The school year is coming to a close. And while our kids are reeling from the excitement of no homework and more playdates, we're busy researching summer camps that will accept last-minute applications. Not surprisingly, we missed the ball on that one.

Oh well, we're just thankful that the longest break of the school year is during the season with the nicest and most predictable weather. As far as we're concerned, "Just go play outside" is a phrase everyone can get behind—from the stir-crazy kid to the mom who needs a break.

But it's important to remember that just because playtime moves outside doesn't mean you should forget about organization. Treat it just like any other playroom! Our core principle when organizing a space meant for kids: It has to be easy. Easy for them to access by themselves, easy for them to put things away, and easy for adults to assist because—let's face it—duty will call.

the pool:

Unless you live in Southern California, where basically every season is pool season, do yourself a favor and store all the pool toys and gear in lightweight bins. This makes it easier to move anything regarding water play to a less-accessible space, swapping them out to make room for back-to-school or winter items as the seasons change.

We suggest deflating floats and beach balls after every use and storing them in stackable transparent bins, with an electric pump nearby. Even though you'll need to re-inflate each time, it takes almost zero effort. We should mention that it's rarely the kids who are tasked with shimmying an EXTREMELY LARGE unicorn float from the back of a garage—it's you. Because of that, we suggest the Sunnylife pump because it’s compact and works for inflatables of all shapes and sizes.

Store pool toys like diving sticks and mermaids in bins and place them on a lower shelf so kids can reach and take the bin back and forth. Make sure to label them so there are no excuses for not knowing where things belong!

If the pool toys are for on-the-go, pack the sets in waterproof pouches, which can be thrown in a beach bag and dropped in the designated bin at the end of the day.

If you have space in the garage, mudroom, or back patio, designate a towel hook for each child to hang their wet swimsuit and goggles, and dry off before heading in the house. If possible, store a backstock of towels nearby so you never run low.

A weather-resistant cart is another towel storage solution. It can also be used to store bins of sunscreen and pool toys for kids to grab on the way.

the activities:

Containment means everything when it saves you from tripping on a basketball on your way out the door.

Our rule of thumb is to utilize vertical space whenever you can or wherever it makes sense. Larger sporting goods like tennis rackets and baseball bats, along with oddly-shaped toys like jump ropes, nerf guns, and hula hoops, can be mounted on storage racks or on a set of hooks. Specialty storage like an Elfa system is an excellent investment for larger items because it adjusts to your exact needs.

Open baskets and shelving keep balls and gear of all sizes contained, easy to find, and easy to put away.

If you own multiple bikes or scooters, trying to remove just one can feel like you're playing a tough game of Jenga. Instead, use a bike rack to keep bikes, helmets and other accessories from coming to a crashing halt, which will also open up floor space and keep it clutter-free. If you need to maximize your space, mount bikes and helmets on the wall.

Smaller items like bubbles, toy trucks, or dare we say it, silly string, can be stacked in clear bins and subcategorized with dividers or Smart Store cups. We also like using tiered shelving carts so toys can move with them as they play, making clean-up time more efficient.

the crafts:

When the weather is nice, you know we take full advantage when it comes to arts and crafts. Everything from chalk to paint is more fun al fresco anyway, especially when it means that kids have more freedom to channel their inner Jackson Pollack without their mothers having nervous breakdowns.

The key is to set up systems where kids can grab-and-go. We put together a drawer near the back door with open durable containers to store items like sidewalk chalk and paint supplies that can be removed separately and wiped down as needed.

If you don't have drawer space, create your own system with solutions that are stackable, lightweight, and slide just like a drawer.

And just in case you encounter some rainy summer days, here are 5 Kid-Friendly Systems For Organizing Toys in the home. You're welcome.

xo, clea + joanna

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