We are chatting about organizing your playroom, and what you can do to make it the most play-able and easy for your kids to explore and learn (without the drag of them not cleaning things up).
Today’s guest is Kayla O’Niell. She is a research assistant in the Early Childhood Department at Indiana University. She has been working in early invention for over 10 years, and is the face behind @Baby.Toddler.Teacher on Tik Tok and Instagram. Kayla also runs the website Parentingexperttomom.com, where she is passionate about helping parents become confident! She is also the mom of two children.
This episode was inspired by my post on playroom organization: https://www.pullingcurls.com/playroom-ideas-toy-storage-space-tight/
Big thanks to our sponsor The Organized Home — making a room functional is the #1 in that class, so you’ll learn how to organize all your house to make it the most useable for ALL of you!
In this episode
How parents over-complicate storage.
Ways to make toy storage the easiest for moms & kids
How to use toy rotation to your benefit
Non-toy ideas for parents to buy kids
- Highlights Magazine: https://www.anrdoezrs.net/click-7739520-13105474
Where to get Kayla’s classes you can easily combine into your daily routines: https://babytoddlerteacher.podia.com/inspire-learning-for-babies/s5tsz, she also has a membership where you get access to ALL her stuff:
Other things that might interest you
Producer: Drew Erickson
Check out my other household tips podcasts:
[00:00:00.130] – Hilary Erickson
Hey guys, welcome back to the Pulling Curls Podcast. Today on episode 168, we are talking about organizing your playroom. We’re specifically talking about those younger kids, but there’s going to be things in here that’s good for all ages. Let’s untangle it.
[00:00:22.950] – Hilary Erickson
Hi. I’m Hilary Erickson, the curly head behind the Pulling Curls Podcast: pregnancy and parenting untangled. There’s no right answer for every family, but on this show, we hope to give you some ideas to make life simpler at your house. Life tangled, just like my hair.
[00:00:44.350] – Hilary Erickson
Today’s guest is the curly head behind the TikTok and Instagram account Baby Toddler Teacher. She also runs a website, parentingexpertmom.com, and she is a research assistant in early childhood department in Indiana University. She has been working in early intervention for over ten years. I want to introduce today’s guest, Kayla O’Neill.
[00:01:06.730] – Hilary Erickson
Do you ever just feel like it’s unfair that some people can have company over at a moment’s notice? Their house is just super easy to clean up, and they can relax on the couch with Netflix, where you feel like you always have things to do around your house that can totally be you. The organized home is here to help you simplify organizing. We’re talking about decluttering zones, organization systems that actually work. We’ve got assignments and challenges. I hope you’ll join us. You can use coupon code UNTANGLED. Look for the Organized Home link in the show notes.
[00:01:36.310] – Hilary Erickson
Hey, Kayla. Welcome to the Pulling Curls Podcast.
[00:01:38.920] – Kayla
Hello. Good to see you.
[00:01:40.560] – Hilary Erickson
Two curly haired ladies.
[00:01:42.910] – Kayla
We should talk about curls sometime.
[00:01:45.490] – Hilary Erickson
I don’t really even have much to say. They live their own life. I just live under them. Okay, so today we want to talk about play rooms, which you are an expert in.
[00:01:55.910] – Kayla
Yes. I have some ideas for children that are about birth to three and how to kind of get going on that.
[00:02:01.850] – Hilary Erickson
Okay. I think that’s awesome because parents, I think, envision like, a Pottery Barn playroom. I think in my mind that’s what I wanted, and I don’t know if that’s always the most great. So give us your tips. How do we make a great playroom for our kids?
[00:02:17.870] – Kayla
Yeah, so I think you’re exactly right. Like parents, we think about this aesthetic. Like, we want it to just be pretty. We don’t really think about creating a room that’s really child centered or functional for them. We just want it to look cute. And so I think when we’re setting it up, that’s one of the very first things that we really want to think about is how can it be functional for the child and not just the cutest aesthetic that we want as parents?
[00:02:39.520] – Hilary Erickson
[00:02:39.960] – Kayla
And so starting with that, when we’re looking at where are we going to put toys? And a lot of people will pick tons of cute little shelves or almost kind of over complicated storage. Because in our minds, I don’t know, you’re like the queen of organizing. I’m sure you’re like, I want to organize all the little toys.
[00:02:58.210] – Hilary Erickson
Right, right. And I want all of the, whatever, the Polly pockets in one bin, and I want all the animals in another bin. But somehow the poly pockets always wanted to play with the animals, and that was really disconcerting to me. Yeah.
[00:03:10.920] – Kayla
And so when we think about like, even birth to three, we want our kids, because that’s something that I worked with my parents. My child won’t pick up toys. And sometimes our expectations are not developmentally appropriate for young kids and especially that birth to three, like, okay, can my baby really help me clean up toys? So if we think all the way back to even that first year, how can a child even help clean up toys? Well, if we start with really simple storage. Before my son was born, I created a little playroom. And as far as storage in there, there were these two orange. They’re super cute orange storage bins. They were like, storage gosh, I can’t think of the name of what it is. Like the large, just like a big touch bench. Okay. Because in my mind and they had like soft edges, they were like almost like a leatherish feel. So the corners weren’t sharp. So it was very functional storage, because we could use that bench or him to pull up and stand next to the window because it had beautiful windows in there. And then the storage bench, we could just dump all the toys in there.
[00:04:13.240] – Kayla
There wasn’t a lot of organization when it came to how the toys were organized for that young, because at that point, we don’t want to set out a bunch of different things because what do you think happens when we display tons of toys for little kids?
[00:04:27.530] – Hilary Erickson
They just want to play with every single one.
[00:04:29.670] – Kayla
We just pull them down, pull them down, pull them down. So if you can find storage that is functional in a way that kind of hides the toys so that you can pull them out one at a time and put them away one at a time for that. When we’re thinking, especially that first couple of years, we want to keep it really simple and then they’re able to functionally help us put it away because it’s simple enough. It’s not over complicated, where if you can sort you want to keep the pieces together. That’s always important. You want to keep the pieces together. But if we get too complicated with storage, when we’re thinking that birth to three, they can’t functionally help and they get overwhelmed, like you said, which you’ll see that a lot and it looks gorgeous. You see these big and for some people it might work, but from an educational standpoint, I’ve worked in classrooms and stuff, and when we alter that environment, we’re going to get some different results as far when it comes to play. So if you have the beautiful 16 cubes and a toy in each one. Well, gosh, if I’m a kid, I’m going to pull that one.
[00:05:23.100] – Kayla
I’m going to pull that one. I’m going to pull that one where if they are out of sight, they can actually focus on that one toy at a time versus the 16 they want to pull down at once.
[00:05:31.060] – Hilary Erickson
[00:05:31.520] – Kayla
So that’s what I would start with is, okay, really functional storage for toys. Keep it really simple and it doesn’t have to be a fancy bench. Whatever works for you. Yeah.
[00:05:42.220] – Hilary Erickson
So my first toy room was a laundry basket because we don’t have much room. So we just had an old cracked laundry, like the handle cracked, and we would pull it out, and then we could throw all the toys back in there. But when they’re little, you don’t have tiny pieces before three or you shouldn’t. So it is pretty easy to just throw whatever it is back in the laundry basket and then shove it under the table.
[00:06:01.870] – Kayla
Yeah, that’s perfect. And then it’s functional because you can do it in any room because your child that’s the problem I ran into was having a playroom was it wasn’t as functional for that birthday because your child wants to be playing with you, so you’re going to end up draining those toys. So I kind of love that laundry basket. That should be the ideal playroom, is something that you can move from room to room to what you got to do. Because I remember that I was like, okay, now I’ve got to sit in the playroom because they’re not old enough to really be unsupervised. But I can’t really get anything else done because I’m stuck in this playroom.
[00:06:31.290] – Hilary Erickson
Right. What age do you recommend buying a toy for your kid? Really? Although your idea of toys are like mixing bowls and spoons and measuring cups.
[00:06:41.330] – Kayla
Right, right. I love using objects from real life for playing with kids. But there are lots of great toys, and you can start with those very simple baby toys. You can start with really good books, which I guess you wouldn’t consider those toys, but some of the ones for babies are more playful, that are squishy or different feelings. And we want to have like, teething toys and rattles and stuff like those things are great to have. But that’s also, I think when we’re setting up toys or thinking about buying stuff, like buy things that are functional, that can be used from birth up, sometimes we buy stuff that’s like, okay, it’s only good for about six months or whatever, and then they don’t play with it anymore. We can look at toys. Can we pick out toys that are going to stretch across time a little bit, like a good set of blocks? We can really use those from newborn, and they will still play with them till they’re five, six. If you get a good set, instead of just buying toys that are like, okay, this one is great for three months, or whatever.
[00:07:32.700] – Kayla
So buying good quality toys, buying toys that you can use in a variety of different ways, we want to be careful buying too many toys, because then it just becomes a disaster when we just buy everything.
[00:07:43.860] – Hilary Erickson
Yeah, we had some grandparents that like to send the very loud, flashy toys to us, which was super fun. It is fun to have one or two of those, I guess. And my kids always loved grandma and Grandpa’s presence, opening them, so there’s that.
[00:07:57.540] – Kayla
Yeah. And I think you’re right. Those aren’t the best, because when you buy those really loud, flashy toys, the child doesn’t actually play with them. They watch them, and that’s about it. You might get a little cause and effect from it, but it’s a lot of not playing. It’s more of a watching. They don’t really get engaged with it. So buying a ton of that, I wouldn’t recommend, but they’re cool. And you go to the store, and that whole first toy, that is all it is. That’s all it is.
[00:08:24.580] – Hilary Erickson
[00:08:25.040] – Kayla
It’s loud, bright, overstimulating toys for parents and children.
[00:08:29.570] – Hilary Erickson
Yes, parents, too, because I’d be like, I can still bring up some of the toys. One of ours, you could punch on letters, like, make a word, and it would always say, not a word, but a nice creation. My kids always will be like, that’s not a word.
[00:08:47.330] – Kayla
Yes. That’s kind of funny.
[00:08:49.640] – Hilary Erickson
Probably came up on the Sat for Spencer. Okay, so do you have more tips or little kids playrooms?
[00:08:56.520] – Kayla
So I guess if we’re talking a little bit about toys, we want to make sure we avoid getting the too many toys syndrome. And I think you can tell if your child has too many toys that they’re doing things like they’re bouncing from one toy to the next, and they’re never really engaging in anything. If there’s toys, like, everywhere, and you’re just really struggling with keeping it clean at all, if it’s time to clean up the toys and your children have no clue where the toys go, might be a sign that you have too many toys. So I think when we’re thinking about setting up that playroom, being mindful of how many toys were buying and making sure they’re good, quality, functional toys that will last more than just one stage.
[00:09:32.100] – Hilary Erickson
Yeah. What do you think about rotating out toys?
[00:09:35.310] – Kayla
That was on my list. I think that’s excellent. And like you said, there are people and there are teachers, and my brain doesn’t work this way. That have very structured rotating toy rotation systems. I could never get that fancy. Mine was like a black storage bin, and I’d be like, okay, they’re not playing with this one, this one, this one. Put it in the bin, put it in the garage for a couple of months, pull it back out, and everything is brand new again. Toy rotation an excellent idea, especially if you have too many toy syndrome going on.
[00:10:02.770] – Hilary Erickson
Yeah, big toy rotation fan. Just because we had a really small house, when we had lots of little kids at our house. And it doesn’t have to be in the garage. It can be up high. Up high in the closet is a great place to put these because your kids are that’s like another world. They never think about anything that’s up.
[00:10:18.640] – Kayla
There, and if you put it too far away, you’ll forget about it. I’m pretty sure I might have done that because it’s like, oh, I didn’t want to use a how these toys? Like, how that’s right. It’s our toy rotation system that now it’s gained cobwebs because I forgot about them. Yeah.
[00:10:32.990] – Hilary Erickson
I mean, it is a pain to switch out toys, but when you do it was like an afternoon off for me. I could just kick up on the couch, read a book. They were entertained.
[00:10:42.470] – Kayla
Yes. No. I love Toyota rotation and be as simple or as complex, because there’s some people that love to be complex with it, and they’ll pull out certain weeks, they’ll be like, okay, this week we’re doing dinosaurs, next week we’re doing cars or whatever. And they’ll get really complex with it, and that’s great. My brain doesn’t work that way. I just was simply, like, not playing with it. Put it away. So, yeah, keep it as simple or as complex. Big fan of toy rotation.
[00:11:06.470] – Hilary Erickson
Yeah, I usually just have, like, three bins, so I would just put everything in the bin. Holly in the garage, bring out the new bin. Boom. That’s probably the easiest way if you can keep some. I always wanted a variety of things, like puzzles. I think if I got just dinosaurs, I wouldn’t be happy. So I wanted a variety, for sure.
[00:11:27.690] – Kayla
No, I’m kind of the same. I never really stuck with any sort of themes with anything. Like, dinosaurs can be used in lots of different ways, so I’m not going to limit them to a week. Dinosaurs are great in the bathtub, they’re great in the sandbox, they’re great for painting, killing people. Dinosaurs. Exactly. They’re dinosaurs.
[00:11:47.790] – Hilary Erickson
Okay, so as your kid advances beyond three, I know you have older than three at your house. Do you extend this just by buying a few more toys? How do you move into those older ages where you have all the poly pockets?
[00:12:02.470] – Kayla
Yeah, that’s a great question, and I thought you were the expert on older children. My expertise goes to about three. So if you have good advice for the four to six year old range, I’m dealing with where we don’t have a playroom now. And one thing a lot of experts will say is don’t put toys in the bedroom. Because it’s like putting toys are a child’s work, like their work is to play. And so if you put toys in the bedroom, supposedly it can interfere with sleep. Now, in the house that we live in now, we don’t have a playroom. So toys are in the bedroom. And I try to like I did with the little kids play room, try to keep them out of sight unless you’re playing with them. So if you have places, if you have a closet, if you have I’m a big fan of like, storage where it’s covered, you can hide them a little bit.
[00:12:47.740] – Hilary Erickson
Yeah, it’s hard.
[00:12:48.970] – Kayla
It gets more complicated. And that’s why I quit at three because now I don’t know what to do.
[00:12:56.260] – Hilary Erickson
You’re not going to be able to answer my questions about my 22 year old? Is that what you’re telling me, Kayla?
[00:13:00.030] – Kayla
Oh, my goodness. I didn’t even know that was a thing.
[00:13:03.820] – Hilary Erickson
Yeah, I mean, I think my best tip is to simplify. And especially as we’re getting into Christmas time, here we are on Cyber Monday talking about toys, where parents are buying all these different kinds of toys. I really tried to have my kids whittle down what they really wanted for Christmas and then maybe I would buy them something that I thought was great and then cut it off.
[00:13:23.930] – Kayla
Yeah. And I think when you’ve got everybody else sending you stuff, a really good thing is to have people have some non toy ideas for kiddos. I am such a big fan of that. We get so many toys. So what are some non toy things that people can buy for the kids? Maybe it’s a magazine subscription. I know it’s really old school, but we are obsessed with magazines at our house. They’re so fun. The kids get so excited. It’s your grandparents live far away. And I remember this as a kid because that’s what my grandparents would do. They each get us like, a magazine subscription, like Highlights or Zoo books or whatever. And it was like this reminder that, oh, Grandma and Grandpa are sending you a magazine. And it’s a reminder every single month. So have them do some non toy gift options. So magazines or maybe it’s a museum pass or a state park pass or maybe a dance class or something like that. We don’t always have to give toys, but I think people always want to give toys. So maybe it’s a good idea to have some of those non toy ideas in a pocket, parents or grandparents, aunts, uncles, stuff like that, because they don’t have to deal with the toys.
[00:14:20.450] – Hilary Erickson
Yeah, it’s true. And I love that because my parents have done, like, subscriptions. There’s like the kiwi crate where they can get it every month, and then it just engages them and you get bonus points every month and it gives you something to talk about with the kids where they’re like, hey, did you get your kiwi crate? You can send it to Grandma and Grandpa if your parents live far away. It’s just a great way to stay engaged. Do you have any magazines you love.
[00:14:41.120] – Kayla
For the five year oldish? I love highlights still. That classic is still just as good as you remembered. I don’t know if you have big highlights. It’s still so good. And my child is six, he’s about to turn seven. I think we started getting our highlights because you can get it from baby on up. Like, they have a baby version for highlights, for zoo books, for all those goody ones. And I think we started getting highlights for him when he was two or three and that version was excellent. And now we still get it as a six year old. So, yeah, I’m a big fan of Highlights. I’m a big fan of the animal magazines because I feel like all kids love animals. I haven’t met one that’s like, I hate animals, so any of the animals live and like I said, a lot of these magazine companies, they go all the way down to Perth, so you can start them young, have that subscription. So those are my favorites, I would say.
[00:15:27.700] – Hilary Erickson
Yeah, we got cricket. Is that even still out there?
[00:15:30.660] – Kayla
It is. I’ve never gotten that one, though.
[00:15:33.190] – Hilary Erickson
Yeah, we really liked cricket. And then there’s one that advanced, so you can always change your subscription if you’re like. This is getting to be there’s, like, ladybug when they’re tiny and crickets when they’re older. And there’s like a space one. So magazine subscriptions are such a good idea. I think people worry that their kids are going to trash it. But my kids really treasure the magazine and it was really important to them.
[00:15:53.310] – Kayla
Well, it’s like you can not only use them just for reading and looking at, but then it’s like you can use them for making a fun collage. It’s such a random activity. But doing stuff like that with them, too, like you can keep using the magazine or let them cut out their favorite pictures and hang them up on the wall or whatever. Yeah, it’s something I think people forget about because a lot of people don’t get newspapers, a lot of people don’t get physical print, but it’s really important for a lot of different reasons and just altering it that little bit, you can kind of tap into a bunch of different skills. Yeah.
[00:16:21.570] – Hilary Erickson
And it’s not as good on your Kindle.
[00:16:24.180] – Kayla
No, it’s not.
[00:16:25.810] – Hilary Erickson
A book almost is like when my kids are reading like the babysitters club or whatever as a book on their Kindle, but a magazine is not as good.
[00:16:33.310] – Kayla
And it’s the trip out to the mailbox, the excitement, like, is my magazine there yet? Like, that anticipation. I just remember that feeling as a kid, like, is it highlights day? And run out to the mailbox and check it and I don’t know.
[00:16:46.430] – Hilary Erickson
I love that idea. So if you are looking at experiences, museum passes, zoo passes, there are so many different options. So ask around in your area when your parents are saying, what should we get Johnny for Christmas? Encourage them to buy experiences. Yes. Or take your kids for a week. Yeah.
[00:17:03.380] – Kayla
Oh, my goodness. Who wouldn’t want that?
[00:17:05.760] – Hilary Erickson
Yeah. My parents.
[00:17:08.510] – Kayla
[00:17:10.450] – Hilary Erickson
All right. Such good information. Kayla, thank you so much for coming out. Now, you guys, Kayla has classes for birth to age three, and they are amazing, and they are right in your budget because I know a lot of you are like, oh, they’re like $500. Like those prenatal classes out there. They are not. They are in your price point. And you can engage your baby, your one year old, your two year old. Anything you want to tell us about your classes, Kayla?
[00:17:31.160] – Kayla
Yeah, they’re very functional. They are based on daily routine. So it’s not one of those things where like, okay, I need to find my pipe cleaners, my Pompoms, and a list of things. This is stuff that you can do every day, because what we found is that kids learn best through repetitive practice, and one of the best ways to do that is being more mindful through daily routine. So that’s kind of the gist of the really important part is maybe it’s a little different from other things you’ve seen, but it’s not a bunch of high prep, more pressure activities. It’s getting into a different sort of mindset of looking at your day and looking for those everyday moments that can be really functional and learning experiences or babies and toddlers.
[00:18:06.010] – Hilary Erickson
Yeah. And instead of having cards, you could have your kids match your socks, and I’m all about that.
[00:18:11.720] – Kayla
And how many times do you do laundry? I mean, do people not I mean, laundry is like constant. Laundry is one of my favorite routines to work in.
[00:18:19.120] – Hilary Erickson
Kids always love laundry. Bless their heart. You know what? My kids don’t love laundry now, though, I’m going to be really honest, that ends. So if your kids are loving laundry, love it with them. All right.
[00:18:29.200] – Kayla
Yeah. Enjoy it.
[00:18:30.140] – Hilary Erickson
And definitely follow Kayla on TikTok instagram. She has so many good ideas. What’s your tik tok handle?
[00:18:36.350] – Kayla
Baby baby toddler teacher. Yeah. And that’s the same on Instagram and TikTok.
[00:18:41.460] – Hilary Erickson
And if you’re wondering if you’ve got the right one, she has bright, curly hair, so that’s your goal. All right. Thanks for coming on Kayla.
[00:18:47.290] – Kayla
Thank you for having me.
[00:18:48.370] – Hilary Erickson
I hope you guys enjoyed that episode. And if you did, and if you have kids ages six months to three, be sure and follow Kayla on TikTok. I would definitely say to take one of her classes, but at the very least, make sure that you are following her because she gives so many good tips for keeping our cool, keeping your kids engaged, helping your kids learn. So many good tips. So check out Kayla at BabyToddlerTeacher on Instagram and TikTok.
[00:19:16.630] – Hilary Erickson
Stay tuned for next week where we are talking about being positive for a C- section and then we’ll be back with the Christmas episode the week after that.
[00:19:23.910] – Hilary Erickson
Thanks so much for joining us on today’s episode. The Pulling Curls Podcast grows when you share us on social media or leave a review. If you do, please tag us so that we can share and send you a virtual hug, which, frankly, is my favorite kind of hugging. Until next time, we hope you have a tangle free day.