I have posted my toy rotations in my Instagram account a few times now, and it always sparks the same questions… so I thought it was time to tackle the most common ones here and get the conversation started!
I first started rotating my kids toys when my daughter was about a year old, and it was completely unintentional! We lived in a small and older farmhouse that had NO closets. So storage was definitely limited, and if we weren’t careful on how many toys we had out, we would have been up to our ears in toys! You know how it is with the first child… you want EVERYTHING for them, and family members also like to spoil, so… it can get out of control pretty quickly.
Enter: my daughters crib. Let me explain… we co-sleep with our babies until after their first birthday (which might be a whole different conversation to have) so the nursery was pretty much pointless. But we had one. The two rooms we had in our home were our bedroom, and my daughters. Her crib didn’t even have a mattress in it until after her first birthday, so I would occasionally put toys in there to get them out of the way because they were either being ignored, not played with properly, or we simply needed to de-clutter a bit and get some toys out of the way. I caught on pretty quickly that after a few weeks of those toys being out of reach she would play with them again and for extended periods of time! So for a while I kept some toys tucked away so that i could have a “surprise toy” for when I needed something done (like dinner…) and it ALWAYS worked. Rotating toys was definitely the right thing for us!
After realizing that toy rotations was the best way to give life back to toys that the kids had started to lose interest in, it was super easy to carry that out to the whole house! We have always taken a Montessori style approach with our kids, so we simply invested in a cube organizer from Ikea and we would rotate toys in and out of there! What a blessing!
We now live in a bigger home WITH closets, which helps with storing the toys that are out of rotation (and we no longer have a crib since we never used one anyway). The toys that are out of rotation get stored in our closet in a cube organizer like the one in the picture, only upright. I also have a small linen closet that holds a few things that I don’t have out in their shelves, like paint and stuffed animals and such.
How to set up your shelves really depends on your kids… I have 2 kids right now. My daughter who will be 4 in July, and my son who is 17 months old. I try to cater these rotations to where they’re at developmentally… and even though they both use both, I usually have my sons toys on the bottom shelf and my daughters on the top. Then the very top is for me, so I make a pretty setup of something which usually lasts until they see it 😉
My daughter has taken an interest in letters and puzzles lately, so I am making sure to offer her plenty of both! And my son loves balls and anything he can grab and carry around, plus ANYTHING his sister shows interest in, so there’s that.
I have found that the less toys the kids have out, the more they can focus on the task at hand: learning through play. Being imaginative with what they have. Finding different and more creative ways to use their toys. I make sure that I offer them open ended toys, so that they can be free to imagine and create at their own level. Having too many toys out can be overwhelming for little people, and they may either ignore them all, or make a huge mess each day while not really engaging in anything in particular. I always think about how when I was studying I always had to have a clean and neat desk, otherwise the mess would take over my mind space. I feel like the same is true for them… if there’s clutter, they can’t focus.
If you’re interested in starting a toy rotation system for your kids, here’s a few pieces of advise to hopefully help you get started:
Start small. Start with only a few toys out for each kids interest and go from there. How is your kid reacting? Can they reach all the toys you’re offering them independently?
Watch them. Do they seem to enjoy what toys you have offered? Would the system work better if they had a few more toys to complement what you’ve offered?
Wait. How long does your kid stay interested in the toys you’ve offered? Maybe a week? Maybe 2? I am rotating every 2 weeks currently and that is working well for us.
Respect. Are there any favorites? If so, keep those out! Sometimes our shape mags will stay out for months because in one way or another the kids will use them every day. Sometimes the building blocks stay out for more than one rotation. And sometimes the animals do. This time my daughter requested a specific letter puzzle to stay out, so I left it and she’s still enjoying it!
Have FUN! Lastly, the key is not to let this become a chore… have fun with it! I love toy rotation day because it gives me an excuse to be creative with their toys (which is another way of saying I get to play by myself), and I absolutely LOVE watching them play the following morning, and hearing my daughter say “mama! we got new toys!!!!”
Please let me know if there are any questions I can answer! I feel like I could say so much more… let’s call this a starting point!