Family-Friendly Design – Toddler Toy Storage Tips

By | August 9, 2016

It’s hard to believe, but yes, we really do have a near-toddler on our hands. As Will gets more mobile and does more playing on his own, I’ve found that toy storage has become more and more important.

Will in toybox toy mess in living room

I like the idea of having a playroom dedicated to toys, but right now, that isn’t practical for us. For starters, Will plays near us because he’s still little enough he needs to be pretty closely supervised. That means he spends most of his time playing on the living room rug, the kitchen floor, or in the hallway outside our bedroom or my office.

In the living room, we have a bin of toys–no earth shattering idea there, but hey, it works and it’s cheap. In fact, none of these ideas are really earth-shattering, but it has helped us find a balance between toys being accessible and toys being out of sight…which is really the goal.  And honestly, I think the biggest takeaway from this was that we really don’t need that many toys. Anything that Will has outgrown got sorted out and things he doesn’t like were put away or gotten rid of. I know he’s young and will continue to get more toys and games as he grows, but the goal is to keep things as minimalist as possible.

Toy storage in living room in bins

Whatever fits in the bin gets to stay out and I don’t mind at all, but as the toys have increased, I needed somewhere for the rest of them. I realized that the two ottomans we use as a makeshift coffee table/foot rests/extra seating were mostly empty. And what they did have in them…was junk.

storage ottomans before

So, I cleaned those out and they got filled with the remaining toys. It isn’t a long term solution probably, because I eventually want to get an actual coffee table, I think, if I can ever find one that works in our space, but man, this is way better than just wasting that precious storage space. I mean, they are storage ottomans, after all, right?

Toy storage in living room ottoman

In the kitchen, Will only has a few toys, and those magnet to the dishwasher. There are a bunch of little magnets that go along with those but since Will can’t really grasp the concept of matching animal fronts and backs together, we only keep a few out at once and the rest stay stashed in the cabinet nearby. These probably aren’t something we would have purchased ourselves as first time parents who didn’t know what sort of toys we’d need or want, but they were given to us secondhand by a friend and I’m really thankful because it helps so much when I’m trying to cook or clean in there and need Will to be occupied.

Toy storage in kitchen with magnetic toys

He also plays with cups and a few other random kitchen items while I’m making dinner or working at the table. Those typically get stacked on the pew, or tucked in a cabinet if I’m feeling especially tidy that day.

Will playing with DIY toys makeshift kitchen toys

We’ve also found a few ways to incorporate toys into the decor, sort of.

For instance, the bookshelves in the living room are really tempting for Will to play with and if I let him, he’d remove them all into a giant pile on the floor.

I switched out a few breakable items for things he can play with now that he can reach them, and it’s been a lot better for both of us because he’s drawn to those items first and then usually forgets about the tempting books. Usually.

Toy storage in living room built in bookshelves

So, the second biggest tip that I have is to try to choose toys that look okay just sitting out. Wooden puzzles and toys are classics and even things like balls or stacking cups actually look sort of sculptural on shelves. Functional art, right? Ha! It’s not perfect, but it works for us, and that’s what family-friendly homes are all about anyway.

Toy storage in living room with built in bookshelves Will playing with cups

Thankfully, he’s pretty independent most of the time and can play for awhile on his own, but that means the toys get spread all over and he gets a whole bunch of them out at once and dragged around.

For example, when I work in my office, I keep all the other hallway doors closed and put the baby gate across the office entrance so I can still see and interact with him from my desk. I usually start out with one or two things for him to explore, then hand him more options as he gets bored with the first set, and so on and so on. And before I know it, the hallway looks like this.


And that’s okay, but we needed to pick things up several times a day so we didn’t trip on them, or stub our toes on them—I’m looking at you, Mr. Turtle.

So, we needed a place to stash toys in the hallway without just making a giant pile. That’s what we did for several weeks and it helped, but didn’t really scream “relax” as we headed to bed for the night and had to walk around the stack of haphazardly stashed books and animals. Adding a bin was a super simple fix and even though it still looks like a kid area, it feels tidier to me.

Toy Storage in Hallway 2

In Will’s room, we’re still fairly limited since when he’s in there, he’s usually sleeping or reading. But, we do have a few bins under his bookshelves that we tuck a few things into each evening as we pick up for the day.

Toy storage and book storage in nursery with DIY book ledges 2

The books are a whole topic in themselves because, you guys, we have a lot of books. I mean, a lot. Will might have more books that I do. And that’s saying something. But they are so pretty and I love the time we spend reading in there together. (CLICK HERE for a recap on how we DIYed them.)

New modern gray nursery glider from target for gender neutral nursery theme 3

We have most of his books on the upper shelves (where he can’t pull them down) and honestly, there are too many up there to really be effective so I think adding more book storage is going to be on our list of goals for next year. (Want to see how we’re doing on this year’s list? CLICK HERE.)

There are also several stashed in his closet that we’re saving until he’s a little older.

Extra Toy storage and book storage in nursery in closet

And there is a bin in the living room with some of his current favorites that we read during the day. It can be tucked under the TV stand with the bin of toys, but usually, they both sit on the hearth for easy access.

Toy storage in living room in bins under TV stand with Will looking out window

The rest are usually stacked in a pile in his room on the ottoman, side table, or even in the hall toy basket. But as our collection grows, I know we’re going to need a better system for organizing. I also will need to downsize some. It’s just hard because I like them all and Will enjoys reading so much so I feel like it’s a special bond we share.

In general, I think we’re doing okay with the toys and baby-related clutter, but this is certainly an area where I feel we have a lot of growing to do.

Toy storage in living room

I mean, Will is only a year old, so I know there are many, many more messes in our future. Plus, he got a bunch of “bigger toys” like a ride-on train and a bubble mower for his birthday that I’m still figuring out how to store and use efficiently, not to mention this pop up play area. I mean, this thing is huge. It folds up nice and neat, but still…it takes up a lot of space when he’s actually playing with it.

Basement Room Picked Up with Pop Up Play Tent

We are planning a pretty big basement storage project and really trying to think about toy storage with that. I’d love to hear your best toy storage tips for making a space truly family friendly—not just kid-friendly, but a place adults can relax and enjoy, too.

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