is not to say that the toy bins aren't needed. There are lots of smaller toys that need to be housed somewhere and not all of the toys are pleasant enough looking to want to display out in the open. I just make sure to have a clean out sesh with those bins every month or so. When selecting the toys I am going to display, I generally look for items that have fun, vibrant colors, don't have a ton of writing or branding on them, have some sort of graphic shape or feel, and usually have a hand-made or unique quality.
Here are some toys that have great shelf appeal too. It's a good thing to think about when gifting new parents with toys.
Black and White Stacking Blocks
Rabbit Stacking Toy
Surfboard and Car
Wooden Clutching Toy
Any other great kid's items that you love to display?
PS In this same vein, check out a guest post I did recently called Reclaiming Your Life After Kids over on my friend Erin's site, Take Back Me. I offered my tips and tricks for keeping your home organized and tidy in the midst of kid chaos.