Do you have a toddler who needs to be occupied while you cook dinner? Or maybe you just find your child's things have taken over your tables and counters. Well then, this post may be for you! It will show you how to create a kids activity center that can provide hours of fun for your child. My toddler loves puzzles, so a fair amount of our kids activity center is used to organize and store puzzles.
The project is super easy- if you have a closet or pantry door you can use it doesn't even require tools! If you need to mount it to your wall, then you'll need a few basics.
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Step 1: Take your space into account- where is good for your kids activity center?
My kids activity center is on the front side of our kitchen pantry door. This keeps it easily accessible to me throughout the day, and using a door made it super easy to put up. You'll want to locate yours in or near a space where your kids spend a lot of time and actually do their activities.
That said, you have to think about the space YOU have. A Pinterest-perfect idea that doesn't work in your space is anything but perfect.
For example, I used two over-the-door hanging systems. Why didn't I use the same one twice? It wasn't that these are the perfect two for every house. It was because I needed the one closer to the freezer door to be slimmer! If I'd used the larger one twice, I would either 1) not be able to fit a frozen pizza in my freezer, or 2) have to remove half of the kids activity center to fully open my freezer. Both of those were unacceptable, so I decided on a lower profile organizer for the side the freezer opens into.
You have to make this work for YOU. For YOUR space.
Step 2: Decide how much vertical space you need for your kids activity center
Do you need one hanging organizer? Two? Six? Again it is going to depend on your lifestyle, and your space.
If you have five kids you might (ok probably) need more vertical storage than I do for two. What are they into? If they paint all the time and use ALL the color options those will take some room. What ages are they? Are they old enough to prioritize their favorite things? Can you have one per child and allow them to decide what they store in it? Or one for shared items and one where each child gets a shelf for their favorites?
Make a decision as to how you want to set things up, and go for it. We're talking about things that hang on doors or nails, so it's easy to change if you decide it isn't quite right in a few months. This is your house, your space, your rules.
Step 3: Order and hang 'em up baby!
I personally went with over the door organizers. If you have a door that makes these super easy to hang up. If not, there are three good ways to hang them on the wall.
The first is the method I used, which is heavy duty picture hangers like these. The drawback to these is that the top portion above the holes won't sit perfectly flush against your wall, which you can see in my mail organizer. To me that small "imperfection" is worth the easier installation, but if you prefer you can go for another method.
The second is to get some thick fabric that can support the weight, and thread it through both holes. Then tie or sew the fabric securely, and hang it on a single wall hanger. You could still use a picture hanger like in the first, but now the picture hanger will sit above the organizer instead of behind it. If this method speaks to you there are even organizers like these that are meant to hang that way.
The third, more traditional one involves a stud finder, some nails or screws, and a hammer or drill. This is the one I would ask my father-in-law to do, because he loves those kinds of projects!
Step 4: Put some of your kids activity center things in them
Why not all of the things? Because you don't need all of the things. This kids activity center is a place you can keep puzzles, workbooks, and creative items like paint and construction paper that get used regularly. Defining regularly is up to you. It might stuff that gets used daily, weekly or weekly-ish (my personal guideline), or monthly. It isn't for everything. Once a year stuff doesn't need to be displayed where you can see it everyday.
Tip: For younger kids, put the activities you don't want them to reach by themselves (hello, paint!) in the top shelf or shelves.
Step 5: Use them and enjoy your clean counters
Clean visual space can legit lower our cortisol levels. If you were looking for an easy way to declutter things your kids actually use then congrats! You've done it! Go make yourself a cup of coffee or tea and enjoy the fruits of your labor.
Additional Kids Activity Center Tips for Toddler Moms
Since most of us toddler moms have similar things in our bins, here are some tips for storing favorite toddler items in your new kids activity center.
Some puzzles I keep in the original boxes, but that's not always an option. The boxes can be too bulky, and I know a few have been damaged by my toddler stepping on them! Most of the time I store them in one of three things: ziplock bags, clear pencil pouches, or the plastic zip bags that bedsheets often come packaged in.
Since puzzles don't tend to make a hard-to-clean mess with, I mostly keep these on the bottom rungs of the kids activity center.
Two words: Highest. Shelf. Or pocket. Or basket. Whatever you call it, keep the paint in the one that's hardest for little hands to reach.
This is an item where I recommend keeping the original container, because that should hold them well within the organizer. If that packaging is long gone, opt for a sealable bag that the paint won't escape from if (when!) a lid doesn't get fully closed.
These are easier to remove than paint, but still not a great one to find the kids got into during the 2 minutes you were in the bathroom. I like to stick the sheets of stickers behind things in some of the higher baskets. If you have a pretty large collection, then consider using file folders to organize them- most wall organizers (including mine) fit them perfectly.
You guessed it. Top shelf or two. I personally find this easier to clean than paint, but with two organizers on a door I can keep both in the top section. My good friend swears by these mess free sets, but I dislike the few second delay in the ink displaying on the paper, plus you have to buy and use the specific paper. I find these to be a good alternative, which easily wipe up off my kitchen table with a wet cloth.
The coloring books and paper itself I keep in lower baskets. Usually not the lowest, but not to keep it out of reach. I just prefer the lowest shelves to have things my son can grab freely and not need other materials for, like puzzles or flash cards.
Quantities to store in your Kids Activity Center
So you get your organizers hung up, and start putting things in, and it looks great! Let's talk about what happens when it fills up. I want you to remember that this is a place to store things you want to be easily accessible throughout the day. It is a solution to the daily or weekly kid clutter that was taking over your counters or table.
Depending on your space, it may or may not be a comprehensive storage solution for all of your kids crafts and activities. It's OK to store some of them elsewhere. If you're like me and get your play-doh by the case, well hello there twin. The whole case doesn't need to be in your kids activity center. I keep 3-4 handy, and the rest are waiting in the wings to be called up from the minor leagues. Same with puzzles- I rotate them and the ones currently in rotation live here. The others are in a clear plastic bin in a closet, or in his bedroom.
It's also ok if you want this to be all of the craft and activity stuff. If your living space is small, or you just plain don't want all the crafts in your house, cool. It's ok to limit your kids to however many coloring books or different colored paints fit in a section. Especially when they're little and you're the one cleaning it up. Plus, fewer choices are often good for them- 10 coloring books to choose from can be overwhelming, 2 or 3 is honestly plenty.
Looking for some ideas of kids activities? Here are 20 indoor activities to try!
Do you have a Kids Activity Center? What do you keep in yours, and how do you use it?