I was 16 when we moved from my childhood home, and all these years later I can still close my eyes and remember my room. I remember a lot of details, like the doll lamp illuminating my nightstand, the color of my walls, my favorite blanket. But I also remember how my room made me feel, the hours I spent as a kid completely absorbed in imaginative play, the excitement of inviting a friend into my world when my mom organized a playdate, dressing up silly and building forts with anything I could get my hands on. As a kid, my room was my sanctuary where I could play uninterrupted and dream as big as my mind would let me.
Now that I am a mom, I embrace the chaos of play in our home - after all, a messy day of play is a sign of busy brains and exploration. But of course, all the colorful toys scattered around can bring a feeling of dread to any parent trying to keep some sense of sanity and zen in their home. So how can you invite imagination into your child's room without it looking like a rainbow tornado spun through your home? Here are some tips to help you corral the chaos.
When playtime begins, out come the toys! Nothing makes clean up easier than tossing everything back into a bin (bonus points for being an easy task to get even the littlest ones involved in).
Instead of getting a lot of miss-matched storage bins and boxes, matching bins can help keep the area looking uncluttered. We like to label ours to make clean up even faster.
Get toys off the floor by using your wall space. Bookcases, wall hooks and shelves can double as room accents and storage space. Placing toys on low storage units keeps them within your child's reach during independent play.
One of my favorite hacks for imaginative play is creating a corner for masks and costumes using wall hooks. Yes, we all love those cute nooks with hangers, but teaching a toddler to put their costume in a hanger... well... let's just say we like wall hooks better 😅. Setting them up low enough that little hands can take off and put back on invites them to take initiative in their play. Plus it can save you time cleaning up.
Here's a little secret: our playhouse is hiding a wide array of little treasures collected by my kids. I'm sometimes invited to squeeze inside, but this is really their space and as such they are allowed to fill it with their favorite things without me meddling. The best part: these actually look nice in your child’s room and also conceal toys that are in use or don’t have a set home. Your little one can make their own cozy space with pillows, books, toys - all while keeping the mess a little bit hidden.
Well, this is not really a tip to help you keep your kid's room organized, is it? But I had to sneak in a reminder that play is a messy sport. No matter how many times we sing the clean up song, it's not fun cleaning up a messy room, but it is an inevitable and necessary part of playing, learning and exploring. After all, a big part of imaginative play is being allowed to experiment and break the rules.
Gamifying and making clean up part of their daily routine can help create good habits. Try making “clean up” a part of your little one's nap time or bedtime routine. As your little one nears the end of their wake window, start a calming game of “clean up”. Making this a habit early on (even before little ones can help with the tidying) helps this become a consistent part of their day.