My son has been driving my husband and I batty recently. I know that sounds bad, but he has been having a very difficult time playing independently, and therefore always under foot. He wants to be where we are and wants us 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. I found 3 major problems with how his playroom was set up.
I know the picture isn’t all that easy to see. I didn’t plan on redoing his playroom, it was very impromptu, so I didn’t take before pics. I hope I explain well enough below so you understand the problems. As always, I’ll answer any questions you might have.
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 less 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 and housed in the cabinet.
- 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 your child can choose by the cover. His blocks should go downstairs too, but we just don’t have the space for them down there.
The Outcome: Honestly, things are better.
- I’ve noticed that 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.
- Before he would hardly 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 like I said, it’s developmentally normal at this age. I’m just happier that it’s not ALL DAY long like it was before!
- It’s not perfect, and there are a few more things I’d like to change. I figure that it will always need to be looked at and revamped. But, I have seen some major improvements since the change, and that’s exactly what we needed!
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 are keeper in half (or thirds) and only keep out one one set of toys at a time. The rest are then 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.
Other Posts You Might Like
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Kim @ Little Stories
It looks like a beautiful and accessible play space. I love it!
Thanks Kim! Many of your posts on the topic have really inspired me!
Great post! I will be re-organizing my 15 month old’s play area this week. He doesn’t do a lot of independent play. Hopefully this will help!
I hope so too! Let me know if you have any questions.
This post is so clear and I love how you illustrated it with great pictures. I recently did a post on Montessori shelving and I’m delighted to see how similar our outlooks on organization are so similar. Thanks for this post, it’s inspiring me to get more motivated to fix some things around my house.
Thanks for the sweet words, Sea Mama!
I really like the white bins you used with the handles and they have a place for a photo which is awesome so the kids can put toys back where they belong… where did you find them?
I just redid our playroom after reading _Simplicity Parenting_, and I was shocked that it turned out to be true–just like you said–that putting away most of the toys means that they aren’t overwhelmed and actually see and use the toys that are out.
Amie (Triple T Mum)
The rearrangement of your child’s play space has come out really well. I hope it is still ticking along nicely 🙂 What I love about toy rotation and didn’t expect is that once the toys are out of the way it allows you to look at the environment and think about making it more inviting.
Thank you four your tips! We´re moving to a new house and I´m trying to plan my kids playroom and your post is very helpful!! =)
Thank-you for sharing, I have a big day tomorrow setting up my sons toy room. Your tips are great!
Looks like a fun space! I agree with toy rotating and “less is more”. Whenever I declutter the kids playroom and re-arrange it, they start playing in it more.
Hello I’m from the Netherlands and got here by looking at Pinterest. Ofcourse i’m not the only one having this problem :)! What I suggest you could do is to place a rug in the room. It looks cold to me with the tiles. I did’nt have a rug on our wooden floor (with floorheating!), but after I bought a (cheap) one, my dother likes to play on it for a long time (by her self).
Sometimes it just isn’t the rotation or layout alone 🙂
Thank you for this Amanda – I always enjoy reading your posts and look forward to implementing some of this when we move back in to our family home! Best, Paula
Can you come to my house and do this? :o) Seems no matter how I organize the toys, we always end up with toddler tornado
What about those random toys that don’t really belong in a set? Do they all lump together?
This is great! Reorganizing toys always gets my kids to re-discover their toys, find new ways to play with them, and it just feels better when the toys that don’t have a home or are broken beyond repair are removed.
A side note. I just recently became aware of the dangers of un-anchored furniture and fatal crushing injuries. Seems I am now seeing scary playroom setups everywhere I turn. Read up on it for yourself, but I think the stacked shelving unit could be life threatening to a child that size. Have a fun week!