If you’ve ever stepped barefoot on a LEGO brick left laying in the hallway, accidentally set off an electronic robot in the middle of the night, or spent the better part of a Saturday afternoon searching for the missing piece to your twins’ Big Bird jigsaw puzzle, then it’s time to rethink how your twins organize their toys.
As every parent knows, toys have a funny way of taking over every room in the house. Part of the problem is that the average kid has more goodies than a Toys ‘R Us catalog (and with multiples, the amount rises exponentially) and it’s difficult to decide how and where to store them all. And while a toy box may seem like a great solution (just throw everything in, right?), it’s actually counter productive. Toys get mangled and broken, pieces quickly go missing, and most kids need to empty the entire box before finding what they want.
Every toy, big or small, one piece or one hundred, needs a permanent home that’s out of sight when not in use but also easily accessible to little hands when the mood to play hits. So what’s the answer? Just think small and organize your twins’ treasure trove of stuff in clear plastic storage boxes with lids, choosing the right size container for each type of toy. No more digging and hunting to find a favorite Match Box car—your little racer can now just pull out his car box. At the end of the day, clean up is easy as kids sort their toys back in the appropriate containers (you can even tape a picture of the toy that belongs inside onto the outside of the box). Your young twins can make a game of it too, as they race to see if they can clean up the living room floor in less than a minute. Even storing them is simple—they stack effortlessly in the closet, in a corner, or slide under a bed.
Yet children’s playthings cannot live by plastic containers alone. Luckily there are many other simple solutions for organizing all their accouterments. Try storing jigsaw puzzles in freezer bags (one per bag), slip Barbie and her friends into the compartments of a plastic shoe bag and hang it on the back of a bedroom door, corral baseball bats and hockey sticks in a tall wicker basket in the corner, park cars, trucks and other large toys in stackable, plastic milk crates, and stash the kids’ secret treasures (those odds and ends that they found in the park or on the beach and can’t seem to part with) in personalized old cookie tins. Display collectible toys—antique dolls or vintage train sets—on a continuous shelf built around the perimeter of your child’s room, installed one foot below the ceiling. The collection will be in full view for all to enjoy yet safe for the future. (Just be sure to secure the items in place with earthquake putty to avoid any nasty hits on the head.)
Once you’ve got the toys organized, it’s time to put an end to their invading all other areas of the house. Enact a new rule and designate a “no-toy zone” such as the living room, kitchen, or dining room. Or better yet, allocate an under-used space somewhere in the house—other than the children’s bedrooms—as a playroom where the twins can spread out and have some fun. With a little paint, some new curtains, a bit of light, and a cozy area rug, you can convert part of the garage, attic, basement, or even a large stair landing (for safety, add a gate in front of the stairs) as a new kids’ clubhouse.
Yet even with the best laid plans, toys will continue to accumulate. This is especially true with families with multiples as parents feel compelled to give their twins duplicate toys (sometimes even when the twins themselves don’t necessarily have the same interests). Fight the urge to give double of everything and instead focus on giving toys that complement each other, or one large-ticket item that can truly be shared such as a large collection of building blocks. For better or worse, however, you do need to periodically weed out old toys. Most kids, however, would rather you take their younger brother than their prized [you fill in the blank], regardless of the last time they played with it. Instead of tossing toys cold turkey, try moving a box full of unwanted playthings to the garage for a while. After a few months if you don’t hear any protests, go ahead and donate them to a local charity, or hold a garage sale and let the kids keep the proceeds from the sale.
Parents can cohabitate happily with their children’s toys. The secret to a good relationship is a bit of cooperation and a little bit of organization.