Arts and Crafts Storage Solutions: in a Playroom

Budding artists thrive on a variety of art materials to fuel their creative juices. One day, their creations revolve around scotch tape, the next day markers are the medium of choice. The only problem is, all these supplies need to be stored and organized in a way that allows for easy access to most materials (but not the glitter or permanent glue) and easy cleanup, too. Check out these storage solutions, some of which can become crafts projects in themselves.

Shelve it.

Start with some sort of shelving system — a wall unit you find on sale at a furniture store, a pair of short bookcases picked up at a flea market, or even a stack of inexpensive and easy-to-clean synthetic melamine shelves attached to a playroom wall. Open shelving allows you and your child to see at a glance what's where and to grab it — and put it back — easily.

Give each medium its own home. Invest in a variety of colorful, lightweight plastic bins (Rubbermaid makes some good ones) to line up on shelves. This is money well spent because these bins will house supplies neatly and prevent shelf chaos. Other storage container ideas: hat boxes, cardboard photo/video boxes, straw baskets, shoe boxes, diaper-wipe containers.

Give each home a name. Label the front of each bin with an index card showing a picture of what's inside, so that even a preschooler can see where something goes. If drawing isn't your strength, clipped magazine ads, a piece of the original packaging, or a photo of the item(s) can do the job. It doesn't hurt to add the appropriate word to the picture label — these words will soon look familiar to your pre-reader.

Store it sensibly and safely. Store kid-safe, frequently used supplies (modeling clay, crayons, washable markers, construction paper) within easy reach on the lowest shelves. Sure, things would stay neater if you were the only one who had access to the art supplies, but what's the point of frustrating your child or yourself unnecessarily? Besides, you want to encourage independent play and cleanup. Reserve higher shelves for supplies that could be dangerous in the hands of a 3-year-old (scissors with pointed tips, permanent glue ) or that have major mess potential (glitter). Consider using stackable boxes with lids to conserve space and put these materials out of sight — and out of mind. Don't place anything heavy on top shelves; it could fall and injure your child.