I always know it’s time to declutter kids toys when it takes longer than 5 minutes to clean up after a play session. When it comes to keeping toy clutter to a minimum, I follow the recommendations I learned while reading The Montessori Toddler.
After reading this book, I now only set 9-12 toys out at any given time in my son’s play area. That’s right, only 9-12 toys. What a difference this has made in my son’s play! When he has access to ALL of his toys at once, I notice he gets overwhelmed. He doesn’t play as deeply and he stops noticing many of the toys set out for him.
With that said, we do own more than 9-12 toys for our son. We have developed a rotation system that has been clutch when it comes to keeping our living areas organized and his entire toy collection decluttered. Here’s how we make it work in our house.
Using The Montessori Method to Declutter Kids Toys
Sort and Purge Existing Toy Collection
When it comes to purging toys, here are my rules of thumb:
- First, get rid of any broken toys or puzzles with missing parts, books with broken bindings, etc. Anything that is no longer in good shape has to go. Moving forward, we can commit to teaching our kids how to take good care of their items.
- Next, get rid of toys that aren’t serving your child – sometimes the light up toys that also make noise and spin and dance can be too over-stimulating. Here is a guide to minimalist toddler toys that might help you decide what’s worth keeping vs. donating.
- Lastly, donate toys that are no longer age appropriate. If you’re holding on to toys for future babies, and you have the storage space then that’s fine. Put them in a bin, label it accordingly, and save it until the next baby makes his or her appearance.
Another good tip for purging anything in your home – create a dedicated “donation” bin or bag that you can toss unwanted (but still usable!) items into. Commit to driving that bin to your local donation center regularly to pass those items on to others who may benefit from them.
Montessori toy categories include:
- Hand-Eye Coordination – Puzzles, threading, sorting
- Music – tambourine, maracas, triangle
- Movement – balls, balance board, balance bike
- Arts and Crafts – crayons, water colors, play dough
- Language – books, matching
- Practical Life – step stool, kids cleaning set, kids cooking and eating supplies
More ideas on great Montessori-inspired toddler toys.
Store the Extras
We have storage ottomans in our living room that house a majority of Ford’s unused toys. But as his collection grows with each birthday and holiday, we’re being forced to get creative with new places to hide extra toys.
Closets are an ideal storage hideaway. With that said, I don’t recommend storing extra toys in your child’s closet. It’s usually during naps or after bedtime that I get the chance to rotate so if my son knew where the motherload was, he’d be begging to get into his extra toys all the time! Label stackable storage bins by category, then stack them in more discrete coat closet, guest room closet, or garage shelves.
Display What’s In Use
Open shelves are what’s most recommended in Montessori books. You can use any type of shelf really so long as it is low to the ground and easy for a toddler to access. We found our small shelves via Facebook Marketplace
- Classic 2 Shelf Storage
- 12 Section Storage Shelves
- 5 Section Storage Shelves
- 36” 3 Section Shelf (for taller kids – or kids with younger siblings, easier to keep big kid toys out of reach!)
Use trays to help distinguish what’s in a “set.” For instance, display puzzle pieces for one puzzle on a tray, or corral a collection of small cars on another tray. It’s important to keep toys that have multiple parts in a “set” so your child knows they belong together.
This also makes it easy for your child to pile the toys back on the tray and place it on the shelf when they’re done playing.
- Wooden Trays – We repurposed wooden trays we were using as in-drawer organizers.
- Baking Sheets – Repurpose what you already have or invest in a few more small baking trays. Use them now as toy organization and later for kids baking projects!
- Enamel Trays – Long lasting, easy to clean, and can take a beating!
- Baskets – Corral things like books and balls in small baskets
Each time I rotate a toy, I do a mini declutter of the remaining hidden toys I rotate in. So if I want to rotate a puzzle, I do a quick sift through his puzzles box and if there are any that no longer feel appropriate for his age (that I don’t feel a need to keep for future kids). I’ll place that toy into a separate donation bin in our garage.
The cadence at which you keep your toy rotations is entirely up to you and your toddler! I usually rotate one or two toys each week when I notice my son is no longer playing with them. I do the same for books.
Kait is the founder and editor of A Clean Bee. She is passionate about discovering natural, eco-friendly, and sustainable ways to clean and organize her home. Kait has been featured in online publications such as NBC News, Oprah Magazine, BuzzFeed and PopSugar for her expertise in natural cleaning techniques. She enjoys spending her off-time outside in her garden with her husband and their two small boys.