If you’re a parent you know how quickly toys can get out of hand. And maybe you’re wading through a sea of toys currently, feeling the burden of the plastic and clutter, the frustration of toy rooms looking like war zones. Not being able to take a step without being impaled by plastic pieces. Or are you at a loss for why your kids have hundreds of toys but won’t play with anything for longer than a few minutes? Well science has shown us kids do not do well with an overwhelming amount of choices. When all the toys are out all at once, not only does that make a huge mess BUT your child feels the chaotic energy. They are overwhelmed with choice and move from toy to toy rapidly. So what’s the fix? Toy Rotations!!
Rotating toys in small, manageable groups on a frequent basis takes away that feeling of overwhelm. The toys no longer appear hectic, and by giving them less you allow them the ability focus and play MORE. Less toys also boosts creativity, and has been shown to increase patience.
Besides the benefits your kids will get, YOUR life will also change mama!! Toy rotations will drastically improve the clutter and clean up when it comes to toys! We only put out 5-10% of the toys we own. Which means cleaning up takes less than 10 minutes. I have four baskets that hold some combination of vehicles, animals, constructing toys. The boys know each basket is for each thing and then it’s a simple as everyone grabbing a basket and picking up. The remaining items go on the second row of our toy shelf. This is a super manageable and approachable way for kids to clean up. No more feeling like “why bother” or taking an entire weekend to organize / clean your play room.
Where to start?
A starting point is to take inventory of the toys you have and loosely group them into genres. Then try to have one option from each genre available for your child to play with, the genres remain the same but the toys rotate. There is no single perfect way to rotate toys, it will depend on your child and interests and there are no rules when it comes to this. If you don’t have a ton of different vehicles or animals don’t feel like you suddenly have to go out and buy them… just split up the cars you put out and save the second batch for another rotation. Below is a loose frame work so you can get an idea of genres and toys, but it will look different for everyone based on what they have and kids interests.
Things like a play kitchen that invites open ended and small world play are amazing & don’t have to rotate out. If there are toys that your children play with every.single.day don’t feel like you suddenly have to put them away for 3 weeks! For us there are a handful of toys we always have out: their pretend vacuum, guitars and a little bumblebee car they zoom around on. Those are the three things that are being used almost daily. Below is a picture of our actual toy space. In their rooms they don’t have any toys… Each boy has a basket of stuffed animals and a bookshelf.
How often to rotate?
If the toys are off the shelf and on the ground in play you know your toy rotation is solid. When things start staying put on the shelf, switch it up. Or when items are being used for a completely different purpose (my kids in particular love to play “master disaster” and it’s where they just make a huge pile (read: mess) of their toys…. That’s usually a sign to me that they’ve lost interested in the toys that are out. When the dinosaurs make the switch from going on adventures to being part of the the master disaster it’s time to switch them out. That being said, rotating every 1-2 weeks is usually plenty. I will switch out puzzles more frequently because they may not hold interest for 1-2 weeks. The key here is to observe. Notice what your child is playing with or has lost interest in and adapt your rotation accordingly.
Where / how to store the toys?
Clear bins are my BFF for toy storage, I want to be able to see what is what so I can quickly switch toys out. Out of sight, out of reach, therefore out of mind, is best for toys not in rotation. At our old apartment I stored them in Wills closet which had a door. The boys closets in our new home are open, which does invite more pointing to toys from my two year old. But they are familiar with the fact that we rotate toys and if they really want something (I usually need to rotate anyway). Target has 6 packs of small bins for under $10 and i’ve used those to keep things organized. My goal for 2023 is to add more shelving to their closets.
- There are no rules when it comes to toy rotations, so don’t get caught up on making it perfect.
- Be clear to your kids that the toys are not being thrown away or going away forever. This should be a positive, fun experience. Frame it as creating a space for THEM to have the most fun and not to have to spend hours cleaning!
- Categorize your toys the best you can & go from there. Remember to try to have a toy from each genre / category represented.
- Enjoy the mental and physical space that removing toys will bring you.