If there is one question I am asked most often as a mom of many children, it’s “how do you keep your home neat and organized with 8 kids?”. And I TOTALLY get it. Large family toy organization is complicated. And KEEPING toys organized in a large family home can feel downright impossible! There are some seasons in life when expectations and standards need to be lowered. And if you’re in one of those seasons now, save this post for later! BUT, if you’re like me and NEED your space to remain tidy and clutter-free, getting organizational systems in place is sanity saving. And the secret sauce to keeping your house running smoothly within your organizational systems is getting your kids involved in clean-up from an early age!
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Our art closet
Almost all of my kids LOVE Arts & Crafts. For us, large family toy organization had to start with our art supplies. We started a massive collection of coloring books and crayons when my oldest two children were little. As they aged, and as we started adding more littles to the crew, our collection was beginning to outgrow it’s containers. Drawers were overflowing and the kids found it hard to find the things they were looking for. Shortly after adopting our 6th child we came up with the perfect solution to our problem.
We have a coat closet on the main floor of our home. Because we also have 5 bedrooms and closets, we found it easier to store each child’s coat in their room closet. So, my sweet husband spent a Saturday one summer day turning that coat closet into an art supply haven. He removed the existing wire shelf and added 3 solid wooden shelves. We purchased a few woven plastic bins from Target and gave each a specific purpose. And here’s the best part…one of the baskets is specifically for our little kids’ art creations. I go through the basket once it is full and see what should be kept and what should be tossed (spoiler alert; this Mama of 8 usually leans towards toss).
What we keep in the Art Closet
- Copy Paper (the kids call this “white paper” and go through REAMS of it)
- Scrapbook Paper
- Colored Construction Paper
- Coloring/Activity Books
- Playdoh/Kinetic Sand & accessories (on the top shelf so that its use can be monitored)
Family Game Cabinet
Another solution that has worked really well in large family toy organization is our family game cabinet. This is a giant armoire that we keep in our schoolroom. After 18 years of parenting we have collected a good number of kid (and teen) games. We have trained our youngest children to only pull one game out at a time and to clean that game up before starting another. It is definitely a work in progress, but for the MOST part our youngest kids are compliant with that rule. Not to say that Mama doesn’t sometimes need to go in and tidy the games up; especially before taking pictures for the world to see!
We do keep the games we play with our teens on the top shelf of our 16-year-old son’s bedroom closet. This keeps us from sitting down to play a competitive game of Spades, only to find some of the cards are missing from the deck!
Our favorite teen games are…
In elementary school, our now 16-year-old son was OBSESSED with puzzles. And our now 6, 8, & 9-year-olds have reaped the benefit of having quite the puzzle collection to call their own because of his hand-me-downs! Puzzles are the kind of toy that can quickly get out of hand if not monitored. As with board/card games, we expect our kids to play with puzzles one at a time. And we keep them on the top shelf of our Ikea Billy Bookcase so that they have to ask to play with them at the dining room table. That may sound strict, but they appreciate the rule when their puzzle of choice has all of its pieces!
Our favorite puzzles are…
- Melissa & Doug Floor Puzzles
- Paw Patrol Giant Puzzle
- Melissa & Doug Wooden Peg Puzzles Set
- Melissa & Doug Farm Cube Puzzle
Play Kitchen set and accessories
Perhaps the most well loved toy in our home is our Melissa & Doug Kitchen Set. It is kept in our schoolroom and our 6-year-old daughters play with it every single day. We have a large Rubber Maid Drawer set that holds all of the play dishes, silverware, etc. And we keep all of the play food on top of these drawers in a large basket.
Some of my kids’ favorite kitchen set accessorites…
- Stainless Steel Pots & Pans
- Slice and Bake Cookie Set
- Stir and Serve Cooking Utensils
- Smoothie Maker Blender Set
- Melissa & Doug Food Groups
- Pizza Party Play Set
- Condiment Set
- Scoop and Serve Ice Cream Counter
Boys Toy Closet
Now to tackle the more typical “toys” that are hard to wrangle during large family toy organization. Our 2, 8, and 9-year-old sons keep all of their toys on the floor of their closet (with the exception of their Rubber Maid Drawers filled with Legos and a hamper full of stuffed animals). We are VERY selective about the toys that come into our house! All of the toys in the boys’ closet have their own bins and every single toy has a “home”. We love toys that encourage imaginative play! Those can often be kept in a small bin purchased for storage. This makes cleaning up easy for our elementary school age children.
The boy’s closet toys include…
Girls Toy Closet
My 6, 6, & 10-year-old daughters keep most of their toys in their shared closet (with the exception of a bin of dress-up clothes, a bin of Fisher Price Little People, and an antique dresser filled with Barbies, Barbie Clothes, Calico Critters, Shopkins, and Littlest Pet Shop toys). DOLLS and doll accessories fill their toy closet! They love American Girl Dolls, Baby Alive Dolls, and Reborn Baby Dolls. To keep ALL the accessories under control, they have two small plastic drawer sets on each side of the closet.
KEEPIng your large family toys organized
Ok. That is where we keep toys in our large family home. But I can hear you asking, “that’s all great, but HOW DO YOU KEEP THE TOYS IN THEIR DESIGNATED SPOTS AT THE END OF PLAY TIME?!?“
- The first lesson we have learned after 18 years of parenting is that we don’t keep toys in our gathering rooms. All of the “toy homes” are rooms that are designated for the kids. That’s not to say the kids can’t bring toys into the living room to play, but they know they are expected to return toys promptly after playtime.
- We use the pegging system. There are certain things we do every day without fail. Meals are in that category. They are the “pegs” we stick in our day. So we’ve attached our clean-up time to lunch and dinner. The kids know that, before they sit down for the last two meals of the day, they do a thorough clean-up of all down-stairs living areas. It gets done in 5-10 minutes because there are usually 4-5 kids helping!
- I expect tidy bedrooms. I don’t handle messes very well. And I’ve found that my kids seem to have more fun playing with their toys if they are not surrounded by discarded toys! So I often remind my youngest kids to stop what they are doing and pick-up the things they aren’t currently playing with. Again, after a quick pick-up playtime can resume!
- I don’t stay on top of my 18 and 16-year-olds to clean their rooms. They know to pick-up on vacuum day, but other than that they monitor themselves and keep their rooms very tidy.
I hope that cleared up how we handle large family toy organization at our house. I would love for you to share your family’s organizational strategies in the comments below!
Check out Meet Tanna from Megavan Mama to learn more about our big fun family!