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Have you ever read the book The Boss Baby? Specifically the book by Marla Frazee, not the movie.
If you've ever read it, you probably nodded your head and chuckled about how the baby takes over the house. Babies and kids have a lot of stuff which can make your home feel more like a toy store than a living space.
For our own sanity, it's important to not let every room in the house look like the playroom. And the room that is most likely to be taken over is the living room. Below are several strategies you can use to prevent toys from taking over the living room, and neatly store what is there.
Store Most Toys Somewhere Else
There are several options here of places you can store toys that do not include the living room. This doesn't mean that kids can't play in the living room, it just means that toys are to be taken one at a time from where they are stored to where they will be played with. Also, each toy should be put back before the next one is taken out.
Depending on how large your house is, or if you re an apartment dweller, this may be the only place for your kids toys. Some people worry about kids having toys in their room because they won't go to bed. I had toys in my room growing up and it was never an issue. The same has been true for my kids.
On the other hand, if you don't have other storage rooms, then the bedroom your only option. Try to get containers that are large enough to hold each toy type. So all the My Little Ponies are in one bin and all of the Imaginext is in another bin.
Lots of toy storage furniture are made to accommodate bins. This is perfect if your kids want to play say in the living room. They can bring their one bin to the living room and play and then when they are done, it all goes back in the bin and to their room.
If you have the space, putting up shelving in a storage room or closet is a great option. Kids can keep their most often played with toys in their room while all the other toys go in plastic containers in the the storage room.
You can buy basic storage containers from stores like Target, Walmart or my favorite place to shop, Amazon. If you are handy, you or your spouse can build a basic shelving unit to store the bins. If not, they have reasonably prices plastic shelving units at Home Depot.
This is a great way to rotate toys, so that your kids don't get overwhelmed with the choice of what to play with. If they get bored, you can rotate out toys. It also helps make older toys feel like new when they haven't seen them for a while.
A third option if you have the space, is to set up a play room for the kids. They can store their own personal favorite toys in their own rooms, but have all the communal toys in the playroom.
Things like Legos, art supplies, the toy kitchen, the doll house, can all go in the play room. It's nice to have a table set up for crafting or building and a comfy nook for reading complete with bean bag chair.
This is a room that we will be creating for the kiddos in the basement of our new house. e have plans for a long table on one side perfect for crafting or building a Lego city. There will be lots of shelves and drawers for toys, and a reading corner. Be sure to follow Instagram to see how that project progresses!
Select What Goes in the Living Room
Inevitably, there are some toys that always stay in the living room. In our home this definitely includes board games since those are for family time, and a few other favorites.
We have the board games on the upper shelves of our entertainment center. This prevents our almost 2 year old from pulling them out and losing pieces. Games are something that the kids have to ask for (since they can't reach) and we take them out one at a time to play with as a family or with friends. Since our entertainment center has doors, it doesn't really mess with the decor.
Any other toys that stay in the living room should be discrete. This means that if the toys are put away, it will still feel like an adult room. Some options for storage include wicker baskets or bins with lids. These can go on the lower shelves of coffee tables or side tables.
Another option is using a storage ottoman for living room toys. Additionally, you can use a bookcase with storage baskets. The key here is to use adult storage containers to store the toys instead of kids ones. This will help you hide the toys when you want your living room to be an adult space.
Some things on the other hand, you won't be able to hide, like the baby bouncer or swing. Try to keep just one of these large items in the living room and just keep switching out as you baby grows. When you are in the baby stage, there are just some things that you can't avoid. Just try not to let it take over the room.
Other Baby Stuff
Most of the other baby stuff goes in the baby's room. There are a few toys in a contained bin in the living room much like the few toys we have there for the other kids. We also have a play mat that can get rolled up and put behind the couch.
Other baby items that we keep in the living room are some diapers and wipes because you sure as heck won't find me running to the baby's room for every poop and pee. These go in a small basket in the corner that matches the rest of the living room decor.
We have books in several different places around the house and they are very fluid. We have some books in the children's bedrooms. They pull these out sometimes to read or look at pictures on their own. Additionally, these are usually the books we use for bedtime stories.
Another reason we have books in the bedroom especially for my oldest, is that some of his books are just not meant for an almost 2 year old's hands. Since we don't want to risk the baby tearing through some of his favorite big boy books, we keep those in his room, out of her reach.
The remainder of the books are stored in the playroom where anyone can grab a book to look at, read, or more than likely demand someone else to read.
My kids really don't have much in the way of electronic, at least not so far. They don't have iPads or Leadpads or anything of that nature. Occasionally, I will let them play a game or two on my iPad, but we all have the understanding that it is my iPad, not theirs and they have to ask for it. I keep it in my desk.
I did give the kids an old iPhone which they occasionally use to watch videos on You Tube or take pictures. The thing is, it is so old that it doesn't really keep a charge. Therefore, if they want to use it they always have to charge it first. It also is not on a plan, so it only runs on WiFi. This phone is kept in my room and the kids have to ask for it if they want it.
As they get older, and likely receive more electronics, we may have to re-assess where we store these devices and how we grant our kids access to them, but so far, it hasn't come up.
Here are the key things to keep in mind.
Make sure that every toy has a place. Once it has been played with, it should go back to that place
If the toy is being stored in a family space, make sure it's container matches the decor of the space.
Use bins to store most if not all toys and vary the sizes to match the different sized sets.
Try to maintain that one bin of toys comes out at a time.
Accept That It Won't Be Perfect
The fact is, you're living room won't always stay perfect. You live with kids and sometimes it's gonna look that way, lol. I’ve been guilty of ALL of the following at one time or another.
-buying too much “stuff”
-buying too much little dollar store crap
-buying toys at garage sales because “hey! they’re cheap! and it’s Melissa and Doug!”
-getting too attached to certain books, toys, things
-not letting the kiddos help you sort and get rid of stuff (aka giving toys to another kid)
-spending too much on a toy and then feeling bad about getting rid of it
-thinking that it’s going to stay clean forever.
It won’t always stay clean. You’re going to have days where you feel like you are going to go crazy with the amount of toys in the living room. You are going to have to continually sort and re-sort and re-evaluate and maybe buy more bins.
But they’re toys. They’re meant to be played with. You have a home with kids, do your best but make sure it stays a fun place.