May 28, 2023
The Best Toy Storage That Thinks Beyond the Basic Bin
By Shoko Wanger Illustration by Lizzie Soufleris All products featured on
By Shoko Wanger
Illustration by Lizzie Soufleris
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Those searching for the Internet's best toy storage have likely combed through pages of variations on the ubiquitous plastic bin. Lightweight, stackable, available in every size imaginable, these household mainstays can be, to the design-conscious organizer, both a lifesaver and a last resort. On the one hand, what more economical solution exists when it comes to corralling shoes, stray toiletries, or mountains upon mountains of maddeningly small toys? (Looking at you, Legos.) But one thing these multipurpose bins aren't easy on is the eyes, and they aren't particularly kind to the environment either. What's more, in playrooms, nurseries, and kids’ rooms, where simple, accessible toy storage is a must, lidded plastic bins can be tricky for tiny fingers to maneuver and their airtight locks aren't as necessary as they are in, say, a garage or pantry.
Happily, in the world of kids’ bookshelves, cubbies, toy boxes, and storage baskets, it's more than possible to achieve the coveted trifecta of cute, functional, and child-friendly. We’ve listed 13 of the best toy storage solutions below that keep clutter at bay and spark the imagination in the process. With these parent-approved finds, everyone wins: Little ones will delight in their novel shapes and colors, and parents will find that when the lines between play and practicality are blurred, clean up becomes just another part of the game.
Danish brand Hay offers an updated take on the classic crate, with a sturdy frame made from 100% recycled post-consumer plastic, in a range of fun but sophisticated color combinations. Adding to their versatile appeal is their ability to be stacked (just make sure you’re ordering crates of the same size) and folded flat for easy stowing. And when they’re no longer being used for crayons and toy cars, they can find new life as chic storage boxes for pantry items, toiletries, or kitchenware.
"It's so pleasing to look at, and it can truly be used in so many different ways. Some days our medium-size crate holds my two-year-old's toy trains; other days, it's bath toys. Once I even caught him setting it up to be a ‘crib’ for his stuffed fox. Multipurpose design at its finest!" —Shoko Wanger, contributor
This three-tiered steel cart is lightweight, quick to assemble, and endlessly adaptable. We especially love it as a way to organize art supplies, but it's a failsafe option for just about any type of toy or knickknack, from books to blocks to action figures. And because playtime can spill over between rooms, its ability to roll smoothly from one space to the next is key. This particular model gets bonus points for its cute color range—which includes blush pink and a brisk mint green—and its host of useful add-ons. Try an attachable pegboard for extra storage space, or invest in a set of dividers, caddies, or sliding trays for next-level efficiency.
"This cart's versatility is a major plus. It's kid-friendly, but I could 100% see using it for countless other purposes when and if it's no longer a staple in my child's space. I’m excited to continue repurposing it over the years." —Shoko Wanger, contributor
Could there be a kid-friendlier name for a shelving unit than this one? With its tiered plywood Toy Store, Brooklyn brand Oeuf marries style and function, offering little ones an easy way to keep toys neatly contained but still accessible. What's more, its simple design conceals some seriously clever tricks: Its shelving can be adjusted to either tilt forward or lie flat, and its dividers can be removed, making it possible to store toys of all shapes and sizes–and adjust to a child's changing needs as they grow.
"It's pretty flawless. A cinch to put together, fun to use, easily adjustable, and it's attractive enough to keep on display in the common area of our home. Our son loves arranging his things in it, so it's also become a sneaky way to encourage more consistent clean-up!" —Shoko Wanger, contributor
Small-space dwellers know that wall-mounted storage can make a world of difference when it comes to maximizing square footage. This is equally true in a space-challenged child's room, where a pile-up of toys and books can quickly take over if left uncontained. Enter the wall-mounted shelf, which can stand in as a sleek alternative to a more traditional bookcase or storage unit. When mounted according to a child's height, they’re often kid-friendlier, too, with titles clearly visible and always close at hand.
"My son's room is very small, so we need all the floorspace we can get. This shelf allows us to keep his bedtime books off the ground, but still within his reach. We also love it for its generous length and bright, cheerful color." —Shoko Wanger, contributor
Play&Go's clever toy storage bags are ideal for reining in items that are easily lost or scattered, such as Legos, Magnatiles, blocks, or puzzle pieces. With a drawstring closure, they’re made to facilitate quick clean-up and easy transport, but their star feature is something even more impressive: When laid flat, the bags’ surfaces morph into play mats with vibrant prints—including roadmaps for toy car adventures—that can be seamlessly incorporated into the fun.
By Erika Owen
By Rachel Davies
By Vaishnavi Nayel Talawadekar
"I’m someone who finds toys that come with 10,000 tiny pieces categorically overwhelming, and I love the idea of swiftly corralling all those scattered parts when playtime's over. Plus this bag doubles as a play mat, making it great for travel or visits to other people's houses. So smart. —Shoko Wanger, contributor
This large basket by Danish design brand Ferm Living is not your average storage option. Its high-quality braiding alone is enough to turn heads, but then there's its exquisite apple shape; its oversized silhouette; its sweet, stemmed lid. Roomy enough to contain a swarm of stuffed animals or a jumble of dress-up clothes, it's a fanciful addition to any space meant to foster imaginative play. Or use it as a laundry hamper to add a bit of charm to a humdrum chore.
"I love this basket's combination of simplicity and total magic. It's like something out of a storybook, without being overly cutesy. I mean, a giant apple? Who doesn't want that in their house? It's almost a bonus that it's functional too." —Shoko Wanger, contributor
Similar qualities can be attributed to this handwoven rocket basket, which, despite resembling a spaceship, has the look of a sweet, unassuming cartoon character with its arms at its side. Impressively sturdy, it's as useful as it is adorable, with a hardy wicker frame cloaking a sizable inner drum for stowing toys of all types.
"So often these kinds of playful kids’ baskets are in the shape of animals, and I like that this is something different. It's not exactly cute and cuddly, but it is a lot of fun having this sweet silhouette holding court in my son's room." —Shoko Wanger, contributor
At four feet tall, this regal elephant makes a dazzling—and adorable—roommate. (Thankfully, she's one that’ll help keep the place clean.) With cubbies in an assortment of sizes, as well as additional storage shelves in the trunk, she's a bookcase, toy organizer, and decorative sculpture, all in one. Plus, with conveniently low surfaces, even the littlest kids can get in on the tidying come clean-up time.
"I love the functionality and design of this shelf. The compartments are perfect in size, and it offers ample storage space. I can definitely see us having this bookcase for many years to come. It's already proven useful for the nursery, and has a timeless design that will make for a great addition in a toddler's room when we transition our little one." —Pujah Shah, global director, audience development, analytics & social
A design classic, this sunny, Italian-made storage system features three vertical compartments fitted with sliding doors. Both chic and playful—and available in a trio of Easter egg colors—it's a natural fit for any design-forward kid's room. It's especially handy when space is tight: In addition to housing all manner of small toys and knickknacks, it easily doubles as a nightstand.
By Erika Owen
By Rachel Davies
By Vaishnavi Nayel Talawadekar
"This is an iconic Kartell design, but I love the fresh take on the color. I also like that the shelving is hidden, and that the round shape offers a lovely contrast to the sharp edges of our nursery's crib, dresser, and bookshelves. We will absolutely use it for years to come—if my daughter gets sick of it, I would happily move it into my bedroom or office!" —Briana Feigon, contributor
With or without a chair, a hollow lidded ottoman can be an invaluable source of secondary storage. We like Article's Maribo series for its range of sizes, its neutral bouclé upholstery, and its ability to serve as both chair and hidden toy chest. Added perks: rounded edges to minimize bumps, and a padded, soft-close lid. (Note that the lid may be on the heavier side for a small child—assistance advised!)
"Even without a chair that matches, it's a very cute piece that works well in a variety of settings. For a family with a baby, it could hold blankets; for a toddler or young child, it can stand in as stuffed animal storage; and for an older kid or teen, it's a structured, extra-functional version of a pouf or bean bag chair." —Shoko Wanger, contributor
Though many popular under-the-bed storage options are made of cloth or plastic, Room & Board's handsome rolling drawer is built of solid steel, making it far more attractive and durable (not to mention considerably more structured than a flimsy fabric bin). Its wheels allow for easy back-and-forth movement, and, with an interior spacious enough to hold everything from large toys to books and beyond, it's a multipurpose piece that’ll work for kids of any age. With 16 color options, including sage green and juicy tangerine, its industrial edge gets softened—but be aware that at 38 pounds, it is heavier than its more conventional counterparts.
"This drawer is definitely the ultimate in under-the-bed storage. It's large and on the heavier side, yes, but that's part of what makes it great—it's super-functional, generously sized, nice to look at, and solid as a rock. It's a splurge, to be sure, but a worthwhile one." —Shoko Wanger, contributor
With its midcentury silhouette, pine wood construction, and enticing mix of closed and open shelving, Nestig's handmade Explorer Shelf is inviting enough to appeal to children but also chic enough to add an element of grown-up elegance to any kids’ room or playroom. This makes it an especially good choice for families seeking toy storage ideas for play spaces that happen to be in common areas of the home—with its sophisticated look and lack of ornamentation, it reads playful without a trace of precious.
"I chose this storage unit because I trust the brand and because I believed it would have multiple uses after the nursery. It has ample storage that also provides space for storage bins for a more organized and clean aesthetic. I will definitely have this product for a very long time because of the functionality and modern design aesthetic." —Pujah Shah, global director, audience development, analytics & social
By Erika Owen
By Rachel Davies
By Vaishnavi Nayel Talawadekar
Likewise, this white oak shelving unit from Article would add polish to any living room, but its simple design and low open shelving make it accessible to children who prefer to keep their favorite toys comfortably within reach. It's also ideal for kids who need a place to store larger items, like tall trucks, oversized books, or board games that won't fit cleanly into cubbies or cabinets.
"I see this shelf living a long life in our house—it's classic, sturdy, extremely handsome. I love finding pieces that my child can happily use but that aren't specifically made for kids—I know that when it's served its time as a toy storage solution, we’ll reuse it as a bookshelf or console elsewhere in our space." —Shoko Wanger, contributor
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