1. Purge purge purge. I know, I'm the meanest mom ever, but if a toy is broken, if parts are lost, if it is junky or something the boys don't really play with, out it goes.
2. Picky picky picky. Again with the mean mom thing, but we are seriously picky with what we let our boys play with. I think every family has to decide what is "OK" for their kids to play with, but we've set our limits and we stick to 'em. For us that includes no movie or Disney or cartoon characters (my kids don't know who Spiderman is and I love it!), nothing animated (think a talking train or dinosaur or monkey), nothing violent/war-related (guns, tanks, swords, bombs, soldiers, GI Joe), and very little battery-operated (Wii, Leap Pad, robots, remote-control, etc.). Again, we have our reasons why or why not and every family sets their own limits.
4. Simplify simplify simplify. We packed up and moved this year. Things were in storage. Our boys grew a whole year and did just fine with less while things were in storage. So when mommy unpacked, lots of forgotten, little-used or much-abused toys were immediately donated instead of finding their way back into my boys' hearts. I chose to keep the small "regular" sized legos and not the larger ones; I kept plastic dinosaurs but not a zoo-full of fluffy stuffed animals my boys were quickly growing out of.
5. Display display display. One of my favorite ways to store toys is to display them. You saw the shelves in my oldest son's bedroom above. They include his legos, a set of emergency-response vehicles and his dinosaur herd which just migrated to this display shelf (built by Grandpa) that hangs above his bed. Below is the display/storage shelf in the room my middle and youngest son share. I keep tractors and the barn there, a mommy and baby monkey they're particularly fond of, and a red fireman hat that matches their room. Priorities!
6. Store store store. At the end of our hall is a closet. I chose to use the top half to store toys. That limits how many toys are out and helps toys stay "special" for when you need them to really occupy the interest of a couple little kids!
7. Limit limit limit. This goes hand-in-hand with #6. These toys are something that the boys need to ask for because they can't reach them. Usually it's when I'm making breakfast or when I need the boys to be occupied. I give them one kind of toy--matchbox cars or their wooden train set--and that's what they all play with. Usually because the toy is "new", they're content to play together nicely for at least a few minutes. These are also the toys my older two boys can play with at rest time. They each pick a set and take it to the room they rest in and play with only that set of toys for an hour. There are a few other special toys not kept here--a set of marbles, a learning/computer game, and Jonathan's legos that he prefers to play with alone--which are allowed at rest time too.
8. Contain contain contain! These bins are awesome, and so are the shelves in each boy's room. Everything has a place and the boys know where things go. They're awesome at putting things away--which is something they've had to do (with help) since they could hold a toy. There are a couple more places in the living room for toys like blocks or their books.
10. Busy busy busy. Our kids are part of our family, obviously. We tell them we're a team and when they help, either by being obedient or by playing nicely or by doing chores, they're helping their family team. We involve them, whether it's making breakfast, doing yard work, starting the laundry, making beds, clearing the table or going out somewhere with the family.
So there you go, a few thoughts and ideas on toys, toy storage and getting away from toys! What about you, are toys taking over your life? How do you organize them? Any tips for keeping boys occupied in the winter?