Monday, March 1, 2010

Toddler Toy Storage Solution

Blogger's Note: This post was originally published in March of 2010 and was updated in November of 2015.  The updated post includes affiliate links.

On the day after Christmas, as I stood knee-deep in my daughter's toys, I decided that I needed to make a home for all of that primary-colored plastic...and fast! Since the last thing that I wanted to do on December 26th was to go shopping, I just used what I already had on hand. The picture above shows the result.

After pulling the wire storage cubes out of one of my closets, (the photo above shows 8 cubes, but you can buy a similar set of 6 on Amazon for around $30 here) I used plastic sand pails to corral blocks and balls, filled a coffee canister with foam alphabet letters, and housed finger puppets in an empty baby wipes container. I even used this plastic basin that the nurse sent home with me when I brought my daughter home from the hospital. Honestly, I don't know what its intended purpose is. Someone please tell me that it's not a bedpan. Because I suspect that it might be taboo for decorators to display bedpans in their homes.I originally thought of this storage system as a temporary solution, but then a funny thing happened. On three separate occasions, moms who were visiting my home asked if they could take a picture of our toy storage!
My first reaction was to think, "This old thing?" But as time has passed, I've discovered that these wire cubes really do work perfectly for toddler toy storage. Are they sophisticated and elegant? Nope. Are they functional? Absolutely!

I know that particle board cube organizers, such as the ClosetMaid Cubeicals 9 Cube Organizer below--currently around $40 on Amazon, are really popular for kids' spaces. My issue with them is that at 11.25" H x 11.25"W, the individual cubes are too small for many of the bulky toddler toys or larger hardcover books. My wire cubes are a generous 14.5" x 14.5", allowing ample room for...everything! Even this creepy guy:
These versatile wire storage cubes are the same type that I referenced in my earlier post about DIY Storage for "Transient" Items.

This system works well for us for a number of reasons:

1.The cubes can be configured many different ways. When bulky plastic xylophones give way to teeny, tiny Polly Pockets down the road, these wire cubes can just be repurposed for storage elsewhere in the house.

2. Coated wire grids and round, plastic corner pieces mean no sharp edges or corners for toddler head-bumping!

3. The low, wide configuration means that all toys and books are within easy reach of my daughter (now 17 months old). Better yet, she is even learning how to put her toys away! (Note: the cubes are not really designed to be "divided" as they are in the photo below. I had to use extra grids, ribbon, and some wire bookend-like parts to create these extra shelves.)
4. The low, wire cubes are very sturdy, yet lightweight in and of themselves, so I don't worry about the "tip hazard" risk that there would be with taller wood furniture pieces. I intentionally placed the heavy items: books, wooden blocks, and electronic toys, on the bottom and lighter items (such as foam letters and a foam farm animal cube) on top. The shelves have never budged, even when my daughter was first learning to walk and would pull up on them.

5. Labels on bins and buckets help with letter recognition.

6. When toys have consistent "homes", cleanup is quick and easy. No matter how "trashed" the play area gets, everything can be put back in order within 5 minutes.A system like this can also be configured to be tucked in a corner. Better yet, pull a sofa away from the wall and place the toys against the back of the sofa to create a separate play area and hide them from view!

November 2015 note: When my daughter was in preschool, I added another tier to this configuration to make it taller.  To keep visual clutter at a minimum, I concealed this whole structure with fabric as follows:  First, I used a pair of cotton valances (end to end) to cover the top and sides of the structure.  Next, I used wire to attach a narrow cafe curtain rod across the top, front edge of the structure.  Finally, I made a pair of cute, cotton curtains that could be closed across the front.  This kept my daughter's room looking neat and tidy, while allowing easy access to all toys and books when the curtains were open.

My daughter is now 7 years old.  It turned out that these cubes provided versatile, inexpensive toy and book storage right up until yesterday, when they were finally ousted by a tall, antique armoire!  The cubes are still in great shape and will live out their golden years as closet storage.

This post has been linked to Rocks in My Dryer and A Soft Place to Land.