So, as a young mother with one child who couldn’t really get out his own toys, I had a small wicker toy basket that I kept in our living room. As John’s grown and we’ve added more toys, I have kept to basically one big toy box in his room. I liked the idea of sticking to one big basket/box because it made clean up easier… we just threw everything in there together. But now as John’s older and we have dinosaurs, cars, a train set, even doll sets for Lydia I’ve realized that separation is, in fact key.
Before it was all about ease in cleaning up. Now, we’re moving into a new stage of clean-as-you-go. We have not mastered this yet, but at least I can tell John, “John, pick up your train set before you play with your cars.” He’s pretty good at listening to me and being willing to pick up before he plays. The problem comes in when little sister doesn’t understand yet and dumps everything out…. then it takes us a few days to get to a clean room again. John’s 3 now and I think that’s a good age to begin to understand categorization without much help. He knows where his cars go, where the kitchen stuff goes, where the balls go, etc. I think the older the kids get, but Lydia especially the easier this will be. This method has also helped the kids enjoy their toys more too because they’re more accessible.
Bottom line: As kids reach about 3 years of age splitting sets of toys into smaller compartments is easier to keep kids’ rooms clean. While, for younger children having one big box is easier.