Declutter Your Toys with the Montessori Method - The Bossy House

Declutter Your Toys with the Montessori Method

messy toys


Do you regularly declutter your toys?

Do your kids have piles of toys that they can't even play with because parts are missing and playsets are separated? That toy they LOVED and begged for in the store? Now it's broken and sitting in a pile with other pieces of plastic. Sound familiar? 

If your toys are strewn everywhere, chances are your child isn't really getting the maximum use out of them.

You can read up on the basic beliefs that make up the Montessori philosophy, which include ideas like reducing distractions helping children focus. And there are proven benefits to decluttering your toys

If your toys are strewn everywhere, chances are your child isn't really getting the maximum use out of them. When the doll clothes that fit this particular doll are in six separate places, the doll can't really be played with. If the race cars aren't stored together, playing with the car port isn't as fun because first your child has to search for all the cars to even play with it. 

If you want to get a handle on the toy mess, take a few tips from the Montessori philosophy that will help you get organized AND (bonus!) make playtime much more fun for your kids.  

Declutter Your Toys: Group Like Items Together

Start by putting several baskets, bins, or trays on the floor of the room. Then, start grouping like items. I put a stool in the middle of a circle of baskets (and a trash bag!) so I can sit down, and just start throwing things into piles. 

The idea is to get everything organized as the kids would play with the toys. If a set of Peppa Pig figurines is meant to be played inside the school house, put those all together. 

declutter your toys

organizing toys in the playroom

BEFORE AND AFTER: On the left, I bring all the baskets to the middle of the room. On the right, how it looks when I'm done putting like items together. 

Eliminate Visual Clutter

To declutter your toys, you should do a good amount of purging so you have fewer items to work with and the only items you're keeping are in good working order. 

So send a few bags of toys to Goodwill, and then get started by creating a space that is organized and visually appealing. 

You want to reduce the number of toys that the kids have access to at any one time. 

In our house, that means I keep a closet full of toys that The Girl doesn't have access to. Every so often, I rotate the toys out onto shelves she has access to. 

Sometimes, she does ask "can we get out the peacock puzzle?" and I oblige her. But surprise: most kids don't want to see ALL their toys at once! 

Children can’t reliably focus on any one toy when they have too many toys to visually process, so group like items together and then only put out a limited group of toys to play with at any one time. 

Make your own Montessori works

Our Montessori "works closet" stores prepared works, ready to be rotated out.

Toys Have a Purpose

Every toy now should be "presented" in a particular way to serve a purpose. Even very conventional toys could benefit from some thinking about HOW the toy will be used.  

My daughter got a light up tea set that, at first, I wasn’t thrilled about because it lit up and sang a song and all that jazz. When I watched my daughter playing with the toy, I realized that it had great potential.

The set came with six different colored pieces of plastic “cake” that could be placed on a plate. The song that the teapot sang was about what kind of tea was being poured. (The teapot changed colors according to the kind of tea). While the song played, my daughter was being asked by the teapot to match the tea and cake based on the color. Blueberry tea went with blueberry cake. 

By placing the teapot, cups, cake pieces, and plate on a large tray, she could get hours of fun with this tea set that wasn’t just “playing tea.” Sure, she and her friends poured tea and played tea time. 

But the fun of this set is that it asked her to match up the colors based on what the tea pot said. It involved listening skills, matching skills, and fine motor skills. I decided the purpose was good enough to keep the set (plus she loved it so it would have been hard to get rid of!)

You will find ways to put objects together that serve a purpose and you can make those toys meaningful and played with endlessly! 

Get Inventive

The Montessori philosophy includes an emphasis on hands-on work. That means that it's MUCH more interesting to the child to physically move items than read about them or complete a worksheet. 

Make your own Montessori activities

Moana's family hangs out with sea turtles on the sand, while an otter hides in the coral.

Last summer, we’d just returned from the beach and were having all kinds of conversations about the ocean. I got all the books about the ocean I could find at our home and neighborhood libraries, and placed those books in a basket on the table in our living room.

As we were reading the books, the concept of animal habitats came up, and I decided to use a sea animal figurine set to make an activity so she could have a hands on way to make this concept more real. 

ocean made out of felt

Using felt, I created a big ocean scene, complete with an iceberg, kelp, beach, caves, and a coral reef. That ocean scene sat on our table all summer, and she delighted in moving the right sea animals into their habitats. When she noticed one day that all of the animals that would live in the ice and snow were white, she got such a pleasure out of connecting that to the idea of camouflage and habitat!

Look for ways to reinforce concepts your child is learning through hands-on play!

Toys Get Reset Every Night

After playing with a toy, ideally it will be reset so it can be played with again.

That means that all the items go back in the basket and baskets aren't mixed.

Every evening, I reset the toys. Sometimes, my daughter helps (and we have a "reset song" to keep us motivated.) Involve your child when you declutter your toys!

coffee table kids toys

The coffee table in our house, reset for the evening. 

As she's gotten older, she has enjoyed the activity of putting things back to where they started at the end of the night. 

By doing this regularly, we are able to keep the toys ready for maximum use all the time!

Declutter Your Toys So They're More FUN!

Set up Montessori at home

These Trolls have got a new lease on life just by grouping them on a tray so The Girl can put everyone on the Caturbus.

Regular toys can still be useful and beneficial if you make them accessible, group them so all the pieces are ready to be played with, and reset them periodically. 

Here is how we are currently enjoying the Troll situation in our house.

By putting all the trolls in the smaller tray, it’s easy for my daughter to “reset” the activity when she’s done working with it by putting all the trolls in the right place. 

And the Troll bus is kind of a cool component of the activity. Each seat has a seatbelt, and the whole bus can hold 20 Trolls. She spends time securing each Troll in a seatbelt (which is harder than it seems) and then transporting them back and forth in the living room. The Troll heads can be popped off the bodies and put on different bodies, so there’s good matching skills at work here, as well as fine motor skills and some pretend play.  

I will say there’s nothing really special about this except that I have prepared the set of toys for maximum use. I require that it goes back to the right place afterwards, and it’s accessible by itself, not in a pile in her room with dolls and puzzles and stuffed animals and trucks.

Regular toys can still be useful and beneficial if you make them accessible, group them so all the pieces are ready to be played with, and reset them periodically. 

The point of spending time to declutter your toys is to get a handle on the chaos at your house. But the bonus is that your kids will ENJOY playing with their toys so much more when they are ready to play and grouped together for a purpose. 

Enjoy the decluttering!

Get this two-page Montessori Set Up Guide to get started setting up your home with Montessori principles!