Now that it’s warming up outside, it’s time to start gearing up for fun in the sun this summer! And as any parent knows, you can’t send your kids outdoors empty-handed…but what do you do with all of their playthings at the end of a long day?
If your family is like most, you don’t have a separate storage unit exclusively reserved for your kids’ items, so you must make room in your garage or shed. Although it can seem like a daunting task, rearranging your outdoor storage to accommodate toys from your backyard playsets is not as tough as you think!
Here are some creative solutions and basic tips for incorporating your outdoor playsets into your existing garage storage.
Bookcases for Beginners
One of the easiest solutions to a storage dilemma is to mix in a bookcase. As they are often tall and slim, they can fit most anywhere and provide you with a simple way to get toys and other items (shoes, cleats, beach buckets and shovels, swimmies and floaties, etc.) off the ground and up against the wall.
A great project that you can complete with your child FOR your child is to paint a bookcase. Since children love having personalized items in their favorite colors, a bookcase is the perfect canvas for painting. The many exposed sides and shelves offer different painting options to create the palette of your child’s imagination!
Just be sure to use non-toxic paint that can be easily wiped down or cleaned (use latex, not oil-based), and paint in a well-ventilated environment. If it’s a nice day outside, drop a tarp or old sheet on the driveway or in the backyard and paint out in the open. If you are painting in the garage, be sure to open the garage doors and windows to allow air flow into the space. Finally, make sure you have sufficient time for the shelf to dry before piling on your play set toys.
Cast a Wide Net
Another option for corralling those loose sports balls and bulky (yet lightweight) toys from your outdoor playsets is to toss them all in a large net.
You can find many inexpensive options by looking for nets most often used for laundry. They come in different sizes and colors so you can add another level to your organization by color-coding or separating toys based on net size (or child-owner!).
For larger nets or nets containing heavier items, hang the net from a nail or hook in the wall just high enough so that the bottom of the net rests upon the ground. This way, the net is off the floor but the ground supports its weight.
Personalized Storage Bins
Another great option for separating play items in the garage or shed is by having separate storage bins. Purchase rubber or plastic tubs and paint one side of them with chalkboard paint in your child’s favorite color. With a piece of chalk, label the bin on the painted side with the contents.
This way, you can create cohesive and stackable storage units that you don’t have to remove from the shelf or uncover in order to find out what’s in it: it’s written on the side!
If you would rather have storage units that you can leave outside indefinitely and keep close to your outdoor playsets, consider the following guidelines:
- Waterproof and weather-proof containers that can be power-washed, scrubbed and disinfected are essential;
- Use containers with lids – outdoor trash cans (not metal) are a good idea as they’ve been developed to withstand the elements and keep unwelcome visitors out (rain and raccoons alike!);
- At the same time, don’t use materials that will rust, rot or melt: for example, avoid placing plastic bins out in direct sunlight;
- Beware of containers that will retain heat (like metal) and potentially burn your babies!
Best Garage Storage Practices to Adopt
Whether you create a new bookcase (like the project above) or your rearrange your existing garage shelves, make sure to secure the shelf or case to the wall with nails, bolts or screws. Another thing kids love to do is climb so ensure heavy items don’t come tumbling down upon them if they decide to venture upward one day!
Additionally, store heavier items closer to the ground – unless they are pieces of yard equipment or otherwise inherently dangerous (chain saws, hedge trimmers, axes, nail guns, etc.). Keep these items out of reach at all times.
Also to be kept out of little fingers and away from reaching arms are hazardous solutions and containers of poisonous chemicals such as antifreeze, paint thinner, gasoline, motor oil, and insecticides.
What are some of your ingenious storage solutions for outdoor play items? Have you tried something that turned out to be a good idea in theory only?
Jay Harris is a Home Depot “on the floor” sales associate in Illinois and writes regularly for the Home Depot website. Jay provides advice to homeowners on outdoor projects, including children’s outdoor playsets and swing sets.