A couple of months ago, I decided to overhaul Everett’s toys because I was so overwhelmed by the amount of toys we were accumulating. As I was going through his toys, I realized so many of them were unsustainable (meaning he’d be growing out of it soon), poorly made, and also served very little purpose. The crazy bursts of colours and large plastic structures were also taking over our entire first floor and quite frankly the clutter and disorganization was just driving me up the wall and literally giving me anxiety. It was definitely time to section off a dedicated play area and rebuild his toy collection.
We live in a tall and skinny townhouse in the city which means we don’t have the luxury of a ‘playroom’ and therefore toy storage can be challenging. But if you’re willing to sacrifice some of your adult living area, it can definitely be achieved. The key to the set up of Everett’s play area was to carve out a dedicated section for him where he can (literally) roll around as he learns to crawl and access his own toys as he grows but not sacrificing the design and flow of our open space. I really wanted all his belongings to “blend in” and create a cohesive and organized environment for all of us. Fortunately, after considering a number of configurations, mission accomplished!
The first thing on my list to tackle was finding the PERFECT play mat. I was on the hunt for a minimalistic design that matched the rest of our house, a versatile option that would allow us to modify the size as needed and of course one that was made from a safe material and comfortable for the baby. After searching for WEEKS, I finally found this Mudcloth design play mat by Yay Mats. This play mat is extra thick, easy to clean and have a non-slip backing. Best of all, it comes in six separate square pieces that can simply be adjoined together. It is also non-toxic and made from premium foam. I ABSOLUTELY adore this Mudcloth print and even pairs perfectly with the Mudcloth Nursing Pillow case that I already own. If you’re looking to section off a play area, I definitely recommend finding an option that can easily be convertible in terms of size and transitional in terms of growth. I can see this mat being used in another space even when Everett no longer needs it!
Shop the Carter Mudcloth Yay Mat (sorry, it’s SOLD OUT at the moment!)
The next on my list was finding optimal storage solutions. I debated about open shelving or one that had doors and drawers for a while. After doing some initial reading about Montessori inspired play areas (I’m now SO fascinated) and learning that open shelving offers children the opportunity to access their own toys in a neat and organized fashion – clearly, I was sold. Plus, to maximize the play area, there really weren’t too many cabinet options that weren’t too bulky.
I found THIS IKEA shelving unit for under $100 and it was literally had the perfect dimensions. It was super easy to assemble and a match made in heaven for our living area. I’d definitely be keeping it around and when we move to a bigger house, likely double up for more toy storage. Just ensure that the shelf is securely fastened to the wall to prevent your baby from toppling it over!
Shop the IKEA PS 2017 shelving unit
When it came to organizing his toys on the shelf, I focused on neatness and approachability (something I learned from “The Montessori Toddler”). I placed the larger items openly so that he can see them and find interest in them. His books are also placed on the lowest level so that he can grab them because like most babies, he absolutely loves reading. It’s all about creating an environment to encourage him to explore, touch, and be inspired to try toys in which he may not have before. I organized his little knick knacks such as cars and teethers in small clear reusable bags and tossed them into Pehr storage baskets. That way its easy for both of us to see what’s where and also I know if they are out of the bags, they need to be cleaned and put back. The Pehr storage baskets are SO great for storage and they come in a variety of sizes. The one on the shelf is the “Pint” size where as the one on the floor is the “Bin” size for reference. I plan to rotate toys every once in a while so that he can rediscover them over and over again.
Age Appropriate Developmental Toys
Ok, so let’s spend some time talking about toys. I’m sure like most new parents, I was SO overwhelmed when it came to choosing toys for Everett in the beginning. I had no idea what he would like or was suitable for him and proceeded to hoarding all sorts of items that made loud sounds and bright lights. On the other hand, after going down a Pinterest rabbit hole, I also felt pressured to create all sorts of sensory DIY toys for him, which of course, ended up feeling guilty for not doing so because I barely had the time to.
If you’re feeling the way I felt, I highly recommend trusting a reliable toy subscription box such as LOVEVERY. I had debated for months whether to subscribe and finally received our first box customized for 7-8 month old babies. I (and Everett) absolutely love the curated box of toys. If you’re looking to take the guess work out, this is it. They’ve honestly put so much TLC in filling these boxes and each come with toys that are targeted at learning and development for each specific age group. I LOVE that each box comes with instructions and explainers for the parents and caregivers on how to play with them and how they benefit the baby’s skills. I wish I made the move earlier to sign up, we would have had a great library of toys for him already and likely didn’t need to do a complete overhaul!
If you’re interested in subscribing, CLICK HERE to save $20 off your first LOVEVERY Subscription.
Affordable Wooden Toys
After starring at the mountain of plastic, battery operated toys that were piling up, I made the conscious decision to replace them with sustainable classic wooden toys that I know Everett will enjoy for a longer period of time. I also find them easier to clean and are safer for babies to mouth due to its natural materials. In general, wooden toys come at a higher price tag because of it’s durability and craftsmanship but there are some really great affordable options out there as well!
Hape has a huge selection of wooden toys targeted at almost every age group. Everett adores this Pound and Tap Bench where the wooden balls drop onto the removable Xylophone. It’s the perfect little toy that serves multiple purpose from helping him practice his fine motor skills (grabbing the balls), hand/eye coordination (passing and dropping the balls), learning colours and music!
Shop the Hape Pound and Tap Bench at Treasure Island Toys
Everett has recently also taken an interest in real fruits. He’s been grabbing all the fruits on the kitchen counter and I thought it would be a fun exercise to teach him about them with these Hape wooden fruits. I can’t tell you how entertained he is by just grabbing them, mouthing them, and pulling them apart! These are also a great started to a play kitchen in the future.
Shop Hape Pretend Fresh Fruits at Treasure Island Toys
When I was online shopping for the shelving unit at IKEA, I was curious to see what toys they had to offer. I was SO impressed by the selection of toys available and how incredibly affordable they all were. I had been searching for a wooden bead maze for a while and really glad I found this IKEA option. It came in at under $20 (STEAL!) and I love that it comes unassembled which allows you to decide how you want to thread the beads. Everett spends a happy 2 minutes with this thing on most days. He started with just feeling the beads, then proceeded to moving them around and now he likes to lift it and spin it around! DEFINITELY a must!
Shop the IKEA MULA Bead Roller Coaster we also added the MULA Abacus and MULA Block set to our collection.
Wooden Rainbow Stackers and Pyramids
I’m sure you’ve seen rainbow stackers and pyramids plastered all over Instagram. But do you know why they’re so popular? These wooden toys are a wonderful addition to your toy collection because they improve a child’s hand/eye coordination, fine motor skills, problem solving which benefits cognitive development, pattern recognition and just overall creativity – I mean have you seen the types of structures kids have been building with these things? Though Everett is not quite mature enough to ‘play’ with these yet, I had been swooning over these wooden toys handcrafted by Raduga Grez. They are SO gorgeous just like works of art. If you’re willing to splurge, Raduga Grez has so many beautiful wooden toys in their collection.
Shop the Raduga Grez Rainbow Stackers and Towers at Kol Kid.
Handcrafted Wooden Blocks and Letter Puzzles
What better way to teach baby the alphabet than through blocks and puzzles? I had been in search for the perfect set of wooden blocks and so glad I came across Tiny Maker Mind on Etsy (they are also CANADIAN!). I 100% adore these blocks, they come in a few different designs, are super high quality and handcrafted. This box of 15 have letters, numbers, and even cute little picture icons. I love that they are non-toxic, organic and made from solid maple wood. They also come with rounded corners which make them super safe for baby to mouth and smash together!
Name puzzles are really popular and doubles well as decor for baby nurseries! I had my mind set of finding a minimalistic option and found This&ThatEtc. through Instagram. They are a small online shop based in the US but ship to Canada. They carry an array of alphabet and custom name puzzles. I can’t wait until Everett can match the letters up in his name!!
Shop Minimal Set of 15 ABC from Tiny Maker Mind and Letter Puzzles from This&ThatEtc.
Overall, I’m really happy with how his play area turned out and the toys I selected for him has been a hit! He loves spending time exploring all this toys and it is amazing to see how he interacts with them differently each day. A baby’s developing brain and body is by far the most fascinating thing in life to observe!
I hope you like what I’ve pulled together for Everett. If you have any questions at all, feel free to reach out to me by leaving a comment!
LOVE the sustainable toy concept! I wish I saw more of this in the playrooms I organize. You’re so right, the plastic definitely can overwhelm a space, making it confusing for a child to play. Thanks for sharing your solution!
As a first time grandfather love your website on the toys. My grandson turns 1 on June 3rd and your website inspired me to some of the toys.