What Are the Best Storage Solutions for Toys?

Our Work | May 21, 2013

My first question for my panel of experts is:
 How do you keep toys from taking over your house?
 What are your favorite storage solutions for toys.? 

It’s nothing revolutionary but boxes and bins, pretty much all over the house, have been a life-saver for us.  To me, the key is to keep things accessible so the kids will want to engage with them, but to also be able to hide them away later when you have company.

In our living room alone, we have two bench ottomans with bins (6 total) plus an IKEA (expedit style) 10 cube shelving unit for toys.  In the play/art/dining room we also have lots of baskets and we try to find ways to repurpose or upcycle things.  So art supplies are stored in mason jars and our old changing table now serves as a shelving unit for craft supplies, toys, and play food that goes along with our play kitchen.

By far, my favorite storage solution has been our “art center“.  I created it with IKEA supplies and a $70 budget and it’s the perfect thing for keeping messy art supplies out of reach but still visible so the kids will remember to use them.

– Stephanie , Modern Parents Messy Kids
We live in less than 1400 square feet with two rowdy boys!  Our secret is a large screened in back porch and a huge back yard.  We have a playroom but it is upstairs and very seperate from the rest of our house.  They play up there some but honestly its the storage place for toys in rotation.  The “rotation methods” works great for us.  When they are no longer playing with the train table or big wooden ship or Melissa and Doug castle, it goes upstairs. When they spot something upstairs they want to bring down we switch things out.  The same with books. My oldest has also has secret boxes on wheels for his lego creations he
can slide under his bed or other hiding places from his brother. We just put rolling casters on old soda crates for this storage. 

– Holly Mathis, Holly Mathis Interiors

We are fortunate enough to have a playroom which has really helped keep control of the toy situation around our home.  We keep all toys within the playroom, rather than stored in individual rooms.  By doing so, the kids have a fantastic place to play and the rest of the house stays tidy for living and entertaining.  Although, we are fairly laid back around here so if the kids would like to play in other areas of the home, we give them a thumbs up to bring their toys to the kitchen table or living room floor.  And our rules are fairly simple, they can keep their builds and messes out in the playroom, but not in other areas of the home.  This promotes more play within the designated play space.
I don’t expect the playroom to ever look perfect; in fact, a mess shows me they are happily using their space.  However, we do try to pick up the miscellaneous toys after each play session, and the current cities, Lego builds and train tracks are free to stay out for the next round of play.
There was a time in which I would just pick up on behalf of the kids… You know, because I could do it better and faster and it was one less battle.  But when we updated our playroom and added designated toy storage, I decided that I would hand over the ownership of the room to the kiddos.  That meant creating super simple storage solutions for their belongings, which mainly consists of baskets and picture labels.  When it came to the mounds and mounds of Lego blocks, I asked the kids to select their preferred method of storage, and they decided to go with sorting by color.  By getting the kids involved, although it wasn’t necessarily the system I would have picked, they understand it and maintain it with ease.
My biggest suggestion when it comes to kids and toys, is to really assess what the kids are interested in, and what they gravitate to time and time again.  We found that the boys were less interested in the single, random toys and more interested in the items that created larger play sets {Lincoln Logs, Legos, GeoTrax, etc…}.  By knowing this we were able to really purge out a variety of random items and focus on a few of their favorites to grow and expand on.  This was also helpful during birthdays and holidays, as we were able to let friends and family members know which toys would be the biggest hit with the kids, and reduce the chances of getting miscellaneous play-sets that we would need to create new storage for {or send off to Goodwill}. By limiting the different “kinds” of toys to a few favorites, it becomes easier to simplify the storage, and give each type of toy their own basket/bin/area.
When it comes to furniture in the playroom, we didn’t want to invest in anything too expensive, yet we wanted function for a solid chunk of time.  IKEA is great for inexpensive items that can be “hacked” to look unique and custom, and we scoured Craigslist for a great solid oak entertainment center which we painted and swapped out the hardware.  This way, the investment is low, and if something should happen to the items over the years, tears won’t be shed.
We haven’t always been blessed with a playroom, and during those times we had to get a little more creative with the toy storage, but I ultimately found that there are all sorts of ways to seamlessly integrate toys into specific play areas around the home.  Storage ottomans or low cabinets in the living room, a sideboard in the kitchen and under bed drawers or baskets in the bedroom, are all ways to create quick access to toys, yet keep them concealed away during adult time.  When our space was more limited, I found I was rotating toys around more often, keeping some in storage and others in our living areas.

– Jen , I Heart Organizing 

Luckily for me, my girls aren’t really into playing with massive amounts of toys. They would much rather do an art project, or play outside.  So I dont’ have loads of them. I do keep 2 storage totes in each of their closets for toy storage, but that’s it.  I also have a rule that everything needs to fit in them and if they get a new toy they need to give one that they don’t play with anymore away. 

I have a three-year old son (James) and live in a two-story home with all the bedrooms upstairs.  James certainly likes to hang out and play with his toys downstairs in the living room, and I like having him near me too.  But, we want the shared living room space to be comfortable for the child and adults.  I found two inexpensive toy boxes at Wal-Mart (Sauder Shoal Creek Storage Chest).  They have a safety lid (that will remain open until you close it) and space for little fingers. The dimensions are 35.2 W x 15.2 D x 18.9 H.  I put them on either side of our media center and, because they are the same color as the cabinet, we barely notice them.  And one of them is hidden behind a chair!
We mainly keep the bigger items in the toy boxes, but have baskets for organizing smaller things like cars and puzzles.  The baskets fit nice and neat inside our end table.

 Creating labels with words and pictures make it easy for James to know where the toys belong when it’s time to clean up.  I used clip are and a laminating machine to make the labels.

– Megan, Honey We’re Home

Kids these days have SO MANY toys. Between holidays and birthdays, every parents I work with is struggling with how to get toy collections under control. STEP ONE: EDIT, EDIT, EDIT. If you have older kids (ages 6+), asking them to give up 2-3 toys before their birthdays and the holiday season serves the dual purpose of making room for new additions and teaching a valuable lesson of charity. Children under 6 have a much harder time understanding the concept of “giving away their toys” so for them I recommend parents pull some lesser used toys out of the rotation. If they ask about a particular toy that you’ve pulled, that toy can magically reappear after a nap. But if after a week they don’t make any mention of a toy, I think it’s safe to donate. STEP TWO: SELECT A STORAGE SYSTEM THAT WORKS FOR YOUR SPACE AND WITH YOUR KID’S TOYS 
My 2 go-to toy storage solutions are the IKEA EXPEDIT. I love the flexibility of these units! Most kids have a mix of small and large toys and I find the EXPEDIT perfect for holding both. LEGOS, toy cars, Little People, etc can be corralled in bins and baskets. I like mixing ITSO bins from Target with Land of Nod’s Top Box Storage Collection.The ITSO bins fit the EXPEDIT cubbies so snuggly, it makes me giddy – zero wasted space. And the Land of Nod Top Box bins are colorful and transparent, making it easy for kids to find what they’re looking for. Larger toys can sit in the EXPEDIT‘s open cubbies.
If you don’t have room for a stand-alone storage unit just for toys, provide your child with a few dedicated baskets that you can lineup along a wall in your family room. Some of my favorites can be found here. Whichever storage solution you go with, I think it’s important to store like toys together and label bins (use pictures for younger kids). This helps empower kids to find what they want and facilitates easy cleanup.
– Dina, Honey & Fitz
I’m still working on this one
myself.  With four little ones it is one of my biggest challenges.  I
find that going through toys regularly is key.  Every few months I find
myself doing a bit of a purge.  However, I do find trying to keep toys
in one certain room almost impossible to do (at least while having
toddlers in tow).  One of my solutions (or ways to manage) is to have
some type of storage in every room.  That way picking up can be super
easy and fast should guests just pop over.  Baskets and bins are my
favorites for quick organization and clean up.  Some of my current faves

– Trina, La La Lovely

At our house, we have a little bit of toy storage in almost every room of the house- EXCEPT OUR KIDS BEDROOMS- because toys inevitably seem seep into every space.  In our great room, we have a couple of old wooden boxes on shelves where a few toys are kept. In our backyard we have one of those big boxes for outdoor toys and I love that thing.  In the kitchen, I’ve designated a drawer to crayons & art supplies and we also have a little “play” kitchen in the real kitchen which I love because it really occupies the kids while we cook & clean.  Only their “kitchen” toys are allowed here and I find it’s really important to keep certain toys in certain areas if things are to stay organized. In my bedroom, I keep a small basket under my nightstand to corral “left” toys & books into.  When it fills up, we take it to our main toy area and clear it out.  Our upstairs loft, which is basically a family room, is the main toy area.  Our boys’ bedrooms are right off of it so we don’t keep any toys in their bedrooms, which has been LIFE-CHANGING.  Their rooms are so easy to keep clean now that there are no toys in there.  They bring toys into their rooms to play every day, but when they clean up, the toys go into the baskets in the hutch in our family room. 
This room gets trashed pretty much every day because it’s their main play area but the baskets keep things organized.  (And I’m a bit of a Nazi about how many toys they can keep in the house at once.  We have a couple of bins of toys in the garage so the boys can swap out toys every couple of months or take out something special every now & then but we try not to keep very many toys in the house.)
– Lauren  Liess, Pure Style Home

In my own life and with
client work I have found that the majority of people don’t have a
designated playroom due to lack of space. Personally I’m in the same
boat as many of my clients and here are some tips I give them. I make
sure to have toy areas for Hudson in every level of my home. This way I
don’t have to move things back and forth where I will inevitably lose
something and add more clutter to my home plus this way Hudson can
always be entertained. Now in a nursery it’s natural to have toys out in
the open and they just add to the cuteness factor of the room, but who
wants to see fisherprice splashed all over the rest of your home? In
order to help hide the toys I have a couple of go to storage solutions.
1. A storage trunk: Many of the options out that are let’s face all wood
and boring! What’s the best part of wood? You can easily paint it and
give it new life. 2 cans of spraypaint should do the job for most trunk plus you can add a more design touch by getting a piece of foam cut to size and add a cushion on top of the lid. Now you have extra seating and a disguised toy storage solution. 

Hampers and planter baskets are no longer just made out of plastic. I
find them all of the time made out of pretty weaving with bold colors. I
use them in living rooms constantly and just fill them to brim with
toys. They add a great source of a texture to a room and no one ever
notices that they are filled with toys just how pretty they are. 3. Multifunctional coffee tables:  There are now many
storage upholstered ottomans that you can use as coffee tables so that
is always a go to option, but a lot of times I just like to work with
what I have in the space. In my own personal home I switched out all of
my design books with children’s books and my trays now hold paper and
markers for art time. Everything is out in the open so it’s easy for
Hudson to grab what he wants, but it’s also easy for me to straighten
out the books and once they are lined up no one really notices if they
are design books or kids books.

 Another great tip
for those of you that spend a lot of time in your kitchen area is to
empty out one of your bottom drawers and fill it with toys. Hudson loves
opening and closing drawers and this way he can be entertained taking
toys out and playing on the floor while I cook dinner. 

– Camila Pavone, Effortless Style 

Want to read through the answers to this question from the last Good Design with Kids in Mind series? Go here
Looking for a great storage solution for all of your toys! 
I love so many things about the Land of Nod bookshelves. The Bankable Bookcase in particular is one of my favorite solutions for toy storage. I love the bottom built-in storage compartments! This is perfect for all those bulky items like large cars, race tracks, huge balls etc. The nice thing about the bottom bins is that there are no lids so kids can easily get to their toys when they need!