How to Organize Toys for Daycare or Home
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If you work in daycare, you know it’s super tough to manage all the “stuff” we need to do the job. How can we organize toys so the kids don’t just dump them everywhere? Running a home daycare can be tough.
How to organize toys for daycare
One thing I have learned in over 20 years of keeping kids is LESS is MORE when it comes to toys. The number one way to reduce toy dumping is to offer less. We give kids way too many choices in the world today. They feel overwhelmed when we put out everything there ever was to play with in the history of the world and dumping it is how they deal with that.
And check out these room and playground ideas too.
You will see far less dumping if you take time to put out daycare toys in a mindful way. If you have a toy basket, it doesn’t need to be filled to the brim. Kids can’t see their choices that way, so they are bound to dump. Just add a few toys in the basket so they can comb through the small parts that are available and make a play selection.
I also find, when I have too many toys out, the kids don’t play with the daycare toys as meaningfully. They fight more. They get more frustrated. Again, let me repeat, less is more.
How to organize a daycare room
When kids are overstimulated with too much, they feel more nervous energy. They feel more like they need more and more. When there are a few well thought out selections of daycare toys available to them, they have more meaningful play.
For instance, recently I went through all of our play food and dishes and took out about 2/3 of them. We had them stored in a small bucket and the kids never played with the kitchen for cooking. Guess what happened when I took a lot of them out? Everyone started play cooking. They have played restaurant, chefs, momma cooking dinner, and everything you can dream of.
Before, they climbed on the kitchen, moved it around, and fought over who could get on the stove part and sit. Not only would they have ended up breaking it or getting hurt, but they were also arguing all the time. Now they are using it for imagination play. It’s like magic!
Playroom storage solutions
Having a great variety of daycare toys for your kids is great, but they don’t need access to all of it all the time. I have our playsets organized in totes. Each week someone gets to choose a tote we call the special toy for that week. The kids play with it all week long and at the end of the week we put it up. The following Monday someone gets to select a different one.
Our special daycare toys include cars and garages, Duplo blocks, Lincoln logs, doll house with furniture and people, fishing poles with fish and bean bag toss game, a farm set, a train set, you get the idea. Those things are kept on a shelf along with games, puzzles, lacing cards, dress up clothes and much more.
As we rotate supplies, kids are more engaged with those things and enjoy playing with them more. This is a solution for how to organize toys in a daycare room.
How to organize toys
Obviously, there are a lot of toys available out there. As daycare providers, we can get caught up in wanting the best and the latest of everything. You don’t really need that. A few meaningful toys can be far better than a ton of the latest and greatest.
Just remind yourself when you see a sale, less is more. And it helps you keep more of what you earn too.
We do need to find how to organize toys we have, right? There are many ways we can make toy storage neater and easier to keep up with.
Here are some great ideas of way we can do that.
Magnets for match box cars. Install a long strong magnet on the wall and let kids stick matchbox cars or other metal toys to it for storage. They can see what they have and it’s readily available to them.
You can install a myriad of different hooks that toys can be stored on. Think about dress up clothes, hats, doll bags, blankets. Even buckets of toys can go on hooks.
Hanging closet racks
Consider those hanging closet racks to organize toys on. They could hold puzzles, games, dress up clothes, shoes, hats, dolls, stuffed animals, and just about everything else.
Good sturdy shelves are a must at the children’s level and higher storage. There are a ton of different kinds available, but they will be one of the best investments you can make.
Plastic totes (I suggest clear ones) are invaluable for sorting, storing, and organizing toys. I like having all clear totes with all white lids to make the storage area look neat and organized. Beware that they are breakable, so make sure to teach the kids to be careful with them, not get inside them or climb on them or they will crack.
Milk crates and laundry baskets
Milk crates and laundry baskets are sturdier for storage the kids have access to. They usually have holes so kids can see inside as well. These are a great solution for how to organize toys because they can climb on them, fill them up, carry them around, scoot them around and all kinds of things without worry they will break and have to be replaced. I’ve been using mine for 24 years and they are still going strong.
Small drawers are a great answer to how to organize toys and art supplies too. They are great for puzzles and books also.
You can buy a toy hammock or chain for storing lots of stuffed animals in the playroom. They are great for keeping toys up and put away at times when you’re not using them. They make the room look colorful and cozy too.
Clear storage bags
Clear storage bags are great for sets of toys. Kids can see what’s in them and carry them easily.
Another great storage solution is a plastic shoe bag. They are wonderful for small dolls or barbies, could be used for dress-up accessories, musical instruments, art and craft supplies, just about anything. They are a great solution for how to organize toys for daycare and home.
Hopefully, some of these ideas will help you get a handle on the clutter in your playroom. Don’t be afraid to downsize. It’s very freeing to have fewer things to manage. Even when we sort our toys that get mixed up, it’s so much nicer to do it after we’ve gotten rid of all the broken or unloved toys or the ones that don’t add value to the kids play as much as others.
Take some time to be mindful of what value the supplies you give the toys have. Do they have something they CAN do with their bodies inside on a bad weather day? How about an inside climber or pickler triangle or even these river stones? Do they have dramatic play items to play pretend with? Do they have things that will stimulate their large and small motor skills? Things to sort and count?
Having a balance of all kinds of things to learn with but not having too much at once is the best way to organize toys for the kids.
For more tips to make running your home daycare easier, click here.
Hey Christina, do you have your themes picked for the coming year and if you do would you mind sharing them? Also our kids start back to school in two weeks so I will be getting two kids back because their Mommy’s are teachers, but on Monday and Tuesday August 12th and 13th only the teachers start then on Wednesday the 14th the kids go back, so that means on Monday and Tuesday I’m going to have some school age kids all day on those two days as well. Yikes, I’m already feeling overwhelmed. I was wondering if you had some ideas for activities to do with the older kids.
You could make stations for the big kids, one with board games, one with puzzles, one with building stuff, like blocks or whatever you have, one with art materials and just let them do “centers”. Also lots of outside time should help. And there’s no harm in a video or something if things get out of control. I feel like when you have a super hard day ahead, doing whatever makes the day go smooth is best. My themes for this year are. Apples, Fire safety, pumpkins, fall, thankfulness, Christmas, hibernation, snow, friendship, dental health, weather, plants, bees, earth, bubbles, and summer.
Hey Christina, first of all, do you have an email address, second are there any curriculums that are free or very little cost that you know of that I could use as a resource. I am the type of person that give me something to follow( not exactly to the “t”). More so for the theme. I have a hard time picking themes.
I don’t know of any free curriculums, but I like to buy the scholastic classroom magazine, clifford’s my big world and use the themes from it to build around for the year. I love to use the magazines to read with the kids every day and at the end of our theme, send them home with them. Then i add activities based on that subject for the most part. It’s about $4.80 a set i think, so I pay about $50 for the year and they come in the mail all year long. Maybe that would help? My email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hey Christina, you know how you in your blog on lesson planning and I believe in your blog on routines as well that on one day you do school(letters, numbers,colors, shapes, working on names etc.)? What kinds of activities do you do for working on their names, numbers, colors and shapes, like do you have any resources that you use for doing those things?
Every monday i recite their phone number with them and then we work on tracing their name. I start with the first letter, i make a sheet off of custom tracer pages https://www.kidzone.ws/tracers/none/index.asp and start out like if their name was mary, a page with 4 ms then a page with 4 ma then a page with 4 mar then a page with 4 mary, i make about 4 of each one, so they will just practice ms for 4 weeks, then mas, etc. For colors, numbers and shapes we do it very organically. For instance, I may pull out a game with colors and we learn colors that way, each child has a color that is theirs. Their cup, bed, blanket, pillow, etc is that color and we talk about everyone’s colors, i might count out snack, you have 6 baby carrots, when I get things ready, i have all the kids count with me as I get a number of things out, we just do it as it comes along in the day, noticing colors, patterns, numbers and shapes around us. I don’t do anything like flash cards or certain worksheets or anything like that.
Hey Christina, I hope you don’t mind me asking all these questions. I have a lot of manipulatives and math toys etc. I don’t leave them out all the time, which is ok with me because then they get dumped and thrown all over the place. But I feel like if they aren’t out then they don’t get played with. Do you have any suggestions?
I would rotate them out in a place like a shelf that kids can ask for them. Like I have a microwave cart with a few art supplies and things like that. Kids can reach them but are only allowed to get them if they ask and they know. That way they are visible. It doesn’t even have to be where they can reach, but if you can see them then you might get them more often, then once every few weeks, change them and put different things there.
And no, I don’t mind at all. I hope it’s helping and if so, I love that! 🙂
Hey Christina, me again. On your blog about setting up your daycare room, you said the shelves on the wall are what hold the special toy totes, puzzles, lacing cards and other things. You also said you have toys on the small shelves. Are those in the same room as the workbench dress up and kitchen area and what do you have on those shelves?
yes, the toys on the small shelves are the bigger trucks, two milk crates full of baby dolls, stuffed animals, the food for the kitchen, some big my little pony horses and stuff like that. 🙂 and yes, those are in the playroom with the dramatic play stuff.
Thank You. I’m getting really excited for my daycare space reorganization. We just painted the playroom and I just reorganized my storage room and am having a garage sale for all the stuff I got rid of. I mainly take care of teachers kids except for 1 three year old and my grandsons who are school aged for the summer, so I have had a little more time to do all this. Also, I wanted to ask you about your foot idea with the kids names on it. Where did you get that idea from, I like it?
I don’t remember where I got the idea. Orignally I used hands, but then I couldn’t find them, so i switched to feet. I use library book envelopes I found on amazon for the slots. I’ve also seen and used to have an apple tree on the wall and the kids would put their apples on the tree for check in.
Hey Christina, I am inquiring about your foot idea with the kids names on it. I would like to try that. Did you make that up yourself or did you get it from somewhere?
I saw it somewhere in a class years ago. We did a big apple tree on the wall originally and the kids checked in with their apples, then we switched to the library book envelopes we got off of amazon and we had hands with their names, but when i couldn’t find hands any longer, we used feet.
Hey Christina, good morning! I know by reading your blog on lesson plans that you do your own. I like the idea that you do one activity each day. My issue is I have always used curriculums that are already ready for me, but the problem with those is they have it set up that you do a circle time, art, math, literacy, science all in one day. But I never seem to get it all done and your way seems more relaxed not rushed, more enjoyable, but it makes me little nervous to try and make my own lesson plans. From reading your blog on lesson plans I saw that you had preschool plan it as a site. Do you use them a lot and what other resources do you use when making up your lesson plans for the year?
I mostly use things I remember in my head from so many years, but you could use a premade curriculum by just choosing one thing a day to do and then doing the next one the next day. It would save you a ton of money because instead of buying, say 12 packs a year, you might only need 3 or 1 or whatever. Just use what you have but do it slower and don’t worry about the time frame.
You are so welcome!
Hey Christina, you said in your lesson plan blog that you do a lot of activities that involve taking something home, what kinds of activities do you mean?
Also do you let the kids do play dough, and if you do do you make homemade playdough or do you use store bought?
We do use playdough often, I prefer store bought, but making it is great. I’m just lazy about that. 🙂 We take home our art on Wednesdays, we practice writing our names on Mondays and they take that home. About once a month we do a worksheet to take home. (Parents love that) And then the other art and craft projects that we do. Also, sometimes we make a recipe and the kids may take cookies or bread home or something we’ve made. It can be a variety of things.
Hey Christina, where did you get your wood cubby for the kids papers?
I got it from amazon. https://amzn.to/2Iu6jIm
I just can’t say thank you enough for helping me. I’ve been reading some of your resources about less is more.
I also loved reading how your day goes(blog on lesson planning). It is awesome to see how your kiddos learn each day through play.
Is there anyway to see a sample of your lesson plan? Also do you do a circle/calendar/weather time?
I don’t do circle time in that way, and my lesson plans are just the structure of the day and then I plug one activity in there, like on monday we play school and work on learning our phone numbers and writing our names, on tuesdays we do science, on wednesdays we have free art (the kids pick what we create with) and music with instruments, on thursdays we may make a craft or do a math activity. The rest of the day is basically the same every day, lots of free play, meals, story time, songs. https://littlesproutslearning.co/daycare-lesson-plans/ https://littlesproutslearning.co/routines-home-daycare/ one of these articles might help. I’m so glad you are finding my writing helpful. 🙂
Oh my goodness, I’m sorry, I just thought of more questions. Do you mean super hero dolls or baby dolls? Also, how do you organize your art supplies, and are there any that are readily accessible to the kids?
Super hero capes they can wear and baby dolls are always out. My art supplies are next to the table on a little stand, some they can reach, paper, crayons, glue sticks and markers, the rest are put up.
Also, do you not keep out any playfood?
yes, i listed play food and dishes as things that i always have out. 🙂
Christina, you have been an answer to prayer. I have been doing daycare for 20 years and have been struggling with how much toys what kind of toys to have out for almost as long. What toys do you keep out all the time and what toys do you have in bins on your shelf on the wall?
I keep out a few big push trucks, some dishes for the kitchen, a climbing toy, and some super hero capes and dolls. Then i get out other dress up clothes and put up the capes periodically. In the living room I keep out a few dinosaurs, some back packs and bags, always books, and a few small cars and small figures, toy phones and keys, and magna doodles. On the shelves I keep the farm set, the lincoln logs, the duplo blocks, some toy boats that have balls that go in them, fishing poles and fish, an action figure set of emergency stuff, like a firehouse and a hospital, a train set, a doctor set, a dollhouse with people and furniture, puzzles, lacing cards, games, that’s all i can think of right now but all of the sets of stuff and they can have out one at a time. Thanks for asking, i hope it can help!
So, those toys that you keep out all the time, do you have them on a shelf?
Some are in baskets on shelves, plain on the shelves, and some are in a laundry basket in the living room. Just cheap storage. You can check it out in this post and see how it looks. https://littlesproutslearning.co/examples-home-daycare-setup-will-inspire/
Thank you for finally helping me to see that less is more.
It helps a lot. Thanks for checking out my article.