So we decided, when we were thinking about things, that Baz's toys were going to be as un-branded as possible. He's got Cars cars, and his daily PB sandwich is cut out in the shape of Mater and McQueen, so we're obviously not rigid, but his road and rail set is unbranded in such a manner. It's a blank slate for all of the imaginative play he can imagine.
We chose the PlanCity set. It is amazing. It is well made and durable and, while each little set isn't terribly expensive, it adds up quickly.
I want it to last - I want it to be loved, but I want it to last through both boys and potentially to their own children.
I googled storage solutions a LOT and found NOTHING. So I set my own up and am offering up these images and links to the next mom who wants to teach her children how to take care of their toys, because they are lucky to have nice things.
There's not a full shot of the table, which - in all honesty - is never fully cleaned off. It's the play table from Land of Nod - awesome for many reasons, not least of which that the legs are interchangeable and by the time it's all said and done, your kids have a desk on which to do school work.
The mountain and the mountain passes go in last. People, cars, trees, etc go into the two drawers in the table.
We opted to invest in the two rolling storage bins that match the table and one houses diggers, Cars cars, and farm animals (in these cuffed buckets - which are surprisingly sturdy. We have a 4th one out for Walter's rattles.) Bus stops, a crane, the fire station, etc - all of that goes in this bin.
This bin houses all of the road and rail pieces themselves - bridges, connectors, level crossings...all in here (the yellow envelope has assembly instructions for when we choose to follow directions.) I picked up drawer organizers in varying sizes and am very happy with how they work.
Mountain curves go in next...
And mountain pieces on top.
It all slides away so that (with the exception of the parking garage) you'd never know we had an entire city unless it was in the process of being played with.
And before you get all "that would last 5 seconds and my kid would have destroyed it" snorty at me....I've taught Baz since he was Walter's age (and have heard him repeat to Walter already): "We are lucky to have nice things. We have to be gentle with them." So he doesn't put away without help, and when he does he likes to know that there's order to the madness. I help him put things in the correct bin and each time I help a little less.
So - hopefully - this set will last us a loooong time. Because it really is quite awesome.
Disclaimer: None of the companies mentioned here know that I exist beyond their records of my purchases (Land of Nod has *excellent* customer service, by the way.) They do not care that I am an overly organized or that I've taken pictures and put them on the internet. I have not been paid, cajoled, bribed, blackmailed, or sweet talked into telling you to buy their products.