Five simple solutions that make it easy -- and even fun! -- for kids to tidy up their toys.
MAKE A STUFFED ANIMAL ZOO
With their plush pals corralled behind these elastic bars, kids can grab them for playtime, then pile them back in when the fun is done.
Along the shelves' edges, mark spots to attach the elastic bars, spacing them 4 to 5 inches apart. With a drill, make pilot holes to match your screws.
Measure the height of the zoo enclosure, then cut strips of 3/4-inch-wide elastic that are 1 1/2 inches longer than the enclosure.
Fold under one end of an elastic strip and cut a 1/4-inch slit through both layers with a craft knife. Slip a finish washer onto a 1-inch wood screw (we used No. 8's), insert the screw through the slit, and attach it to the top shelf with a screwdriver.
Fold and make a slit in the bottom of the elastic and secure it as you did the top, then insert a final screw to secure the middle. Repeat until all the strips are attached.
To help keep all those minuscule must-haves neatly sorted and stowed, ask your child to group his treasures by type. Lay out each group on a color copier or scanner, top the items with a large sheet of paper or fabric for a clean background, and make two copies (the extra is for backup or to cover a larger drawer). Alternately, you can snap and print digital photos of the grouped items.
Trace the shapes of the drawer fronts onto the back of the images and cut them out. (We used FIRA drawers from Ikea, $15 each; similar products are sold at craft stores.)
If you plan to change the contents later, affix the cutouts with a glue stick. For a more permanent finish, brush Mod Podge onto the backs of the cutouts and the drawer fronts. Affix the cutouts, brush on more Mod Podge, and let them dry.
Storage for play figures:
We buy matching lunch boxes to store each set of small play figures (buying them at garage and clearance sales keeps costs down). My kids know where each figure belongs, plus we can grab a set to take along when we go to a restaurant or to a friend's or relative's home.
Doll clothing storage:
To make a wardrobe for her American Girl doll's outfits, my daughter, Rebecca, and I repurposed a square wooden box from a craft store. I stood the box on one end, measured and cut a wooden dowel to fit snugly inside, and hot-glued the dowel in place.
Pencils and marker storage:
Pencils and Markers
I store my daughter's drawing supplies in emptied half-liter water bottles. Kayla, age 5, finds shaking the pencils out of the bottle almost as much fun as coloring with them. And for on-the-road art sessions, the bottles fit perfectly into our van's cup holders.