It’s 1O PM and you’re tip-toeing through the house to get to bed without waking your kids when, “OOOOUCH!” you step on a LEGO brick. Those suckers hurt. Check out these organizing solutions so that LEGO bricks don’t continue to take a bite out of your feet.
1. Sometimes less sorting is more effective for a busy family trying to pick-up small pieces in a rush. (And, aren’t we all always in a rush!) While, color-coding LEGO bricks into a divided system looks nice for a short time, it’s not usually a sustainable option for children. Unless your child is a natural organizer, everything usually ends up getting mixed together. Instead, try this mat from LaynGo that has a patented edge that keeps small pieces inside. It also quickly closes for easy carrying and storage, in case you want those LEGO pieces to travel to Grandma’s for the weekend. It comes in three sizes: 13”, 20”, and 22”. And, as and extra bonus for messy kids, it’s washable!
2. A LEGO table with built-in storage is a great way to allow children to play with LEGO pieces off of the floor, while providing an easily accessible way for them to put away the blocks. But, if you don’t like the price tag on most tables, try repurposing an old side table. The cost is about $25! Follow the directions here for a generic table. Or here for a LEGO Friends table.
3. If you don’t have enough space for a LEGO table, but like the idea of having storage and a platform for children to work on, try a play box. It’s perfect for a small collection of LEGO pieces. It's also a great idea if you like to keep the sets separate. A box for each set can be used and stacked, with a photo on the outside of the box to easily identify which set it is.
4. For older children, try a brick rack wall display system. It can hold up to 175 Minifigures, and it can also work as a canvas for their LEGO projects. Older children will love how creative they can become with this product. Pair this system with a simple plastic crate with a lid for extra pieces that aren’t being displayed.
Do you have a way of organizing LEGO sets that works for your family? Share it in the comments!
Photos (From Left): LayNGo, Fussy Monkey Business, Etsy PBandJToys
I'm in an interfaith family that celebrates both Christmas and Hanukkah during the holiday season. My daughters are the only grandchildren to four sets of grandparents. And, they also are the only nieces to a dozen aunts and uncles. Needless to say, they rake in a good amount of toys during the holiday season. It's enough to give this minimalist, decluttering mama a slight anxiety attack. But, I've learned over the years how to minimize toy clutter before the holidays in these simple steps.
1. Involve Children in the Pre-Holiday Purging Process: Decluttering can also be about giving. Talk to your children about other children who are in need. Beginning around the age of three, children start to understand that people (other than themselves) have needs, and their propensity for compassion expands. Calculate the approximate number of toys your child will receive for the holidays, and then encourage your child to select that many toys still in good, working condition to pass along to children in need. If children resist, explain that their new holiday toys will need a place to live and can't fit in your home until you make room. Giving away toys helps children recognize the needs of others and practice empathy. And, the less toys the kids have before the holidays, the more they'll appreciate the ones they receive.
2. Don't Involve Children in the Pre-Holiday Purging Process: For children under the age of three, it's better to select toys to give away without their direct assistance. Place the toys your child uses the least into a donation bin that's out of sight, and schedule the pickup/drop-off of these items for a week out. If your child specifically asks for a missing toy within the one week time frame, remove it from the donation pile and return it to their play space. (You'll be surprised how seldom this happens!) For older children, there are also items that may need to be discarded without their assistance. Remember those trinkets your kids got as a party favor at the last birthday or drive-through? Most are probably broken, and a lot aren't worth holding onto. Feel free to stick these toys in the trash receptacle when your children aren't looking.
3. Communicate with Family Members About Gift Expectations: Encourage family members to focus their gift purchases on experiences, not toys. Recent research from San Francisco University and Cornell University, found that people who spent money on experiences rather than items were happier and felt the money was better spent. Similarly, the excitement children have about a new toy quickly fades, while the joy of an experience lasts as long as the memory does. “Our experiences are a bigger part of ourselves than our material goods,” said Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell. “You can really like your material stuff. You can even think that part of your identity is connected to those things, but nonetheless they remain separate from you. In contrast, your experiences really are part of you. We are the sum total of our experiences.” Because experiences are such a part of our existence, shared experiences can help us get closer to each other in a way that things cannot. Therefore, encourage family members to purchase tickets to take your children to: the Children's Museum, the Zoo, the Aquarium, the movies, an amusement park, or another special event they can enjoy together. If family members really want to purchase toys for your child, request that each family member limit their purchases to a certain number of toys per child.
4. Set-up an Effective Organization System Before More Toys Arrive: Now is the best time to tidy your child's play space. Categorizing toys by type will help you and your children visualize how much of each type you have. Define an area for toys in your home. Store each type of toy in a bin with a label and a photo, so children can easily identify them. Once everything is tidy, it’s easier to see what toys could be donated or trashed, as well as what new toys might add some interest to your child’s play space. (Need help? Contact me.)
5. Don’t Become Attached to the Past: Perhaps there is a toy that Santa brought a couple years ago that is no longer played with. It brings back wonderful memories to visualize your children opening that toy, screaming with glee, and then playing joyfully with that toy. So, it’s natural that the thought of getting rid of it brings you sadness. But, there are other toys and experiences out there that will bring your children and you a similar sense of joy. And, new toys won’t fit into a cluttered space. Children are more creative when they have less toys, which means you can’t hold onto the old and make room for the new without overwhelming their senses. So, instead of visualizing the past, visualize another, needy child and the joy that this toy may bring him/her. It doesn’t make it painless, but it helps to know that the memories you have will always be with you, and the joy that toy brought you may come to someone else.
Now that you’ve organized your child’s play space, purged toys, and communicated with your family members, you can face the holidays without worrying about your playroom exploding! Happy Holidays!
Tired of having a melt-down every time it’s time to clean up the toys? Follow these 7 tips for clean-up success…
1. Help Children Anticipate the Clean-up… Have a specific time each day that children are expected to tidy up their toys. Creating a daily routine will help children to anticipate what’s expected, and it will cut-down on the push back and whining. Giving children a five minute warning also helps children mentally prepare for what’s coming next and finish up the task they’re currently working on.
2. Give Brief, Specific Directions… Saying, “Clean up your toys,” is too obscure for young children. Instead, give them a specific direction like, “Put all your trucks back in this bin.” For the youngest children, it may even be appropriate to hand toys to them before giving a direction.
3. Make Sure Everything Has an Easily Identified Place… If children are expected to clean up their toys, every toy needs a space to go. Use bins to designate areas for specific toys and label them with both words and pictures. Children who aren’t fully proficient at reading need a visual cue to tell them where to put things back in their place.
4. Create Boundaries… Create a designated space for toys that’s comfortable and inviting to children. If children enjoy their space, they’re more likely to stay there during play times. Having a playspace such as a desk that’s sized appropriately, or a small rug will define their play area and keep clutter to a minimum.
5. Make it Fun… There are several methods for turning clean-up time into a continuation of the fun. Play “Beat the Clock” as you work together to get the room tidy before the timer expires or a favorite song is over. Play basketball as you throw toys into their coordinating bins. Sing the Clean Up Song. See who can find the most of one color or shape of toy. Put the toys to sleep before bed. If you have fun, while reiterating to children the importance of taking care of their toys and their space, children will be more likely to want to participate in the clean-up experience.
6. Be Clear, Yet Flexible… Make sure your expectations for your family’s toys are clear. Each family has a different rule of thumb. For some families, there may be a restriction on how many toys are allowed out at a time. For others, it may be what room(s) toys are allowed. Making sure your children understand what’s expected will help control the toy chaos. However, when children are midway through a challenging puzzle or building a complex model out of Legos, be flexible. Allow these toys to stay out until children finish their accomplishment.
7. In One, Out One Policy… A lot of cluttered spaces simply have too much stuff. And too much toy clutter can overstimulate children and stifle their creativity. If your toy area seems overwhelming to you, it probably is to your children as well. Pare down the amount of toys and then have an “in one, out one” policy as new toys arrive.
This summer, I decided to take up biking again. For the past six years, my body had been primarily devoted to having and feeding babies. But with my youngest now two, it was time to get back out there. So, I took my bike in for a tune up and bought a few gadgets while I waited: those amazing padded pants so my tush didn't feel like it'd been through the blender the next day, a padded seat cover (because again, my precious tush), a pack that attached to the front handle bars, a new helmet, and a water bottle that fit into the holder. I hit the road three times that week, and it felt amazing.
Then, that weekend, my daughter asked me to get her kite out of storage. It was a rather blustery day, so I obliged. As I walked through the very neatly organized stacks of plastic bins, a label caught my eye: Biking Stuff. What?!? I'd forgotten I had this stuff! I opened the bin, and to my dismay, there were at least three of the items I'd just bought from the bike shop a few days before.
We've all put things on the shelf with the idea that someday we might need them again. We have a fear of letting go of things for that very reason- someday that thing that we spent our hard earned money on might be "needed" again. But, oftentimes, it's a lie we tell ourselves, and here's why...
Those high school skinny jeans that you might squeeze back into someday still hang in your closet. But, on the off chance that you actually do lose the weight required to peel them on, you realize they're out of style anyway. Plus it was hard work to lose the weight, so why not treat yourself to a new pair?
Your mother-in-law held on to the crib your husband slept in 30 years ago so she could use it for your children, her grandchildren, only to realize that new regulations about the slot width prevented it from being considered safe. She was heartbroken when you told her no child of yours would sleep in that death trap. (Lord only knows how we all survived.)
It's no wonder we hold onto things we "might need someday". The average US house size in 1973 was 1,660 square feet, and today it's 2,679. That's over a 1,000 sq ft increase in less than 45 years. Yet, we are having less children today than in the 70's. So, if not with more people, what do we do fill the extra space in our home with? We fill it with STUFF! Stuff to wear, stuff to entertain our children with, stuff we use, stuff we don't use, stuff we might need someday. But then stuff becomes clutter. Clutter that could have had a better life.
What if instead of holding on to those high school skinny jeans, you had donated them, before they went out of style? A young woman down on her luck wore them until they wore out. Those jeans didn't spend their life gathering dust in your closet, but gave joy to someone else.
Think about all the items in your home that could have a better life with someone else less fortunate, while you enjoyed the sanity of having a home less cluttered.
I'm warning you, though... This mindset will change your life. Once you let go of holding on to stuff, you'll start shopping differently, buying less stuff. You might even have more money to do something that makes you happy. Travel the world. Take your kids to Disney World. Because it's that "stuff" that is really worth holding onto.