33: How to Set up a Toy Library and Save Your Mom-Sanity

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33: How to Set up a Toy Library and Save Your Mom-Sanity Meant to Bloom

I’ve seen a lot of moms lately desperately searching for a solution to the toy mess, and mama, I feel ya! I’ve got 3 boys of my own – 2, 4, and almost 6 years old. These kids are spoiled by an over-giving grandma (thanks mom!) and the toy collection seems to constantly grow and I’m stuck cleaning up the mess. Or at least I WAS stuck with the mess, until I created our toy library.

I tried decluttering the toys, I tried a toy rotation (that proved to be more work for me), I tried shutting the door to the toy room and ignoring it (but they would just bring the toys to the living room)… Nothing was working.

In today’s episode I’m giving you the details on how to keep the toys contained in a toy library and keep your sanity intact.

Links Mentioned

How to Set up a Toy Library

Toy libraries are great because they give you the benefit of a toy rotation with less of the weekly work on your part. Your kids can see all the toys when asking for what they want to play with, and you don’t have to rotate them yourself (that may work well for babies who have one small basket to play with at a time, but when your kids are older and have accumulated quite the collection of toys, the rotation simply doesn’t work out that well anymore). 

With a toy library, all the toys are stored out of the way and in a place little ones can’t have full access to it without supervision – you know, because they like to get everything out at one time then get overwhelmed and can’t put things away. Kids have to ask for what they want to play with and over time it becomes obvious which toys are never getting played with because the top of that box becomes dusty. 

Sometimes it seems like the best solution when you’re at your wits-end is to simply get rid of all the toys. This is usually a bad idea if your kids are old enough to ask for toys. Even if they don’t play with it often (or ever) that doesn’t mean they don’t have an attachment to it, it doesn’t mean they are emotionally ready to let it go, and it’s our job to respect that. At least in my home, it’s more important that I cultivate thriving and lasting relationships with my kids based on trust and respect than it is for me to simply own as few things as possible because I can’t mentally handle the clean up. 

If you’re struggling to understand this one, imagine if your husband came into your closet and removed everything he hasn’t seen you wear in the last year and he donated that while you weren’t around. How would you feel? That’s likely how your kids would feel about their toys – even if they don’t use it right now, it still might feel violating to them.

How to set it up: 

  1. Choose where the toys will be kept and get the appropriate sized bins for the space. (we like some super cheap ones we got from Target years ago – they are flimsy and break easily, but they do the job for a small budget. I’m looking into trying out these from Amazon though). 
  2. Get out all the toys and organize them – if your kids are old enough to help, recruit them for this, if they aren’t then I suggest leaving them at Grandma’s for the day or doing this in the cover of night because little ones will undo everything you’re doing (I’m sure you know this already). 
  3. Choose a place for all the larger toys and favorite toys that don’t belong in sets – we have landed on keeping these toys in the boys’ bedrooms in their night stand drawers or under the bed. The large foam block set and gymnastics mat are the only toys we keep in the living room, while the larger trucks and dolls and favorite plush animals are in their bedrooms. 
  4. Sort all the multi piece sets into your plastic bins or the original boxes if you’ve got them and label as needed or desired. These bins and boxes should have all the sets like train tracks, cars collections, fashion dolls, family dolls sets, play sets like doctor bags or tool kits, dominos, blocks, magnet sets, building logs… you get the idea here. 
  5. Keep your kids from getting all the toys out at once. You’re in charge of how big of a mess they are allowed to make and the key to holding them accountable for their own mess is to keep the possible mess small enough that they don’t get overwhelmed by it when asked to clean it up. 

Occasionally my kids still don’t want to clean up their toys when they have them out. My simple solution is incentives. Most of the time they are willing to clean up quickly if I start the vacuum and let them know I don’t care what toys I vacuum up – mommy’s not careful. Or I offer them a cookie in exchange for all their toys being put away. A variety of incentives, both positive and negative reinforcements, will go a long way to teaching them to take care of their own things. 

I hope you’ve found this tutorial to be helpful and gives you a new sense of freedom from the toy clutter.


Published by Brittni Clarkson

Hi, I'm Brittni, author, podcaster, transformational speaker, and a mom of 3 boys, passionate about helping moms overcome the overwhelm and actually ENJOY MOTHERHOOD.

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