How To Organize Toys To Support Your Child With ASD

A great way to start off the new year, and something I think all of us strive for, is to be more organized. Organization can help create more structure for your child with ASD, as well. One thing I think all parents would love to see better organized is children’s toys. The more organized they are, with specific places to go, the easier it will be for your child to clean up. Neat organization and categorization can also promote more independence and create an environment more conducive to increasing play skills. I’ve included some tips below on how to approach this.

Think about how you’re grouping toys.

Some obvious ways to group is by type of toy.  For instance, cars go in one bin, trains go in another, balls in another, etc.  This is great and makes things easy to find.  If you’re looking to increase your child’s play skills, which play a key role in development, you may also want to categorize toys by type of play.  The following are examples of different types of toys or activities that might be grouped together:

Construction Play:
  • LEGOs
  • Lincoln Logs
  • Blocks
Pretend Play:
  • Little People Sets
  • Pretend food
  • Dress Up
  • Doctor sets
  • Light up toys
  • Musical Toys
Arts & Crafts:
  • Paper
  • Glue
  • Paint
  • Markers
Board Games:
  • Memory
  • Trouble
  • Candyland

Create an Independent Play area

While we often focus on social interaction in helping children with ASD, independent play is just as important.  Everyone needs some time alone and the skills to play appropriately while alone can replace some of those more inappropriate behaviors.  I am less likely to engage in behaviors that may not be good for me, like eating sugar or online shopping, when my mind is engaged with my work, or I am occupied with healthier activities.  Children can emit challenging behaviors sometimes, but, like me, are less likely to do so when engaged with more appropriate options. As such, it’s important to teach these skills to your child and cultivate an environment that promotes independent play.

To cultivate this kind of environment, things your child can do independently should be kept together and easily accessible.  If your child is in the early stages of independent play, you may want to think about setting up play stations.  Play stations can be created using bins in a row or on a shelf to prompt your child to move from one activity to the next.  Even if your child does well with this, keeping those independent activities together will help remind your child of what he or she is able to do during downtime.

Within that structure, there’s another level of grouping you may want to think about.  Some toys have a distinct beginning and end, such as puzzles, shape sorters, or any sorting task.  If you choose to use play stations for your child, these are the types of tasks that will be helpful to teach them when to move on to something else.  So, it may be helpful to separate toys that have an end from those that don’t.

Creative storage

I have a weakness for container and organization stores.  If you’re like me, you get really excited and inspired by cute storage bins, shelves, boxes, or baskets.  Entering these types of stores can be an expensive habit.  There are a lot of creative ways to organize, and they don’t all have to be expensive.  To inspire you, here are some of my favorites, including some DIY projects:

  • Storage can be part of the play with ideas like this zoo to hold stuffed animals:
  • You can also make whatever you are storing functional, like this comfy chair stuffed with soft animals:
  • Over-the door shoe organizers can be used for all kinds of things, like cars, craft supplies, or action figures:
  • Tupperware containers work great for storing things with pieces. I love this idea for puzzles:
  • Even PVC pipe can help you get creative. Again, making storage part of the play, this parking garage for cars is a great way to keep from stepping on tiny cars all over the house:
  • Anything magnetic can also be moved onto a wall, like this other car storage:

Organization can declutter the home, but also your mind. I hope these tips inspire you to get creative, declutter your mind, and create a space to help promote play and independence for your child.