How To Start Toy Rotation And Why It Will Make Your Life Easier

Collaborative post. Toy rotation is one of those awesome parenting hacks that I wish I discovered earlier. We have so many toys in our house and that ultimately means my house can get very messy, very fast, but toy rotation changes that. Not only does it take less time to tidy up but my children play for longer too. Sounds pretty magical right? So how do you make this magic happen?

A living room with a bean bag and toy mess all over the floor
Toy rotation will make your life easier, but how do you get started?

Introducing Toy Rotation

What Is Toy Rotation?

Toy rotation is basically what the name suggests. It means having only some of your children’s toys, games and activities available to play with at any one time. Everything else should be out of easy access for your children eg in garage storage. Every so often you then switch the toys round, putting the current ones away in boxes and getting a different selection out.

Most of us are guilty of having so many toys that our children probably can’t remember half of them. This can make it overwhelming for young children as they don’t know what to play with. They will often choose the same toys over and over again because it is easier and the most recently played with toys are normally the most accessible. Having less choice and fewer toys makes it easy to play.

If you have ever had the experience of having a sort out with the intention of selling some toys or giving them to charity you will recognise that there will be toys that probably haven’t been played with for years, but as soon as your child sees them again it becomes their new favourite. Toys become a whole lot more exciting when they haven’t been seen for a while.

Don't be intimidated though, toy rotation doesn't have to be about a minimalist living room with open shelves and a selection of beautiful wooden toys on display. Although some Instagram accounts and websites might make you think otherwise, toy rotation works well with all the normal wide range of toys that you have in your home. The Montessori method of toy rotation will have maybe 10 open ended toys to play with at a time on low shelves that are easy for children reach. That's a great way to do it and a definite option if your child is a toddler and you haven't already built up a toy shop’s worth of plastic tat. If the very reason you are interested in toy rotation is because you have too many toys to handle, your children don't seem to focus on independent play and you are overwhelmed then there are different ways you can take the concept of toy rotation and make it work for you.

Benefits of Toy Rotation

  • Less of your living space is taken up with toys and games; removing that toy clutter will make your house feel more spacious.
  • Mess is faster to clean up, even if they have every toy out in the current rotation that is less mess than every toy out they own.
  • It’s easier to have a clear out because if a toy isn’t played with in a couple of rotations you can probably safely get rid of it.
  • Less toys make it easier for children to play and it sparks their creativity. Children tend to play longer when there are less toys because they can focus better rather than getting distracted in a room full of exciting things.
  • Children normally have more interest in toys when they are new, rotating the toys means old toys become new again.

How To Introduce A Toy Rotation System In 8 Easy Steps

1. Sort out your existing toy collection.

I strongly suggest doing this when your children aren’t around or it will take a lot longer. You want to group the toys together into different categories that make sense. These can be as small as a fireman’s role play set or much bigger. The size doesn’t matter. Each pile should be able to be played with on its own eg a dolls house needs furniture and dolls.

2. Put each type of toy into a box for storage.

You ideally want to keep these storage containers on shelving in your loft, garage or even external storage (if you are short on space) so that you can get to all the boxes easily when the time comes to rotate them.

3. Decide if you want to have any core or favourite toys that will be out in every rotation.

We have some building blocks and DUPLO that are played with every day. They often form the backdrop to make scenes for other toys so it makes sense to have them available most of the time. We also have paper and pens always available, but some of the different paints and crafts are rotated. There will be some bigger toys like a play kitchen that are harder to remove from the play space, don't worry about this. You'll probably find as you have less toys out these large toys will be used in different ways.

4. Decide how many toys you will have available.

With older children who are used to playing with all their toys at once you don't want to suddenly switch to having 10 toys out as it will be too big a shift, but you can reduce the number of toys out significantly.

If you have more than one child you will want to have more toys out than someone doing toy rotation with just a toddler or you will probably end up with a fair few fights. You might have to do a bit of trial and error to find the best number of available toys for your family.

5. Choose the first lot of toys to be available.

It is a good idea to have a wide variety of activities, toys and games, but also some that can be played with together eg superhero dress up might be used with a Bat Cave play set and action figures. You might want to have lots of different style activities around a theme, or a completely separate set of toys.

6. Decide how often you will rotate the toys.

This will depend on how quickly your children get bored with toys as well as how often you are home. If they are at school all week toys will be played with less than school holidays if you are home every day. Some people choose to rotate the toys at regular intervals eg every Friday, but for others it works better to keep an eye on how they are playing and rotate when they seem to be losing interest to bring out new things.

7. Rotate the Toys.

Overnight is a good time to switch the toys over so children can come down in the morning to new toys, however some children will want to have warning that the change is coming, or they might feel more comfortable if they can suggest some of the toys that will come into play.

You don't have to rotate all the toys at once. Swap out what is being played with less and keep anything that is really popular.

8. Don’t be too rigid when you rotate toys.

You don’t want to have 4 boxes that are always played with together that are swapped for another 4 that are always played with together. Mix and matching the boxes will make things more interesting and are likely to lead to more creative pretend play.

So if you want to spend less time tidying up while encouraging your children to play for longer give toy rotation a try.

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