I would like to decrease the toy chaos and make it simpler to involve my 20 month old daughter in picking up her toys, without creating a system that is too complicated.

We currently have 6 small bins/boxes in our living room for toys and books. Each night I end up throwing all her toys randomly into the boxes. Not entirely randomly I guess - we have one larger bin for stuffed animals, one specifically for books, and the rest goes in the 4 remaining boxes. I bought 4 small boxes rather than 1 or 2 large ones so that I could take away two of them and rotate them out every month or so, but have yet to implement this idea.

Throwing all the toys quickly back into boxes after bedtime has definitely seemed the quickest way to restore order to our house, but it's also a bit tough for her because multi-part toys get mixed up in different boxes, and it's a bit tough for me because sometimes we just let the chaos sit - it seems so pointless if it's all going to be thrown on the floor the next morning. I think it would be a good skill for her to learn to pick up her own toys someday (soon!)

Is there a better procedure and physical setup to organize toys?

  • I basically have the same system with my 4 and half daughter, the only difference being that she can help organizing toys before bedtime (we started doing this when she was 4Y old)
    – DainDwarf
    Oct 26, 2015 at 13:29
  • 1
    Rule #1 for organizing toys: Don't Bother :)
    – user3143
    Oct 26, 2015 at 15:07
  • More seriously, this seems like a reasonably good system, so I'm unsure why you think it is insufficient. We have very similar.
    – user3143
    Oct 26, 2015 at 15:09
  • I was mostly curious because I've seen a few posts on SE and elsewhere about having a specific place for a specific toy, and I was questioning whether anyone actually does it and it's useful / necessary? Like having open shelves and putting pictures on shelves to help toddlers understand where things go, or making a spreadsheet of all the toys and then putting them away and bringing them out selectively... like here, for example: wsj.com/articles/… Oct 26, 2015 at 15:51

3 Answers 3


If you have ever watched a group of children tidy up in a kindergarten then you will know that children of this age group are perfectly able to help tidy their toys if there is a clear system.

The best system will take into account the child's stage of development (there is no point for example in sorting by colour before they know their colours etc). Having toys in different categories is a good start. These categories must be simple for your child to understand.

In our home for this age group we have:

  • Books
  • Blocks
  • Dolls + Doll items
  • Cars + things with wheels
  • Home corner items
  • Animals

I have a separate box that I take care of which has difficult to handle items (such as dominoes, puzzles etc which have multiple parts), items in this box are given out at my discretion and picked up immediately after playing.

These boxes fit simply into a 8 cube shelf which sits along the wall and takes up little space while looking tidy. The other shelf holds craft supplies.

For a child of this age I would take out only one box at a time and pick up with the child before getting something new out. Make putting away fun by singing a song or offering a reward for when you are finished ("Quickly, if we pick the blocks up now we can read a story!") If toys are separate they are less overwhelming and easier to play with (rather than dump on the floor). By the age of four your child will be able to pick up with only verbal encouragement and guidance ("Do you want to pick up blocks or barbies first?" "Good job - what next?).

You didn't ask but I wonder also if you might have too many toys to handle? I have 8 boxes because I do in-home care. Children do not need as many toys as people think to be happy if the toys are carefully selected, starting by getting rid of double-ups is an easy start.


Mostly, your system is already good.

Really, your main problem is, how to get the child accustomed to cleanup - which seems like a completely different question (which I won't answer here but I encourage you to ask in a separate post)

Minor fine-tuning ideas:

  1. Make sure the books are stacked verically in the box. This way, she can try and get the book out that she wants, without spilling all the books on top of it

  2. Lego-type toys go in the separate box(es).

  3. Larger lego type (Megablocks), assemble them in big stacks. It's fun for you to do and very zen too; and fun for your child to break up in the morning.

  4. Mostly, sort toys (outside Lego and soft and books) by size. Large toys one place, smaller in a single bin.


I think you have a reasonable system for a 20m old, but as they get more types of toys you might consider placing them into categories.

Like mentioned in another answer, we keep all Lego and Duplo blocks separate (we don't allow Megablocks in our house! :) ), and the remaining toys fall into rough categories: Dolls, Animals, Cooking, Educational, etc. The categories are more conceptual and tend to morph to fit the current collection of toys. One benefit is that multi-part toys tend to fall into the right bin because we know what "category" it is pretty quickly.

If you get to strict, you end up with 10 bins, so the key is to "do what you can" but don't try to hard to stick to any rigid set of rules.

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