November 20, 2017 | Claire Russell
I am writing this blog post upon popular request for me to share how I store my resources. At this point, I feel I need to place my hand on my heart and declare to you that I am not the MOST organised person in the world and I certainly do not live the Pinterest picture perfect life.
However, I do try hard to keep my resources stored and organised to make it easier to access them, especially when in a hurry. Because we all know, when you have children at home, everything you do is in a rush. It also suits the way I work. Many of the play activities I set up for Mason are spontaneous or following his interests. I don't spend long setting up activities, because I have learnt from experience, those set up on a whim are usually the most successful! Knowing where my resources are really helps and means I know where I can quickly grab a resource to support Mason's play without disrupting it.
So now I can share with you how I do store my resources and what I feel is the best system that works for me. Please don't forget, not only do I play with my toddler day in, day out. I am an ex-teacher with a passion for play. I talk about it, post about it and preach about it so it's not surprising that I have acquired quite a large amount of resources and so therefore have had to invest in a few key pieces of storage to prevent my hoarding taking over the house and our lives!!
Right, so let's begin...
I have a double wardrobe for the majority of my resources that is located out in our garage in the garden. I bought this from Gumtree and my husband kindly added shelves for all my boxes.
Firstly I have a selection of boxes from poundshops that stack easily but are also big enough to store lots of resources. These resources are stored in themes. So for example I have a box of items I used to use with Mason as a baby so have lots of sensory elements such as pom poms, balls, rattles, puppets and bubbles. Other boxes include shiny things, items for role play such as purses, scales, phones etc and then boxes of art equipment. Another key box contains tools. Anything that could be added to an activity that would support physical development and this contains items such as scoops, tongs, tweezers etc. This box is regularly used so I keep it within grabbing distance.
Then I have a selection of labelled shoe boxes. There's just something inside me that cannot throw out a shoe box so I try to reuse them as best as I can. These boxes are labelled purely because I was fed up of pulling out the wrong ones, but I must admit I took great pleasure in labeling them and felt one step closer to being the organised Mum I hope to be!! These boxes contain collections such as writing and number resources. By having these organised it makes it such much quicker when setting up a new role play area and adding key elements. For example, the writing box contains a variety of notepads, envelopes, pens, pencils, letters, stickers, post-it notes, magnetic letters, and other resources to encourage writing. The number box contains mathematical equipment such as tape measures, scales, calculator, phone, calendar, phone book, till, money, purse, shapes and number magnets. All useful for setting up pretend play areas such as a Post Office etc. There are also boxes housing toys that we don't use very often and I will rotate every few months.
Then for larger collections of items I use under the bed storage boxes. These are lidded and also double up as effective sensory bins too due to their depth and size. I have these to store natural items which I have a large collection of and resources for adding to water such as bottles, sieves, funnels, etc.
For smaller collections of items I use tubs. Now these I did push the boat out and invested in several sets from a local household shop. I use these to store items such as drawing pins, candles, golf tees, conkers, stones etc anything small but regularly used. I feel these are really useful and easy to grab when setting out something like play dough in a hurry! If you don't have these, saving plastic jars like those used for peanut butter are just as good!
In the wardrobe there are two drawers. One of those I use to store sensory bin resources such as kernels, cereals, pasta and rice. I store most of these in zip lock bags as I reuse them regularly and are easy to bring to and from the house. I also have a few plastic hinged lidded boxes which I use to store the most commonly used sensory resources such as rainbow rice and dyed pasta. Old formula boxes or tins also work well for these as they are air tight.
The second drawer I use to store art resources for those rainy days when I feel the need to be creative! I variety of paints, card, foam, pipe cleaners, glue, paint pots, brushes, sponges, wool and a variety of scissors. This is not the prettiest of sights, but I did warn you! This is an area I would like to develop over the next year.
For any larger collections of items that are not used quite as regularly such as Halloween items, Christmas or role play sets such as the beauty salon which I have a lot of resources. I simply bag these up into plastic bags and label them for future use.
Finally, I have a small collection of trays, baskets, boxes, table cloths, mirrors and plastic sheets with the sole purpose of making activities look inviting to young eyes. They help to entice toddlers to want to play, explore and investigate so all worth holding on to.
In the house, Mason has toys in his bedroom and his playroom. Many of these are stored in drawers or Ikea storage boxes that he has access to. Every few months I mix these up to provide him with variety and depending on his interests at the time. At the moment we are interested in vehicles and tools so we have a variety of trucks, cars and every other type of transport. Then a car park, train set and rocket set. Other large toys such as castles etc are stored in the loft and I bring them out every so often.
There's also a secret collection in the house but you have to promise not to tell my husband! If he finds it, he'll bin it!! I have a collection of interesting pieces of recycling that I just cannot bring myself to throw away! Items such as chocolate boxes, bottles, shakers, tubes, tubs and egg boxes of every colour. They just have so much play potential that I know I will use them one day!!
My favourite box in the house is my box of Sugaflair food colouring pastes. This is regularly used and added to. I use the dyes to add to colour to play dough, bathtime, water play, dying pasta and rice. You can do so much with these that I feel it's worth building a collection over time. Of course Mason does not have access to these, in fact, neither does my husband!! I get a bit precious over my food colourings! I store these in an old washing tablet box that locks just in case they ever fall into the wrong hands and these are stored high up in the kitchen as I regularly require access to them.
Right, well I hope that has helped or inspired you in some way to store your play resources. It can be tricky to find what works for you. I also have a blog post about toy rotation and there are a few solutions for storing and organising for when you feel like you're 'Drowning in Toys'.