How do you store toys effectively?

We’ve all had those days when it feels like every single toy is out at once and your living room looks like a whole class of children have been round to play! Over the years I have experimented with different styles of toy boxes, shelving, baskets… you name it, I’ve tried it. But it is since I have been applying my ‘teacher-mode’ to my ‘mum-problems’ that I’ve started to see the wood through the trees… or should I say the floor through the toys!

The Reggio Emilia Approach and how it can help us with toy storage!

As a teacher, I have always found that the Reggio Emilia Approach has heavily influenced my philosophy of education and if you follow the PlayWorth Blog you will find that I reference it frequently. As a parent it has continued to influence the choices I make for my children. So here is a brief background of the approach and why it is relevant to toy storage!

So in very brief summary…

The Reggio Emilia Approach was founded by an Italian teacher called Loris Malaguzzi in 1963 after the second world war, when his town (called Reggio Emilia) was devastated by the destruction of the war. The town believed that their educational system needed to change and a new preschool was opened by Malaguzzi. Since then, the approach has evolved and grown in popularity across the Uk and the world. In this approach, children are viewed as strong and intelligent, with unlimited potential, keen to interact with the world. Children learn through everything and therefore their environment becomes ‘the third teacher.

So using the Reggio Emilia Approach, a child’s environment… their bedroom, their home, their garden, their walk to nursery, the supermarket … where they play with their toys… everywhere is an opportunity for children to learn!

The question: how can toys be stored more effectively…?

Answer… By creating a learning opportunity!


  1. Sort the toys by their type/ colour/ purpose.
  2. Use medium sized baskets to contain them once sorted.
  3. Label the boxes (I use parcel string and pre-cut star shaped cardboard, but sticky labels could work… it’s a personal choice).

What are the learning opportunities?

Sorting toys into the correct box at tidy up time (yes encourage them to help you tidy up), develops early mathematical skills.

Children need to learn how to sort and classify before they are able to move on to work that involves numbers, because they need to know what they are counting, before they are able to actually count them.

Reys, et al. 2012

Boxes labeled with words also encourages early literacy skills; simply when they look at the label to see what goes in each box; early reading skills are encouraged when you point to the word and tell them what it says. As well as a couple of easy words to say what goes in each box, I like to number the boxes. That way you can ask a child ‘where is box number 2?’ for example; and they can also put the boxes back in number order on the shelf too.

Young children will be learning to…Notice some print. 3 and 4 year olds will be learning… print has meaning. Children in Reception will be learning to… Read individual letters by saying the sounds for them and blend sounds into words.

Development Matters, 2021, Area of Learning: Literacy

Young children will be learning to… Count un everyday contexts. 3 and 4 year olds … Solve real world mathematical problems with numbers up to 5. Children in Reception will be learning to… link the number symbol to it’s value.

Development Matters, 2021, Area of Learning: Mathematics

How it can keep you from looking like you’ve had the whole class round to play…

Encourage children to have a small tidy up once they have moved on from an activity, (never stop an activity while they are still playing … I’ll cover this in a future blog post). Organised toy storage makes it easier to tidy up.

Remember to keep it playful! If they are reluctant to tidy, turn it into a game… ‘who can put a box of toys away the quickest?’ Using labeled toy boxes as a learning opportunity and as an organisational hack works for me, I hope it works for you too.

Follow this link to learn more about how children learn through play

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