I posted about our activity closet (which we now call the “Game Closet”) a year ago when I first organized it. You can read about that here. I’m posting about it again because, strangely enough, it has not changed at all in all this time and, yet, it has changed a lot. I figured that made it worthy of two blog posts.
I originally made this closet because the kids were 1 and 2 years old, and were starting to get toys that had lots of pieces to them. Games, blocks, Legos, puzzles. All these things that would be unusable if we lost all the pieces. I was tired of chasing the pieces down in the kids rooms, so I decided to keep anything that required parts and pieces in one closet that was parentally controlled. It would help me keep track of all the pieces, and, ideally, help our toys to last longer. And that is exactly what has happened.
In the year that we have had this closet, the function of it has stayed exactly the same. And so have the rules. Well, just two rules. 1) You have to ask before you can play with anything in this closet, and 2) You can only play with one thing at a time. When you want to play with something else, you have to clean up what you had first and put it away before you can choose a different game.
What HAS changed about this closet are some of the things that we keep in it. I thought I’d go through what we have in our 2 and 4 year old game closet:
On the floor of the closet, I keep a crate full of plastic balls. I bought these balls for Christmas a few years ago and made a ball pit in our pack ‘n play. It was a huge hit, but eventually the kids got too big for the PNP. Now, we still use these balls, but instead of pouring them into a crib, I throw them in one of the kids rooms. There’s nothing more fun for kids than having a ton of brightly colored balls poured all over their room! They love collecting them, sorting them, throwing them, laying on them, and just about anything else you can think of. When we are done, we collect all the balls and place them back in their crate.
(ignore the labels on these crates… things have shifted around over the year!)
On the bottom shelf, I keep all the kids puzzles. Most of them fit in a medium sized plastic tub that I got at Target. The ones that don’t fit I just sit on top. I also don’t keep puzzles in boxes if the boxes are kind of flimsy. I go ahead and toss the box and throw all the pieces in a gallon baggie. It makes them easier to handle and I don’t have to worry about keeping the boxes in one piece (which never happens at our house!). Now that Bean is able to work larger floor puzzles, we are keeping more bags of puzzles around these days.
One shelf up from the puzzles, I keep our arts and crafts crate. This crate holds all our coloring books, stickers, scissors, glue, pipe cleaners, rhinestone jewels (can never have enough of these for Gracie Girl…), markers and chalk. For crayons, I bought a 99 cent plastic pencil box from Target, and we keep all our crayons in there. It’s easier for the kids to use them when they aren’t in a crayon box.
Also on this shelf is our box of colored rice (which has lasted so much longer than I thought it would!), and a toy violin my mom gave the kids for Christmas. When they strum the bow across the violin, it sounds like they are playing music. They love it, but it is a little more delicate than our other instruments, so I keep it in this closet to make sure it is taken care of.
The shelf above this is our most used shelf these days. It’s our educational toys shelf, and nowadays when the kids want to play with their “games,” this is the shelf they want to play with. One thing to note about this shelf is that this is my go-to shelf when we go out to eat. I always throw one or two activities from this shelf in my purse for them to play with at the restaurant. They are easy to take along, and they keep the kids quiet and busy.
One one side, I keep all the educational and learning books and workbooks I have collected. With a mom and a Grandmomma as a teacher, these kids are always going to have workbooks! And, for now at least, they really like them. Some focus on skills like tracing and cutting, some focus on letter and word recognition, and some focus on beginning reading.
(This is just a sample of what we have…)
On the other side of the shelf is a crate full of… stuff. It used to be just flashcards, but it has grown to include anything that stays in a baggie. Both my kids LOVE flashcards. Actually, any kinds of cards. So, I keep bags of each set for them. Keeping them in bags makes them easy for the kids to get the cards in and out all by themselves. With the boxes, I was constantly having to put the cards in and take them out because the kids couldn’t get them themselves. Bags take care of that.
Also in this crate are some new games and activities that are geared more towards Bean’s preschool age. One of his favorites (and Gracie’s now, too) are the set of magnetic letters. I bought an oil pan at Walmart (in the auto section for about $10) a couple years ago for a magnetic race track, but now we use it for magnetic letters. We spell out words and our names, and the kids love it. I store the oil pan behind Gracie’s bedroom door.
Also in this crate are several sets of lacing cards (the PERFECT activity for restaurants and for the kids to play with while I am grocery shopping!) and our ever faithful set of wooden blocks, which we’ve had since Bean was born. The blocks aren’t seeing as much action these days, but occasionally, Gracie likes to build with them still.
One of my coworkers last year brought me this bag of 500 pogs for the kids. At first, I wasn’t sure what I would do with them, but the kids love them. They love anything they can collect and sort and carry around in bags and buckets, and pogs fit the bill perfectly. They especially love playing with these and muffin tins.
The most recent addition to this crate is this mosaic tile kit. Bean got it for Christmas from Chris’s mom, but he wasn’t quite old enough for it yet, so I put it at the top of the game closet for a few months. We pulled it out this summer, and Bean has been going to town! You complete each mosaic by putting the right color and shape tile on each spot. Seems simple, but it is great fine motor coordination because you don’t want to knock everything out of place. Bean loves it!
Moving up the closet from this shelf is our outdoor shelf. On this shelf, we keep a crate full of outdoor toys. A lot of them are still outside because we have been playing with them a lot this summer. Our sidewalk chalk is outside in the driveway at the moment, and our paddle boards and balls and ring toss set are out on the back deck. But, normally, those things are on this shelf, too. Right now, there are lots of bubbles left in there.
Also on this shelf is all of our Play-Doh. We’re big Play-Doh people ’round these parts. I keep it all in a medium sized tub. I also keep some Play-Doh toys in there, as well as a plastic tablecloth. I put the tablecloth down on our coffee table in the living room so that the kids can play with it in there.
On the very top shelf, we keep actual board games. Current favorites are CandyLand, Chutes and Ladders (the super hero version, of course), matching games, Scramble, HiHo Cherry-O, Don’t Spill the Beans, Whack-a-Mole, and Don’t Break the Ice. That yellow thing is an inflatable bean bag toss that I got each of the kids a while ago. Gracie has a Disney princess one, but she was playing with it when I took this picture.
So, that’s our game closet right now. I really like this closet, and I think I’ll keep using it for many years. The games and activities will change, but the need for a storage place for things like this will continue, I’m sure. It has really helped us keep our games and toys longer, and the kids think these games are super special because they are put away. Everybody wins in the game closet!