How to Organize Your Children’s Toys

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Since moving to our house last year, I have tried to figure out a good “system” for organizing my children’s toys. Their playroom is one of the first spaces you see when you walk into our house, and while I have stopped apologizing for their messes, that doesn’t mean I want it to take over the entire house either.

In July, I decided to take a big step in re-evaluating how my kids play with their toys, and trying out a new system. Two months later, I think I can safely say that it’s been the most successful way to organizing kids toys yet.

We used to keep all our kids toys organized by category in bins (books, Legos, blocks, puzzles, etc.) In fact, I’ve seen a lot of parents organize their kids stuff that way. It usually works, but then what about all the other stuff that gets added as the day progresses? Books would join play food and then would mingle with the dollhouse. It was a lot of pick-up time spent for the kids and us at the end of the day when we cleaned up.

Let’s go through the process and flashback to July, when I decided to empty all of the toys onto the playroom floor. It was pretty scary, but that’s how it usually looked by the end of the day anyway!

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It was pretty crazy pulling everything out, but it was the only way for me to see everything and observe how my kids play.

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I grabbed extra baskets and hampers and first I sorted everything by category. My categories were stuff like:

  • Stuffed Animals (Ugh! My pet peeve!)
  • Duplos
  • Blocks and Wooden Toys, Tinkertoys
  • Books
  • Puzzles
  • Mr. Potato Head (We have quite an impressive collection!)
  • Play kitchen accessories
  • Dollhouse accessories
  • Baby toys (Nagini’s stuff) and miscellaneous
  • Art supplies

Now, normally you would think that you are done, right? Everything’s nice and sorted. But, in the span of a day, my kids are not going to only play puzzles. They’ll want to read books and maybe run around with a couple of stuffed animals.

Aha! And that’s how I sorted their stuff. I added a little bit from each category to a single bin. There’s more variety, and there isn’t a huge pile of just one category everywhere!

Below is an example of what’s in one of their bins:

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Aquadoodle, wooden puzzle, blocks, and books for the older kid and for the younger kid.

I kept Mr. Potato Head, play kitchen, dollhouse, and Duplos in their own bins. If the kids want to play with them, we pack up the other bin first. I might do an experiment and add a little bit into each bin to see if that changes anything.DSC_8856

Since organizing toys in smaller categories into a single bin, it’s worked out really well for our household. There aren’t tons of things everywhere

Here is the space in August:
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Here is the space taken last week:
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Is this a 100% foolproof system? No, but we are not as overwhelmed now. Sometimes a toy or three will migrate from one bin to another, but I know that our kids toys will keep evolving and I’ll have to do a little bit of sorting once in a while to make sure it’s all in working order.

Other things to consider:

  • We don’t really buy toys for our kids. If we do, they’re usually more open-ended toys. And we really try to avoid plastic toys that make lots of noise. I think we might have one leftover baby toy that does that!
  • Art supplies are given with supervision (since my kids are 1 and 3), so I store them in our office.
  • If my kids want to play with another toy, we pick up the current bin. Most of the time.
  • I am not strict about the messes that get made, but I am strict about sharing, and that we clean up together at the end of the day!

If you have any tips or other thoughts, please leave me a note in the comments!

Improve Your (and/or Kids) Foreign Language Vocabulary

(Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission if you make a purchase using the links.)

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We are a tri-lingual household. We want our children to be able to hold a conversation in another language. We’re not expecting them to become experts or future translators, but we do it because we want them to be able to understand their heritage and to communicate to family members with ease.

If you stopped by, you would hear a mix of English, Chinese, and Cantonese from us, and our children. It’s been a challenge for me sometimes, especially since I have to say things in at least two or three languages for the exact same thing.

English is my first language, so there are times when I have no idea how to translate some of the books we read. It’s not like “village” or “parrot” is used in my daily vocabulary!  :-)

This week, I had the brilliant idea to use Google Translate to help me with teaching my children with their Chinese vocabulary. My only regret is that I didn’t do this sooner!

I chose one of our favorite board books, Dracula: A BabyLit® Counting Primerto try this out.

Initially I started writing it out and sweating as I was doing it, because I cannot read or write in Chinese! It was like drawing to me, and then I realized I could make this process a whole lot easier.

DSC_9168 I grabbed my Avery Easy Peel Address Labels and with a little bit of copying and pasting into a Word document (template can be found here), I printed the translated words out on each sticker.DSC_9173

It went pretty quickly, and now, our children are even more into reading their board books once again. (They also loved playing with the leftover stickers.)DSC_9176

I’ve completed four books so far, and I love that we can work on our vocabulary and we also just extended the life of our board books as well.

This one makes me chuckle a bit more. This one had Spanish in it, so if you were really ambitious, you can teach your child all of the words and s/he could travel anywhere in the world and at least ask where the blueberries are.  :-)  DSC_9189

Ribbit, ribbit…

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This weekend while Brian was trimming down an umbrella plant, he called Bunny and me to come and take a look at this huge frog hanging out in there. (Nagini was asleep.)

Yeah, it was huge! I have caught small frogs and rescued quite a few from the pool this summer, but this guy was so big it was too much for me to think about even touching. Bunny was not into it either.

Right after this photo was taken, the frog leaped out his hands and made an awful, floppy squishy sound on the patio floor. It was fine and immediately took a few hops away from us.

I’m taking a few hops back here.  :-)

Cleaning Up Around Here

Seriously, I don’t know how to keep an organized office. This is how it was looking a couple of weeks ago:

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It’s still looking bad, but progress is being made. I can usually keep the house in clean and working order, but my desk usually ends up with lots and lots of piles. I blame it on my INFJ personality. Yeah, let’s go along with that.  :-)

We have had a busy spring and summer with opening up our pool in April and we’ve been enjoying it a few times a week since. I’m now several shades darker where my body has seen the sun in comparison to other parts that haven’t…like…my butt. Ha!

We trimmed our palm tree (this still gets me every time, that we live in a place that has palm trees…and lizards…and snakes…and on and on in abundance):

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Last month we flew back home, to Virginia to visit friends and family:

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I was really, really struck by how hilly everything was! I never noticed it in all the years living there, but after all these months in flat-lands, it stuck out.

I’ve also been working with this delicious fabric to turn it into a quilt for our bed. 6 blocks down, 10 more to go!

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We also discovered a farm around here that has blueberries that aren’t sprayed with pesticides! We picked 10 pounds and we’re going to go again in a couple of weeks:

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It’s been good around here.

Gearing up for Spring

I’ve been working on lots of projects and stuff these last few weeks. One of the big projects we tackled a couple of weeks ago was putting down 35(!) bags of mulch and tackling the flower beds. Here is the house when we first made an offer:IMG_2543

Excuse the dreary gray photos, since it was an overcast day when I took the “after” shots! We painted the front door Riverway by Sherwin Williams. Actually, the painters we hired started it, but then they never came back, so I finished painting the door. We pulled up all the bulbs and removed overgrown shrubs.

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If you look closely, you can see a cowboy planter! I discovered him when we trimmed down the hedges. I still need to get a plant to put in there. He is hilarious.

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And since Brian and I are lazy gardeners, we got perennials that will hopefully creep and spread around the ground so we won’t have to do (much) weeding.

The former homeowners put four patio chairs behind the property fence. I have no clue why. We rescued them and put two in the front of the house, and the other two in the back patio. They still need cushions, but since we’re in the middle of pollen-season, it can wait. I keep searching for something that will cost less than $50 per chair, so maybe it will be an end of summer sale to wait on.

We’re looking into either power-washing the roof ourselves or hiring someone to do it. Oh, and maybe we will tackle the outside light fixture too. We will need to fix our lamppost to get it to work (the sensor is not working).

Yay, more projects!  ;-)