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"Let's Play!" Series: Toy Rotation

I spent several hours DEALING WITH MY KIDS' TOYS the other day.

I like to rotate their toys, but I haven't done it in several months, and it was way overdue!

I'm going to tell you WHAT toy rotation is, HOW to do it, and WHY you should do it!

Kids have a lot of toys, and it seems like they never seem to play with all of them and there's never enough space to organize them! With toy rotation, you put at least half of the toys away, and rotate them out every so often. This controls the mess (to a degree), creates new interest in old or forgotten toys (maybe because all the toys can actually be seen), and makes for a happier, cleaner home!

A lot of my personal struggle with toy rotation is simply the logistics of it. You'll need to have space to store toys where the kids cannot access them. This could be a closet, basement, a room away from the usual play area(s), or even a locked cabinet. Storage space is something a lot of us struggle with, I think! And often times to stay organized, you have to buy some sort of storage/organizational bins and containers, which can actually get kind of pricy! An added kick for my family is that we move so often that I can't really buy anything specific for our current house because we will just move in a year or two or three! So I try to avoid buying bulky furniture or storage solutions that might not work in another house. Some houses we have lived in have had play rooms or areas, but our current house does not have that option. So I feel like toys are always everywhere!!

I've learned to embrace this phase of life in my house, with toys always underfoot. My children are 1 and 2, so they have to pretty much be 100% supervised while they play. There would be no point for me to try and keep my living room free of toys. The only "off limits" room in this house for play spaces is the master bedroom. I need to have some place to get away from it all!!

So, if toys are always going to be out, I can at least control HOW MANY and WHERE they are stored!

Here's how to get started with toy rotation!

1) You're going to need to have several hours to do this. Maybe more. Depends on the level of "disaster" in your house! You are going to be sorting through toys and putting at least HALF of the toys in your designated toy storage area!

I know what you're thinking.

Ummmm that's a lot of toys to store...

And I know what else you are thinking -

My kids aren't going to have much left to play with!

But it won't turn out the way you think it will!!

While you are sorting, you'll obviously be putting toy sets together. When deciding what to keep out versus what to put into storage, consider this:
  • What is/are my child's favorite toy(s)? Keep a balance between favorite toys and ones that need a little more love. This can encourage new interest in old toys! 
  • Do I have toys out that encourage different types of play? Variety is key! Large motor/fine motor, loud/quiet play, independent/cooperative play, pretend play, music and dancing
  • SPACE - keep out just a few "big" toys. For example, we have a doll stroller and a shopping cart. I always have one put away because having 2 push toys out gets a little crazy! Also, I rotate out Liam's big bulky baby/toddler toys.
Take this opportunity to pull out toys with lost pieces, toys that are broken, and toys that your kids have outgrown or that you know they don't even play with. You might be surprised at how much you can part with!

I will warn you...toy sorting is quite the disaster!!! I started it when Liam was napping so I only had to deal with one child, haha! You could do this after the kids are in bed, but it will take so long that it might be all you do before you can get to bed! I've learned that rotating toys when the kids are awake is actually better because Ava will sit and play with the explosion of toys while I work in another area! I get out all the fabric toy bins and set them out on the floor and start sorting and swapping! 

We have a really ugly storage thing (I don't really know what to call it? A cabinet?) that served as a microwave stand in my dorm room freshman year in college. It may not be very easy on the eyes, but it was only $35 and has survived over 12 years and more moves than I can count!! Pretty good invesment, if you ask me! It has been a food pantry, a dining room buffet, laundry storage, and now in recent years, toy storage!


I have a baby lock on it, and when I rotate toys, I open her up and the mess ensues, haha!

2) Display the toys in a visually stimulating manner. Our toys in the living room are stored in a 9-cube organizer. Some toys go in a bin, but most just go on the shelf. The easier toys are to see, the more likely they are to be played with! I usually do one toy per shelf.

Also, just because your child has 963 cars, does not mean that you have to have all 963 cars out at once!! Scale it down to a more managable amount. But sometimes 963 cars can be fun, so don't forget to let have a little extra fun once in awhile...and then put 948 cars away when the fun is done!!

Because I am a preschool teacher, I like to have little "interest areas" for my kids to play. I have found that if all of their toys are crammed into one corner, they don't play as well or as creatively. They need space to make a mess and pretend and explore! So I have little areas around their entire play space, which in this house, is the entire downstairs. We have an open concept downstairs, so I've spread everything out. I realize this approach is not for everyone (and is also very age-dependent), but it's what works for my family in this phase my kids are in!

Maybe your house doesn't have a lot of toys to rotate - you can also just change the location of where toys are kept! Maybe put the books with some stuffed animals in a quiet area of the house and the blocks at the table instead of on the floor. A new location can be inspiring for our kids too! I've done this many times when I haven't gotten around to swapping toys. I'll do it quick when the kids are sleeping, and when Ava comes downstairs, she immediately notices and says, "wowwww!!!" and goes right down to check it out!

Same corner of the room, different toys.

3)Determine a rotation "schedule". I use the word "schedule" lightly, because it doesn't need to be rigid! Just don't forget to swap toys out! I think ideally it's good to have 3 sets of toys to swap out - and be sure to mix and match what toys are out each time. If you always put out the play food with the shopping cart, they'll never know what they could create if you put the play food out with the dinosaurs instead! Keep it different, keep it interesting! And maybe some toy combos will be complete duds and your toy selection didn't engage as much as you thought. That has happened to me! You can always swap out a few things if you find that something isn't working. Before Liam came along, I was rotating Ava's toys weekly. Now it only happens about once a month - basically when I remember and can get the chance to do it!

It's kind of a chore, but it always leads to kids who play better because they have something new to explore! It's always been worth the effort to swap them out.

Ahhh. Just look at that nicely organized toy cabinet!!!

And don't forget to get on the floor and play with your kids! I am guilty of just sitting and watching them sometimes, but they can learn so much more when you SHOW them a fun, new way to play!

Toy rotation will lead to kids who play better, think more creatively, and express themselves through play! Try it!!


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