I’m at that stage of life where all of my friends and family have young kids. I love having all these little buggers over to play, but noticed that they usually ended up entertaining themselves by chasing my cats endlessly around the apartment. I decided to turn the storage ottoman in our living room into a toy box so the kids would have fun when visiting. I had a great time putting it together and the kids love it. Bonus points with the parents for thinking of the kids! Here’s how to make a great toy box when you don’t have any kids of your own.
Pick a good storage ottoman.
Once the toys are emptied out, the toy box itself can become part of the fun. A box with a lid makes a great place to hide. Our storage ottoman has a lid that flips over to become a small tray and this was the perfect place for the kids to have their snack. Our toy box was also light enough that we could carry the kids around in it which became a fun game: let the kid climb into the box, put the lid on, make space shuttle noises for lift off and carry the box into a new room or closet and let them pop out. This never got old with our friends’ 3-year-old. For us it’s nice that the ottoman isn’t an eyesore in our living room.
Pick good toys.
It would be easy to head to your nearest big box store and pick up a bunch of the most popular toys available. I chose to go about it differently. Most of my friends’ kids already have all of the popular toys, so I wanted to get something different. I also wanted toys that would fit in the ottoman, but give the kids several options. Lastly, I’m nostalgic and wanted to include some of the toys that I loved when I was a kid. I went for a mix of new toys and eBay finds.
In order to maximize the little storage space, I purchased a reversible play mat and several sets of corresponding vehicles or figures. The play mat has a town and farm on one side and a construction site on the other. A set of construction trucks, a tube of farm figures and some miscellaneous vehicles like planes, fire engines, police cars, trains or matchbox cars make a set that has something for every kid. There are also enough different vehicles that everyone can play together.
I wanted to avoid today’s most popular toys so the kids would be excited to play with new (to them) things, but I took some cues from today’s favorites when searching eBay for things from my own childhood. For instance, the Pound Puppies of the 80s are similar enough to today’s Paw Patrol that kids will be interested, but not so similar that they are the same old, same old that they have at home.
You can’t go wrong including classics in your toy box. Things like Matchbox cars, Lincoln Logs, Play Doh, Lego bricks, Mr. Potato Head, building blocks, stuffed animals and balls never get old. Kids also love pots and pans or measuring cups and spoons.
Lastly, I like to include “learning toys” like many of those offered by Melissa and Doug or puzzles with shapes or animals.
Think outside the box.
One of my favorite things to do with kids is read. We have a whole shelf of a bookcase dedicated to kids books that we love. You don’t have to go that crazy, but including books in the toy box is a great idea. If the kids you hang out with are really young, make sure you have some “board books” which are made from super thick cardboard and can’t be ripped and destroyed by strong little baby hands. It’s also nice to have coloring books or reusable sticker playsets for some quieter playtime.
Using a storage ottoman as a toy box makes perfect sense when you don’t have kids of your own. It uses space smartly by tucking the toys out of sight when they aren’t needed. It’s fun to stock the toy box with your own favorites and with new toys you think the kids will love. And it is so gratifying to see a simple box of toys provide hours of fun for the munchkins in your life.