Inside: Learn how to organize a child’s playroom so they can learn to play independently, and so you can get a few minutes to get your stuff done too.
“Mommy, will you play with me?” I sigh, and use my favorite trick for when he asks me to play. “Honey, I will play with you, but I need 5 minutes to finish this laundry, then I’m all yours. Let’s set a timer.”
He heads to his playroom, and not even 2 minutes later, he’s back.
Not going to lie, this is getting old.
Like all kids, my son loves to play, and he wants to play with me most of the time.
But, sometimes I don’t want to, or can’t play right when he wants me to.
I know that sounds bad, but it’s been getting really bad lately. This kid just can’t seem to play by himself.
He has been having a very difficult time playing independently, and therefore always underfoot. He wants to be where we are and wants us to play with him all day long.
Seriously, he can’t play in his playroom for more than 5 minutes without seeking one of us out. I know that developmentally it’s pretty normal at his age, but it was very abnormal for him…and frustrating for us.
When this would happen before I would rotate his toys, and problem solved (at least for a few weeks).
However, I had rotated his toys not long ago and I saw little improvement.
I also noticed that he’s been struggling with independently playing since we moved into our new house.
One day out of complete frustration, I decided to go ahead and do another toy rotation.
In the middle of it, I stepped back and took look at his environment to see if anything needed a change.
Um, yep, there was a lot to be improved upon here.
Being a play therapist and also working in preschools for 4 years has taught me a bit about how to organize a playroom.
It was suddenly so clear why he was having a hard time playing in his playroom.
Problem #1: Open shelving sitting on the floor.
J never played with toys in here….I mean NEVER! And really, how could he?
He can’t see what’s inside and can’t get to them without having to be on the floor. It was just a place that he didn’t have easy access to his toys.
Problem #2: Closed shelving and drawers.
His cars are kept in the drawers and he will open and play with those daily.
However, the closed cabinet next to the drawers was never opened. There were some cool toys in there, but he didn’t explore it. Again, not an easy access to his toys.
Problem #3: Too many toys in unorganized baskets on top of shelving.
I tried very hard to keep these organized, but because of their placement, they always felt messy and out of place.
I noticed that J had difficulty focusing on these toys and they ended up being a huge mess most of the time.
The solution….a complete playroom redo!
I started off by putting away a lot of toys. I tried to keep out only 15 toys, or sets of toys. You’ll see that I went over a little bit, but there are far fewer toys out than before. I’m still working on getting rid of more.
The first thing I did was stack the shelving on top of the drawers and cabinet. This way the toys on the shelf are at eye level and J can find what he’s looking for.
- Top shelf has puzzles, microphone, cell phone, markers, paper, and stickers.
- Next shelf has two large cars with people, shape sorters, stacking cups, and wooden blocks.
- Top drawer holds all his many cars. Bottom drawer has his animals.
- About half of his food and cooking utensils are out, the rest are put away in a closet to be rotated later.
- Everything but the cars are rotated with other toys stored in the basement.
- His power tools are in the top left basket. Duplos are next to them. The bottom left basket holds puppets. Dr.’s kit is in the bottom right. A wooden stacker is on top. There are plenty of options for baskets on Amazon, like this Set of 6 Foldable Fabric Baskets if you need to purchase some so that everything has a home.
- All of these toys, except his Duplos are rotated with toys in the basement as well. As long as he continues to play with his Duplos daily, they will stay out.
He has a lot of large motor toys and I should probably have only kept out half of these. However, he plays with all of them on a frequent basis. I had a hard time choosing, so they all stayed out. This will probably change soon.
His books are on the wall next to a small reading nook (that really needs to be redone). These Set of 4 Ikea Bekvam Spice Racks make a great place to display books so children can choose by the cover.
These Melissa and Doug Cardboard Blocks are a favorite around here and stack up perfectly below his books.
Honestly, things are better.
He has more meaningful play with his toys than before the change.
He engages in more pretend play and acts out more complex scenes than I’ve seen him do in months. It’s refreshing to see him stretching his imagination and to be fully engulfed in his play.
He plays independently.
Before he wouldn’t walk into his playroom unless was with one of us. Now, he will play quietly for longer periods of time, several times throughout the day.
He still needs attention from us and prefers to play with us.
But, it’s developmentally normal at this age. I’m just happier that it’s not ALL DAY long like it was before
Tips for a kids playroom redo:
- Declutter and get rid of any broken toys or toys that are too young or too old for your child.
- Divide toys that you’d like to keep in half (or thirds) and only keep out one set of toys at a time. The rest are stored away. Rotate the toys on a schedule that works for you. See how I do it here.
- Less is More: Children can easily get overwhelmed with too many toys and will move from toy to toy without really engaging in meaningful play. The less toys there are, the more attention a child can give them. Plus, less toys means less mess! Refer to the links below for more information about this.
- Give every toy a home so that children know where everything goes. This way they can easily find the toys they want to play with and they can easily put the toys back in their home. Consider using picture labels to help keep toys organized.