If your kids are above the age of three, chances are good that the end of this holiday season found them gaining some sort of toy with lots of small pieces. The thing is kids don’t usually just get one toy like this—no, the accessory containing toys are frequently additions to entire lines of these things, and your kids tend to own far more than just a few of them.
In our house, Playmobil is the line our kids collect like crazy. Other parental units I know have listed such well-known lines as Barbie, Hatchimals, Littlest Pet Shop, Polly Pocket, L.O.L Surprise!, and even craft supplies as being the offenders in their homes. Building toys like LEGO, K’nex, and even the classic Lincoln Logs were also mentioned, but building type toys deserve their own post regarding organizing. For this article, I am going to focus on toys with accessories.
I have been asked how I keep my boys’ Playmobil so nice before, and the most simple answer is: we organized it up front and have maintained it ever since. As the collection grew, we organized the new sets a soon they entered our play loft. This was all done under a few specific understandings:
- A toy with small pieces is not as fun to play with if you can’t ever find the pieces.
- No one spent good money on these toys for their small pieces to be scattered all of the house, clog vacuums, act as a choking risk for younger siblings and pets, and to be stepped on by parents.
Our organizing system mostly runs on a series of plastic box type organizers and IKEA KALLAX units. This post is not being sponsored by IKEA in any way, this is just what I’ve found to be helpful product wise. I also like that KALLAX units age up better with kids than traditional toy boxes. We use them for books, board games, puzzles, as console tables, even as nightstands in other areas of the house. Other companies do make cube style organizers similar to a KALLAX unit, I just don’t know which plastic storage units fit them best.
The biggest thing that has helped us is to not just throw everything in a big box and hope that works out. Kids can’t easily find that one figure or that one accessory so they go to the quickest kid solution and dump everything out. This not only makes way more clean-up than necessary (and kids, in general, are rarely cooperative about cleaning up when they make a regrettable mess), but it also tends to let those small pieces migrate everywhere. Organizing and sorting will admittedly take work and buy-in from your kids, but I found that when I stuck to “this is how we clean this stuff up,” A did come to realize how much easier he found the things he wanted and how much faster clean up went.
For our Playmobil things, we started small and worked our way up. The smallest of accessories go in plastic units that have removable dividers. Ours came from Michael’s and I happen to know that five of these units can fit in a KALLAX cube. Your kids can even help create categories for sorting out the pieces, and if you want to go all out you can print labels for kids who can read. Our accessory containers have everything from tiny animals and their gear to little swords and helmets for knights. Anything too big to easily fit in these containers goes to the next size up container.
Our smaller boxes are 1.5 gallon IKEA SAMLAs. Again, you can use whatever brand you like, just make certain that if you plan on being able to stack them easily, you stick to one modular brand. Four SAMLA boxes can fit in a KALLAX cube, and ours tend to hold Playmobil people or furniture for our Playmobil castle. Oftentimes our people go into their boxes still holding weapons or wearing armor, an organizing compromise I made with the boys. Every so often we simply empty the boxes and grab whatever pieces that have fallen loose and put them back with the accessories. It still limits where a piece might be to a logical place and keeps stuff from going all over the house, so I still feel our goals are accomplished.
If the small boxes are not doing the trick, it might be time to move to the next size box. Our medium boxes are 3-gallon SAMLA boxes. Two can fit in a KALLAX cube on top of each other, and since they are modular, you can put two side by side 1.5-gallon SAMLA boxes on top of one 3-gallon container. When our horse, tiger, alligator, and similar sized animals got too big for a 1.5-gallon box, they moved to the 3-gallon box. We also use a 3-gallon box for our petting zoo and penguin habitat that W loves so much.
Now, what about the little playsets and bigger creatures like dragons or elephants? Those go into the 6-gallon SAMLA boxes. One of these boxes fits in a single KALLAX cube. We have also designated one for vehicles and another for catapult-like pieces and the things they can throw/shoot.
So what happens if a set is too big to fit in a KALLAX cube? Those sets we store neatly on top of the KALLAX unit itself, which makes them pretty easy for the boys to get to when they want to play with them.
Worried that you can’t get your kids to organize stuff at that level? An IKEA TROFAST unit might be a touch simpler. We use ours for LEGO because if you add a chair, then you get a playing surface on top with storage underneath. The drawer units are in three different sizes, so even if your kids won’t super organize the smallest of pieces by type, you can at least keep them limited to a small drawer. This still lets them find the toys, creates a bonus play area, and generally keeps stuff off the floor. I would probably recommend this unit for craft supplies, if you don’t have a separate crafting table.
Do you have any favorite tricks or products to help you organize your kids’ toys with small pieces? Did any of this make you think you might be able to regain your sanity?