How to Organize Kids Toys Without Losing Your Mind

As my kids started getting older it seemed the number of toys in our house increased exponentially. Everywhere I looked there was toys. And then the toys started coming with lots of smaller parts. At first we put them in a big box.

But it got really frustrating trying to find the set of toys they wanted to play with. My kids would dump all the toys out and then there would be an even bigger mess.

One day I was at the library when a light bulb went off. The library stored all puzzles in plastic containers. I instantly knew this had to be my motto. I was going to buy a bunch of plastic containers for our toys.

I picked Sterilite containers to store our toys. I liked Sterilite containers because they came in all sizes, the mini clip box, small clip box, large clip box and deep clip boxes. These boxes store 90% of our toys. The other 10% of the toys, the train set, duplo blocks and cars get stored in larger Sterilite containers. The different sized boxes can be a little tricky to find. I found that plastic storage seems to be seasonal in stores. The best places to find them have been Target, Home Depot and Menards. But it really depends on the season. I have also found them online.

These containers stack on on another, the lids of the deep and large clip boxes are interchangable, and the containers fit really well in the space I have. They even fit in our Kid Craft kitchen. That is where we store our kitchen toys.

The rules for the boxes are all like toys get a specific box. We have a boxes for musical instruments, bugs, fluffs, legos, Lincoln logs, plastic kitchen tools, real life kitchen tools, Melissa and Doug Pizza and birthday cake sets, character figurines, Tinker Toys, animals, Minnie Mouse Toys, wooden blocks, puzzles, Lego Train etc. The best part about it is my kids know how to sort their own toys now. If my kids no longer want the toy set we can give that set away full and the container can be used for another set of toys. I always buy a few extra around the holidays to have the different sizes on hand for new toys we get.

At first my husband did not like the cost of containers and did not like how much longer it took to clean up, ie we had to organize instead of throwing in a box. But overtime he has come to see that the system works very well and has not said anything about it since. And now it does not take us very long to clean up because we know where everything goes. And the kids can play with a set of complete toys!

I loved this system so much that I incorporated it for my crayon collection, crafting supplies, and office supplies. I can keep like things with like things and find them really easily. It takes a little bit of startup cost, but it is totally worth it to see a clean and organized playroom. Let me know what you think. Would this system work for your house?

Here are some after pictures of my house.

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Top 10 Things to do with Kids In New York City

Have you ever been to New York City? It is my absolute favorite city in the world. There is so much to do there. My dream was always to live there for a year. Well in 2012 my dream came true! My husband got stationed at West Point and we got to go down to New York City all the time. When I visited there my daughter was 18 months and I was pregnant with my 2nd. We were able to get out and enjoy so many things the city had to offer. We were able to get around on the subway just fine. We made sure to map out the locations with elevators because I carried her around in a stroller. If I had to do it over again I would have a light weight stroller with an Ergo. When I needed to go up stairs I would put her in the Ergo, fold up the stroller. It would take more time, but be worth it because there would be more Subway stops to use.

There are so many fun things to do with kids in the city, but these are my top ten. It is especially good if you are short on time and want to hit the best things.Watch out in the next couple of months, I will be covering my favorite holiday things to do with kiddos in New York City.

1. Brooklyn Bridge Park
Why is this number one? It is number one because it is an AMAZING park. It sits at the base of the Brooklyn Bridge. The views there are unlike any other. Kids can play and mom and dad can sit back and appreciate the gorgeous view of NYC. That is exactly what I did. Plus the park is AMAZING. Did I say that already??? Because it is. The park is 1.3 miles long. It was transformed from a cargo shipping area into a park to help revitalize the area and it has! The park consists of 6 piers, Main Street, John Street, Brooklyn Bridge Plaza, and Fulton Ferry Landing. The park has activities for all ages. It has state of the art playground equipment, seriously I have never seen some of the equipment they had before in my life. The playgrounds are called Water Lab, Sandbox Village, Slide Mountain, and Swing Valley. They have bocce , basketball, handball , shuffleboard courts. They have picnic areas, splash pads, green space, athletic fields, sand volleyball courts, dog runs, and a Carousel. And it is not even finished. If you want to get a good view of NYC and your kids to have fun at the same time come here.
  • Cost: free
  • Location: 79th St. & West Drive Brooklyn, NY
  • Hours: depends on the show
  • Subway Stop: A, C High Street, F York Street, 2, 3 Clark Street, R Court Street, 2, 3, 4, 5 Borough Hall
2. Central Park Puppet Show at the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theater
Another one of my favorite places to go in New York City was the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theater in Central Park. The theater features a puppeteer production and changes all the time. My kids loved the puppet show tremendously. I was surprised they sat still for it, but they did.  Word of warning however, these tickets go fast so make sure to book them in advance. If you are like me and like to see things on a whim you can go the day of and ask for standby tickets. We were able to get in, but I would not recommend it especially if your kids are looking forward to going. You can find tickets here. They also schedule birthday parties there. Make sure to grab your tickets and go! Afterwards there are so many other things to see in the park.

  • Cost: $8 per child and $12 per adult
  • Location: 79th St. & West Drive
  • Hours: depends on the show
  • Subway Stop: 81 St B, C
3. Grand Central Terminal
A visit to Grand Central Terminal is super easy because it is the hub for so much transportation in New York City. It is probably the place I "visited" most when I was there. The terminal was built to be elegant, but functional. There are 85 millions passengers that travel there annually. The terminal is the hub of the Metro-North Railroad, which travels to New York and Connecticut. The subway is located on the southeast corner of the terminal. Amtrak started recently running trains out of Grand Central, though the main hub for Amtrak is Penn Station. When we came to the city we would come from the north from Beacon and travel into the city. My daughter was fascinated with the train ride. The train ride is relatively reasonably prices. We have taken tourist trains in other places and paid a lot more.

What is there to do there? Shopping, train rides or sighting, tours and eating! First off is the whole place is very stroller friendly. The terminal features two levels, a main concourse. That is the one seen in movies where people are running to Grand Central. People do really move quickly. I found the best place to "stand" to get your bearings was in the middle by the ticket counter. There I could access the free internet and see where we were going to go that day. Or wait for my husband or friend. The upper level also features 68 of some of the best shops in the city. My favorites were the fancy chocolate stores, Apple and Papyrus. The lower level features an amazing array of restaurants including Shake Shack and Magnolia Cupcakes. It is one of my favorite levels. There you will really see the people of the city. One of my favorite times there was when an amazing cello player was just playing. My daughter and I stopped for an hour or so just to listen to this private concert.
One of my favorite parts about visiting Grand Central was exiting it. Haha funny I know. It was at that moment I knew I was in New York City and excited for an amazing day.

There is also a New York Transist Museum located that tells the story of mass transportation in New York City. I never visited, but I have a feeling my son would love it now.
  • Cost: free except tours and train rides
  • Location: 89 E 42nd St New York, NY 10017
  • Hours: 5:30am-2:00 am
  • Subway Stop: S, 4, 5, 6, 7 and Metro North
4. Dylan's Candy Bar
Have you heard of Dylan's Candy Bar? My friend told me about it. It is a candy store with three floors of candy and a candy cafe. Your kids and you will be in heaven!

Photo courtesy of Alonna Whitehead
  • Cost: free except tour is $50 per person
  • Location: 1011 Third Ave and 60th St New York, NY
  • Subway Stops: N, Q, R, 4, 5, 6
  • Hours: 5:30am-2:00 am
5. Bronx Zoo
If you want to see a really good zoo, skip the Central Park Zoo and come to this one. It is huge and one of the largest in the world. It has free attractions and additional paid attractions. Warning or Tip. The zoo is free every Wednesday and very crowded that day. 
  • Cost: $36.95 per adult, 26.95 per child, discounts for seniors, military and NYC undergraduates
  • Location: 2300 Southern Boulevard Bronx, NY 10460
  • Subway Stops: 2 train to Pelham Parkway, Buses, There is also parking
  • Hours: Summer Hours, 10:00am-5:00pm daily, 10:00am-5:30pm weekends
Another must see in NYC is the Stand Bookstore. It is 18 miles of books over 2.5 million new, rare and used books. It reminds me of Powell's in Portland, Oregon. One of the best things about this store is the story times. They have many character themed story times; Elmo, the Very Hungry Caterpillar show, Harry Potter, Madeline, Pete the Cat, Clifford, and Curious George. Your kids will love it. FYI there are also storytimes around the city at many of the bookstores.
  • Cost: free 
  • Location: 828 Broadway, Manhattan NY 10003
  • Subway Stops: 4, 5, 6, L, N, Q, R
  • Hours: Monday-Saturday 9:30am-10:30pm, Sunday 11:00am-10:30pm.
7. Children's Museum of the Arts
I loved visiting the Children's Museum of the Arts in NYC. My friend told me about it and we went. There are so many fun exhibits and hands on experiences for the kids to do there. The WEE Arts Studio is for smaller kids and features a play area where kids can color, use instruments, and play with play-dough and flubber. The gallery has exhibits on display. The Fine Arts Studio is for all ages to make their own art. The Quiet Lab are seated areas to relax in. I pumped in one of them when I was there, it was nice and private. The media lab teaches the kids how to use digital art equipment. At the Clay Bar kids can make animals, creatures with the help of Clay Bar Teaching Artists. The Sound Booth introduces kids to music making. The Swirl Studio is a place for kids to play on Spun chairs. The Bridge was my kids favorite parts. It is an interactive space that features interactive exhibits with stairs.
  • Cost: $12, under 1 is free
  • Location: 103 Charlton St. NYC
  • Subway Stops: 4, 5, 6, L, N, Q, R
  • Hours: Monday-Saturday 12:00pm-varies, pay as you wish 4:00pm-6:00pm on Thursdays
8. Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum Complex
The Intrepid Sea and Space Museum is one of my favorite sites to see in NYC. Why? It is so big and expansive and full of history. The experience includes; third floor and gallery decks, where men lived and worked in the ship, a flight deck where the planes landed and took off, a hangar deck where the planes were stored when not in use, and finally the flight control area which was up a bunch of narrow stairs on the top part of the flight deck.  I was also fascinated it was still sitting on open water along the Hudson River and not on dry ground somewhere.

The Intrepid "launched in 1943, the aircraft carrier Intrepid fought in World War II, surviving five kamikaze attacks and one torpedo strike. The ship later served in the Cold War and the Vietnam War. Intrepid also served as a NASA recovery vessel in the 1960s." It was "decommissioned in 1974."
  • Cost: $33 for adults, and $24 for children, free admission 4 and under. Discounts for seniors, military, and NYC residents.
  • Location: Pier 86 W 46th St & 12th Ave New York, NY 10036
  • Hours: Summer Hours (April 1 to October 31), 10:00am-5:00pm Monday-Friday, Saturdays, Sundays & Holidays 10am-5pm , Winter Hours (November 1-March 31), 10:00am-5:00pm, closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas
  • Subway Stop: A, C, E, N, Q, R, S, 1, 2, 3, 7 to 42nd St, walk or take M42 West bust to Hudson River or 7 train to 34th St, exit 11th Ave.
This is definitely a must see, both boys and girls will love it!

9. The High Line and Hudson Pier
One of my favorite things to do in NYC is to walk around taking in the sights and the smell everywhere. The High Line Trail is an old railway track. It was repurposed because the railroad was no longer running. The developer saw a lot of potential and turned it into a 1.45 mile walking trail. And people love it! There are elevators, ramps, bathrooms and shops. It is stroller friendly! The Hudson Pier is right next to the trail and very nice to walk down. I did this as my activity in NYC one day and loved it. The view of the Hudson River was amazing. The breeze was blowing, the sun was perfect, my daughter was in her stroller. Definitely talk a walk with your kiddos. The Intrepid is just a few blocks north.
  • Cost: free
  • Location: Gansevoort St to West 34th Street.
  • Hours: 7:00am-11:00pm in the summer, closes at 10:00pm other times and 7:00pm Dec 1 to March 31.
  • Subway Stop: 7 at 34th St Hudson Yards
10. Central Park Zoo and other Zoos in town
No visit to NYC is complete without a visit to the Central Park Zoo. The zoo is pretty small and such and is pretty fast to go through. That is why it is on the bottom of the list. But it makes the list because it is the iconic Central Park Zoo. I loved going there, but a warning it looks nothing like the Central Park Zoo from the movie Madagascar. I do not even think they have lions at the Central Park Zoo. The main attraction are the Sea Lions. The Zoo consistent of a main zoo, Gift shop, a 4-D Theater, Cafe, and a Children's Zoo. The iconic Central Park Carosel is just around the corner. If you want to see other more impressive zoos, check out number 5 on this list, the Bronx Zoo. Or check out the Prospect Park Zoo, that one is big for NYC standards.
  • Cost: $18 for adults, and $13 for children 3-12, free admission 4 and under. Discounts for seniors and military.
  • Location: 64th St & 5th Avenue
  • Hours: Summer Hours (April 1 to October 31), 10:00am-5:00pm Monday-Friday, Weekends 10am-5:30pm
  • Subway Stop: N, R or Q trains to 5th Ave/59th St, 6 train to 68th St/Hunter College Station and walk the rest of the way
I hope you enjoy your time in NYC and I hope this list has given you an idea of what to do there. Let me know how your visit goes!
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Michael's Camp Creativity Review

Last summer I looked for local art classes for my kids who were 3 and 5 at the time. They were all full in my area. After searching I found Michael's Camp Creativity for my kids. I decided to give it a try. By the way Michael's did not ask me to post this, I am posting it all on my own.

What is Camp Creativity? 

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List of Disney Animated Movies

Disney Animated Movies
If you are like me, your kids love Disney animated movies. When my kids started getting old enough to watch them I was disappointed by how few of them I could find in stores and on streaming services especially the princess movies. It seems like the only way to make sure my kids can watch these movies is to purchase them myself. And with Disney keeping their movies in a "vault" it is hard to know what movies I already have when I am staring at them in the store or searching Amazon. I put together this list to keep track of all the movies that we have, and what type we have. I added Blue-ray and Digital HD, because it is nice to know if you can put it on your phone or tablet. Also if friends want to borrow a movie and they only have a certain player it is easy to know. One day I would love to turn this into an app. But I tried making apps once and realized I need an apple computer to do so, so until then here is the next best thing. You can print it out and keep it in your purse. Here is the printable version.

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Moana Movie and Soundtrack Review

Move over Frozen, Moana is here!

Moana Movie
We took our family to see Disney's Moana over Christmas break. What we discovered was an amazing tale of Moana of Motunui, a young girl who is destined to be chief of her island, but longs to for the sea.  Her struggle is fueled on both sides of her family. Her father wants her to be content on the island and is afraid of the sea.  Her grandmother loves the sea and encourages her to follow her heart showing Moana their tribe used to be voyagers.  The struggle hits a turning point when her grandmother passes away and tells Moana to go return the heart of the ocean.  The heart of the ocean was stolen by Maui a demigod.  When the heart was stolen from Te Fiti, the goddess who life in the ocean a darkness spread across the ocean. The only to stop it is to return the heart.

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Even MORE [Creative] Ways We're Learning the Alphabet!

There are just never too many fun new ways to explore the alphabet with our littles! A crazy amount of variety definitely isn't necessary, but switching it up sure makes learning through play even more fun; and that's exactly why I'm here today!

Hello, Jenny's Crayons friends. I'm Denise. I'm a former teacher, turned coffee-addicted SAHM who now spends my days adventuring with and experimenting on my two favorite littles, Beckett and Charlie Grace, affectionally known as Buck and Chuck! You can usually find us exploring, creating, and goofing off over at, but today Jenny invited me to share a few of our current favorite ALPHABET activities with you!

Here's what you need to know! Nearly two years ago, I shared this post on 16 ways Beckett (19 months at the time) was learning his alphabet! Our methods were SUPER successful and Beckett knew ALL of his letters and sounds by the time he was TWO!

Well now it's Charlie Grace who's hit 19 months and we figure it's about time we get started teaching her a thing or two. And since allll kids are exactly the same (right?!) we started out with the same methods! Boooy did I learn that that was NOT going to fly with this sassy pants, center of attention, terrifyingly decisive little miss. She wasn't having it and I knew that I was going to have to switch gears and get more creative (literally). So while we still do a little bit of our original 16 ways, here are some more colorful options for the "ar-teests" in your life!

Here's an important tip for before you get started: model the activity and point out the letters. Maybe even help their little hands do the activity if they're interested. However, the goal here is PLAY! So if they just want to make a total chaotic mess, you're still WINNING! ALSO, I tend to focus on ONE letter at a time. So we play with ALL of the letters, just goofing and having fun, but I only ask Charlie to occasionally repeat whichever letter we're working on at the time. Keep it simple for them!

1. Let's talk about Play Doh. Does it REALLY ever get old?! Even when your children have stomped it into your carpet? I would be willing to spend EVERY nap time pulling colorful flecks of dried dough out of the floor if it meant my kids were happy and entertained in the morning. There is no losing with Play Doh. We got this set of cookie cutters a long time ago and we still use them almost every day! The shapes are usually our favorite, but we just recently started pulling out letters and VOILA. Insta-interest! Play Doh for the win!

2. OK. Remember how I just said there is no losing with Play Doh? Pretend for two seconds that I didn't say that and take a gander at the hot mess above on the right. This is borderline losing. You're at least going to lose that pile of dough and beads. I shared this on Instagram the other day because it was SUCH a #MomFail. PEOPLE: Those beads do not come back out! On the plus side, my kids were TOTALLY entertained, and we got to practice our B name and sounds. Going forward, though, we'll use marbles or wiggly eyes for this idea!

3. You need to know that this bright fun mess is every bit as appealing as it seems! Feathers and pom poms and neon chalk markers? OH MY! I just recently discovered these ERASABLE NEON Markers. WHAAAT?! My life is complete. Be careful though: they take a moment to dry. So if you're planning on doing several letters in a sitting, I would stick with good old fashioned chalk.

PS. You can do this idea with just about any items on so many different surfaces! We've used hot wheels, plastic bugs and animals, legos, wiggly eyes, and just about any other small item we have around to layer over letters. You can draw your letters with chalk on the ground, with dry erase on a mirror or board, with a pen on paper, washi on the kitchen floor... the ideas are endless!

4. I've been wanting to try some sort of salt writing for a while now and I'm so glad I finally gave it a go! We saw ideas all over Pinterest for laying colors in the bottom of your salt tray and I just didn't have it in me to do ANYTHING extra. So VOILA! I grabbed a couple pieces of felt, threw it underneath a clear pie pan, and BOOM! Colorful bottom with no cutting, coloring, fitting, or arranging. You're welcome! We used epsom salts because I have a ginormous bag of it. This kept Charlie entertained for SO long. Unfortunately, clean up was more than I'd hoped (because I gave a 19 month old a slippery tray of salt), but my trusty Dust Buster took care of it! Next time we're feeling extra motivated, we're going to try this idea with shaving cream!

5. Have you seen this idea yet?! This brilliant stamping the Play Doh concept has been floating around the Pinterest-sphere for a while, but recently is the first time we gave it a try. When Beckett (the 3 year old) saw what I was doing, he responded as if I'd just done a crazy cool magic trick! There was so much excitement and oohing that I felt pretty dern accomplished! We used our Melissa and Doug Stamps, which worked perfectly for this! 

6. Ok. Have you tried a scavenger hunt with your little yet? The first time we tried this was back for our Zoo Themed week, then we did it again with bugs. Beckett got such a kick out of the challenge that I decided to try it alphabet style! YOU NEED TO TRY THIS! Here's how it works: Scatter or hide a set of alphabet flash cards around the house/room, then send one kiddo (in our case, Charlie) to find them. Then let the other kiddo be responsible for the clip board and marker. As Charlie finds and brings the card back, we talk about the letter, then Beckett find and checks it off on our scavenger hunt sheet. SO FUN and so many great thinking skills! And SURPRISE! I've got a FREEBIE download for you! Just click here!

7. And for my final idea for the day, FELT makes an appearance again! I actually borrowed this from my ever-creative bloggy buddy and preschool homeschool momma, Cara from Raising Kinley. These are similar to the sand paper letters you may have seen floating around the world wide web. They're just another great sensory and fine motor experience for littles! Let them trace and feel the letters while you repeat the name and sound. Sometimes we even say our sounds to a beat or tune! ;) 

Well how about it?! Did you find something simple, low-prep, low-mess that your kiddos would go gaga over? Playing and experimenting doesn't have to be earth-shattering to be memorable and fun! I hope you walk away today with a new motivation to explore the alphabet with your toddler or preschooler!

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