For a few precious days after Santa comes, the children's toys are nothing but a joy. Scattered around the tree, they add to the festivity...

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For a few precious days after Santa comes, the children’s toys are nothing but a joy. Scattered around the tree, they add to the festivity of the season.

But after you cart off the tree, you have a “kidsplosion” on your hands.

“You want your home to be kid-friendly without looking like a day-care center,” said Shelby Lewis of Leawood, Kan. The interior designer, who has a 21-month-old son, struggles year-round with how to corral toys.

Limiting the number and size of toys you have is easier said than done.

The best way to tackle the mountain of toys, Lewis and others agree, is to distribute them throughout the house. Plush toys can easily be displayed in the child’s bedroom, and most of the large toys can go in the basement or playroom. Stowing toys in the living room, the place families spend the most time, is the biggest challenge.

Lewis has her furniture arranged at an angle in the living room. One of the upholstered chairs is pulled far enough away from the wall to place her son Carter’s 2-by-2-foot push toys behind it. That way, the toys aren’t the first things guests see. And the television and fireplace, not the rainbow array of playthings, are the focal points of the room.

Helping storage fit in

Keeping toys in the living room is also tricky because furniture is usually nicer there than other parts of the house.

“The mesh bags and plastic bins you can use in other rooms just don’t work there,” said professional organizer Kasey Vejar of Overland Park, Kan.

Vejar is a fan of low wooden bookshelves transformed into a cubby system of canvas boxes or fabric-lined baskets for toys. Barbie stuff can go in one, Legos in another.

“It does a couple of things,” she said. “It keeps the clutter out of sight, and it categorizes the toys without being too micro-organized. No matter who puts the toys away, the kids can find them.”

Vejar says some multipurpose furniture, such as storage ottomans, works well for toys.

Vejar also likes coffee tables that have an open shelf on the bottom. Baskets of toys can go there. She also likes using lidded clothes hampers as toy storage in the living room. “You can get great-looking wooden, wicker or fabric ones these days,” she said.

Stow it in plain view

Paetra and Gino Serra’s Brookside, Mo., home doesn’t have a big open space for their two daughters to play with toys. They use their living room, the first space guests see as they step in the door.

“We want it to be comfortable and attractive for everyone who uses it,” said Paetra Serra. “It gets heavy use all day, every day. It’s where we watch TV, read, entertain friends and have play dates where the kids play with their toys.”

Most of the toys are concealed in baskets or inside storage furniture. But on display is a child’s swivel chair that becomes a secret hiding place when the hood is pulled down. The Ikea piece is whimsical but goes with the fun modern appearance of the living room.

“It shows that kids live here,” Serra said, “without all the clutter.”

Storage strategies

• Use accessories already on hand: Alessia Serra, 4, and her sister, Gioia Serra, 16 months, know they can find blocks and balls in the lidded baskets that their parents bought on trips to Sardinia and South Africa. If you have to buy containers, make sure they fit into the room’s decor.

• Hide toys inside furniture: Alessia Serra keeps medium-sized plastic toys inside an end table in the living room. The lid is a serving tray.

• Put the big stuff in another room: The Serras keep their two daughters’ large toys, such as a large plastic dollhouse, in the sunroom right off the living room. A rolling screen blocks off the area when it’s not being used.

• Curtain off areas: Use ceiling-mount drapery hardware to curtain off a corner or section of a room. Sheer panels will allow light to filter through the space. The bottom third of the panels can be opaque to hide the large gear, such as plastic dump trucks.

Toy-chest tips

Before buying a toy chest, do a quick study of your child’s toys. If there are lots of little toys, get one with bins or dividers. For large toys, a chest with open space is best.

Here are a few toy-chest safety tips from Consumer Reports and Parents magazine:

• Check along the chest’s hinge attachment. Make sure the space between the chest and lid is too narrow or too wide for a child’s fingers to get pinched.

• Test the lid. The safest chests have a light lid so your child can lift it himself and a slow-closing safety hinge so the lid can’t accidentally slam shut on his fingers or his head.

• Look for ventilation on a lidded chest. (Kids are known to hide inside toy chests). There should be holes in front or on the sides of the chest that won’t be blocked when the chest is placed against the wall. You don’t need ventilation holes if the chest is partitioned with compartments that are too small for a child to fit inside.