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 will help your preschooler know where things go. Color or tape pictures on every box, bin, or bag of the items that go inside.
Here are some easy toy storage solutions for corralling playtime favorites, both indoors and out.
I like using kid-friendly storage products for games and toys, such as lidded plastic bins that tuck under the bed, roller drawers and cubbies, small bookcases, and toy drawers. Create a play area in one corner of a room where it's okay to leave big toys out. Confine it with a small, kid-friendly area rug.
Put fire trucks, trains, and larger-than-life stuffed toys in big plastic dish tubs. Stuffed toys can also be stored on wall shelves or in inexpensive stuffed animal storage hammocks.
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 in a child's bedroom. Store art supplies atop a dresser in metal beach pails; add a basket to hold fresh drawing paper.
Many wooden toy chests are attractive enough for 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.
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 standard 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 an hour.
Unless you're running a daycare, 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.