4 Rules to Make Indoor Play Engaging and Organized

4 Rules to Make Indoor Play Engaging and Organized

How is it that one day your baby’s toys fit into a single storage bin in the closet, and the next day puzzle pieces, Barbie accessories, broken crayons, and plastic figurines are taking over every room in the house? 

It’s madness.

It feels especially crazy when your kids have piles of toys to play with, but regularly tell you “I’m bored” and ask for screen time. 

Research suggests kids who have too many toys have a harder time engaging in quality play. They’re easily distracted, overstimulated, and as overwhelmed as the parents trying to corral the mess. 

How often do you look through your kids’ toy collections and do an inventory of what they actually play with? There’s a good chance they’ve forgotten about the majority of it. 

Now, we’re not suggesting that you load your car up with bags of old toys and head to the nearest thrift store–though, that could be helpful! Instead, put those bags of toys out of sight and out of mind. Fill empty garage or closet space with at least 75% of your kids’ toys packed in storage containers. 

Instantly, your play spaces are cleaner, your kids can focus on a few toys to play with vs. 100, and they’ll be thrilled every few weeks when you rotate new toys into the mix. 

Adopting this mindset, you can take playtime organization to the next level with a few more ideas that are as good for your kids’ imaginations and creativity as they are for your sanity. 

Redefine What a Playroom Is

Kids have the magical ability to play anywhere. Often, it’s the parents or the environment that create playtime challenges. 

You might be surprised that these challenges have less to do with where they’re playing. You do not need a designated playroom to facilitate more focused playtime. In fact, your kids will probably enjoy playing in the spaces they spend the most time in–the living room, their bedrooms, or at the kitchen table. 

If you live in an apartment or condo with limited space, there are a number of ways to maximize what you have. It can be as simple as buying storage cubbies that house the 10-15 toys in the current play rotation. See if you have space to create a neat and tidy play corner in any room that’s clearly sectioned off with shelves and larger toys. Maybe you have a forgotten wall or hall space that’s just big enough for cubbies and a few shelves. 

It’s especially important in smaller spaces to keep toys to a minimum so you don’t overwhelm the space. 

If your home has a playroom, treat it the way you’d treat any other room in your home. Make sure every toy is accounted for and has a designated space. Everything that’s available to play with should be easily accessible.

Minimize and Organize Toys 

If your kids are old enough, get them involved in choosing what toys they want to leave in the rotation and how they want to store them. 

Once you’ve completed this step, sort and categorize all of the items that will be in your play area. This includes books and art supplies. Sorting toys into types (dolls, blocks, cars) and putting them into labeled storage containers makes for easy access and cleanup. Clear storage containers make it really easy to find exactly what you want when you need it, but opaque storage bins easily hide messes. Find what system makes the most sense for your space and family. 

Additionally, set aside time in your calendar every few months to declutter and get rid of toys your family has outgrown or lost interest in. Help your kids feel the satisfaction of donating belongings that need a new home.

While you’re establishing a new toy management system, communicate a clear cleanup routine. Set expectations around when toys need to be picked up and put back in their places, such as before leaving the house or before bedtime. 

Make Smart Toy Choices

When you know better, you do better. Every parent will buy toys for their kids that look flashy and fun, but in reality never get playtime. 

Smol has always been committed to creating products that support open-ended play, movement, and imagination. Our bounce houses and water/sensory table work outdoors and indoors, in small spaces and large spaces. The mini bounce house fits into the smallest play areas with super simple set up, take down, and storage. 

As you move forward with a new commitment to “less is more,” take a little extra time around birthdays and Christmas to consider what toys will go the distance. There are so many great toy guides that can help you in your quest.  

Designate Craft & Quiet Time Corners

Your child’s brain comes alive in tidy, quiet spaces. It’s as if their minds can fill the emptiness left when noise and clutter disappears. 

Help these inspired, creative moments happen more often by setting up a nook where craft supplies or seasonal books live. 

We say “seasonal” assuming you’re as obsessed with buying children’s books as we are and need to rotate them out to avoid book avalanches. If you own a reasonable number of books and want to display all of them, make the extra effort to keep them organized to create zen in your reading space. We love organizing by color or using floating wall shelves so it’s easy to see book titles. 

Add some fun chairs, oversized pillows, and a rug, and your little will love sneaking away to this special spot. 

If you opt for a craft corner, you’ll want a small table or desk and storage for art supplies. Try to keep supplies simple so you can store them in a way where everything is visible. The more options you have, the bigger the mess. 

When your quiet space is ready, establish a daily “quiet time” that’s at least 30 minutes, but can last up to two hours, depending on your child’s age.

Don’t have a space to commit to quiet time? No problem! Simply store the supplies you’d keep in your hypothetical quiet time corner in organized bins. When it’s quiet time, take the craft bin out at the kitchen table and the reading bins out in the living room. 

Better yet, make your Smol Space a pop-up quiet area for simple crafts and reading. 

Take the Chaos Out of Indoor Play Once and For All

Want to raise big thinkers? Create environments that welcome big thoughts. Minimize distractions, keep toys and supplies organized, and designate time for exploration. In a maximalist world, see how practicing some minimalist hacks transform the way your kids play inside. 

It will take a bit to adjust, but it won’t be a surprise if your kids wake up one day ready to dive into an activity instead of a TV show.