Organizing Crafts, Games, and Toys – Tips from an OT

I love buying toys, crafts, stationery and games for my occupational therapy practice! It is no wonder that I have amassed a serious collection of materials over the past two decades. This, in turn, has led me to buy many bookshelves to house these materials. When I considered buying a bookshelf to put into an unused shower stall, I knew it was time to take stock and to streamline my stuff! I needed an organizational system that made it quick and easy to find my materials. It also had to be portable because I see students at different schools.

I came up with several effective solutions to manage my materials. (And as an extra bonus, the first idea even makes them super easy to carry around for on-the-go sessions!) These tips aren’t limited to OT’s, they are also great ideas for anyone who needs to organize small materials!

Photo and Craft Keeper (a.k.a. The Perfect Organizing and Travelling Companion)

Everything became clear when I locked eyes with the Photo and Craft Keeper. It is my absolute favorite organizational tool because of its utility both in my clinic and on the go.

I initially only bought two, but quickly found myself ordering several more. Every Photo and Craft Keeper storage box contains 16 smaller cases that are made to fit 100 4×6 photos each. I put a different activity or craft in each box (think googly eyes, marbles, tweezers, and pegs) and used a label maker to print color-coded labels. Activities that took up a lot of space, like K’NEX and Lego’s, were paired down into smaller versions that are easy to grab and efficiently-organized. The goal is to create “bite-sized” activities that can be unpacked, used for a 10 to 15-minute activity, easily cleaned up and then returned to its correct place.

Everything is organized into color-coded categories based loosely on the goal that the activity targets. For example, white labels are for visual-motor or handwriting activities, blue for building toys, orange for lacing and Play-Doh activities, and yellow for motor planning games. The color-coded categories make it so much easier for me to locate the items and to grade them for the level of difficulty. For example, I have an assortment of pegs ranging from easy to very hard to manipulate.

I use some of the bigger boxes that the small cases came in as storage containers for larger items. Others are loaded up with containers and kept in my car (see the image above) – which is a vast improvement over the assortment of Ziploc bags and cumbersome containers that previously occupied the trunk of my car.

These systems have been beneficial in so many ways:

Fantastic for Grab-and-Go: The containers are light-weight and compact so I can just pop them into my therapy bag. Previously I would have to lug several games in their boxes and had to make selections based on what I could fit into my bag.

Greater Variety of Tools: There were many games that I rarely used – like Silly Sentences because it simply took too long to find the right pieces. By sorting it and moving a selection of essential components into a smaller container, it is now much more user-friendly. And I get to have “new toys” without spending.

Selecting the Right Tool: I can easily differentiate for each child by selecting an activity that fits their interest and goals.  Since I can fit about 10 to 15 containers into my therapy bag it is much easier to accommodate all ages and stages with targeted activities.

Easy set-up with little-to-no-prep: As much as possible, I use the container to hold all the materials needed for an activity so that it is ready to use. For example, “Drawing Animals” contains step-by-step directions and memo-sized white paper all ready for doodling and drawing. (As a side note: the small size paper is awesome – less waste AND it requires the student to stabilize the paper with their helper-hand).

Self-Selecting: Students will often wander into my equipment closet to find their own activities. They are drawn in by an appealing activity name (e.g., Magnetic Maze or Secret Codes), and will work hard to master the activity because they selected it.

Progress Markers: Students get a sense of their progress as they move from the containers labeled “easy” to those labeled “hard” and are motivated to keep moving up the rung.

Creativity Sparker: I have been inspired to create task-specific activities by reusing and reimagining my materials. For example, I made this “LEGO Lines activity” to help students to better visualize the spatial placement of their letters on the writing line. I used lego’s to make the sky-line, clouds, grass and dirt. The student chooses a small or tall lego block, depending on the size of the letter, and places it on the lines.

Wall Organizer Cups

These are fantastic for keeping all of your scissors, pencils, markers, and crayons organized and handy (plus, I can just take the cups off the rail and bring them to my work table as needed).

Clear Wall Shelf and Storage Containers

These shelves keep my tools visible and handy in my main therapy room for easy access. Any of your favorite shelves or clear stackable storage containers would work great for this!

Closet Organizers

I use all of the items below to keep my storage closet neat, clean, and organized.

What are your favorite organizational tips and tools? I would love to hear your suggestions!

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