Oh, toys. Many toys. Many big toys.
There's one rule to keeping these friendly faces from taking over the house: Divide and label. Everything.
Since most preschoolers can't read, these won't be your file-folder labels. Instead, use something entirely different but equally control-inspiring: picture labels.
Pictures of socks, shorts, shirts, and dinosaurs help your preschooler know where things go. Color or tape pictures on every box, bin, or bag of the items that go inside.
For example, I went online and found the Thomas the Tank Engine home page, printed it out, and taped it to my 3-year-old son's bin of Thomas toys. Now he knows exactly in which plastic tub to find and return his Thomas trains.
Here are some easy toy storage solutions for corralling playtime favorites, both indoors and out.
Instill an appreciation of your family's past by turning items with sentimental value into unique toy storage solutions for kids' precious treasures.
Turn a trunk or footlocker into a storage compartment for athletic gear or toys.
As a precaution, disengage the lock and add a safety latch or other device that keeps the lid securely open.Use a small dresser to store the kids' artwork in the family room or a child's bedroom. Store art supplies atop a dresser in metal beach pails; add a basket to hold fresh paper.
Many wooden toy chests are attractive enough toy storage to grace your living room. (Again you'll make to make sure that any chest you use has supports that will hold the hinged lid open in any position.)
Benches with storage underneath are another solution, and they can neatly camouflage an entire battalion of G.I. Joes.
Save the zippered plastic bags that new comforters come in and use them to pack away whatever stuffed animals or other toys are currently out of favor.
Use an over-the-door clear plastic shoe bag for Barbies, LEGOs and airplanes in search of a hangar.
If you're really space-crunched, create a toy library. Rotate the preschooler's faves in and out every week or so, and store the rest in another room, the basement, or attic.
Outside, you might even want to make the kids their own little outdoor room delineated by container plants. I have a sturdy blue kid-side table with six multicolor chairs in our family room that's easy to take outdoors for just such occasions.
Keep favorite toys in a wheeled container or wagon so kids can roll them outside to play. Or consider a deck storage chest for them to use a toy box. Another way to keep your yard tidy is to provide ample, accessible storage for toys in the kids' corner of the garage.
Consider what you would put in a conventional room. For little ones, provide protection from the sun with a "ceiling" (umbrella or awning), a "floor" (a quilt, splat-mat, or old blanket), and "walls" (some sort of barrier such as container plants, toy chests, or fences) that will keep them from wandering off. (Or at least slow them down.)
The older kids might want more privacy, but keep the little ones in view.
If you have a yard and small kids, you're probably running out of room. Outdoor toys, for some reason, tend to be big - very big. It takes only a few gifts from the grandparents to seriously junk up the yard.
Let's see, there's the swing set, the plastic playhouse, the sandbox, the wading pool, and the bikes and trikes. Arrgggh! Just moving the stuff to mow the lawn can take and hour.
Unless you're running a day care, set some limits on how much plastic you want in your yard. You wouldn't fill up your lawn with junked cars, why is a trashy swing set any different? Try setting some boundaries.
Give the kids one area of the patio and yard as their play area. Confine toys to that space. Help the kids keep their area tidy by limiting the number of toys that can be out at any given time, just as you do indoors.
Just because your kids have more room outside doesn't mean they can play with ten toys at one time. And the sheer quantity of toys strewn about also reduces the odds that they will actually pick them all up at the end of the day.