One of my saving graces while minimizing our kids’ toys has been setting up a simple toy rotation system. It’s well documented that kids do better with fewer toys. But sometimes you have great toys you don’t want to get rid of, but also don’t want out and available all at once. A simple toy rotation is a perfect way to keep fewer toys out at one time but still offer some variety in the toys for your kids.
Why set up a toy rotation?
If you find yourself with too many toys, even after you’ve gotten rid of any not adding value to your life, a simple toy rotation might help. A toy rotation lets you keep fewer toys out at one time. Resulting in less mess to clean up and more opportunities for creative, deeper and more engaged play, among other benefits. All while still offering some variety in your kids’ toy choices.
When you have a smaller selection of toys, sometimes a little variety can help keep things fresh and exciting. For example, we live in a place with long, cold winters. There can be weeks at a time with very few opportunities to play outside. We end up playing inside at home a lot during the winter. Being able to occasionally rotate the toys helps keep things interesting. Which helps a lot during those long winter months.
Absence really does make the heart grow fonder. When I bring out toys my kids haven’t played with for a few months, they’re like brand-new toys again. And they are excited to play with their new selection of toys!
It’s not about constantly entertaining your kids
One argument against a toy rotation is that it teaches our kids to expect new things all the time. Or to rely on new things too much to keep them entertained. In my experience, this hasn’t happened.
My kids fully understand that the toys in our rotation aren’t new toys. And instead are just toys we’ve decided to put away for a while. They also have a lot of control over our toy rotation system. They help me decide what toys to keep out all the time, which to put in our rotation, and when to rotate the toys.
But it keeps the number of toys out at one time limited. Which helps them play better and makes clean up easier. And also adds some excitement and variety when we bring out toys they haven’t played with for a while.
A toy rotation doesn’t have to be complicated
I’ve also heard concerns that a toy rotation is too much work or too complicated. I also haven’t found this to be true. While it did take a bit of time to get our toy rotation set up – probably less than 2 hours total – it takes very little time to maintain and use. Plus, the benefits of having fewer toys out are well worth the initial time investment. By having fewer toys out at one time, we spend far less time picking up toys. And once the system is set up, it only takes a few minutes to rotate the toys.
How to set up your own simple toy rotation
1. Gather all the toys in one place
This can be an eye-opening exercise in itself, seeing every toy in your home in one place! When initially setting up our toy rotation system, I did it while the kids were out with my husband. Having the opportunity to set it up without “help” from the kids can make it easier! After that initial set up, my kids and I purge and re-organize the toy rotation bins together every so often. But the first set up was easier on my own!
2. Ruthlessly purge the toys
An important part of setting up a simple toy rotation is ruthlessly purging the toys. You only want to keep the best of the best. The toys your kids love and play with often. And toys that offer the most opportunities for creative, quality play.
Get rid of anything broken, missing pieces, no longer age appropriate, never played with, annoying, does the playing for your kids, etc. Aim to keep quality, open-ended toys your kids love playing with and you feel good about keeping. You can do the purging with or without your kids – decide what will work best for you and your kids.
3. Decide if any toys will be kept out all the time and not rotated
There are a few toys my kids really enjoy and play with on a daily basis. These toys stay out of the toy rotation and in our playroom all the time.
When setting up your toy rotation, first set aside anything your kids play with daily and won’t be included in your toy rotation. Be selective, and only keep things out all the time that really are played with every day. It will likely be only a handful of items, and that’s ok. Once your toy rotation is set up, you’ll be rotating different toys in to add to these favourite toys.
4. Group like toys together
Once you’ve gathered all the toys, group all like items together. For example, group all the dolls and doll accessories, all the cars, all the puzzles, etc.
This is a great time to re-evaluate what you have and purge even more as necessary. After you’ve gathered everything to one place and sorted it by category, it’s easy to see things you have too much of or duplicates of similar items.
5. Divide toys into containers for your toy rotation
After grouping all the toys into categories, divide the toys into the toy rotation bins. I use plastic tote bins for our toy rotation, but use whatever works for your needs and storage space.
Aim for a good mix and balance of different types of toys in each toy rotation bin. For example, include some fine motor toys, some pretend play toys, some active toys, a couple of things each child enjoys playing with, etc. in each bin.
6. Make a list of what’s in each toy rotation container
Making a list of what’s in each toy rotation container makes it easier to pack up a bin when you’re ready to rotate the toys. You’ll know exactly what you need to pack up, without having to try to remember what was in each bin.
7. Store the toy rotation bins somewhere out of sight to keep them organized and exciting
We store our toy rotation bins in the basement storage room. I recommend finding a storage spot for your toy rotation bins that is out of the way. This helps make sure the toys stay in the bins and keeps them more exciting. I find if they are kept somewhere highly visible or easily accessible, toys have a way of getting taken out of the bins. Which will not only undo your work setting up the toy rotation but also defeats the point of it.
8. Rotate toys on a schedule that works for you and your family
Decide how often you want to rotate toys. It could be weekly, monthly, seasonally, twice a year, whenever your kids ask for a new bin, etc.
When you rotate the toys, first pack up the toys that are currently out. Then bring out the new bin of toys. I usually let the kids decide which bin they want to bring out next. Because we only get out one bin at a time, this is a great opportunity for them to practice compromising to reach an agreement. You could also number the bins and bring them out in order to keep it simple!
Some additional things to remember about a toy rotation
Be intentional and selective with the toys and the number of toys in your toy rotation. Don’t use the toy rotation as a way to keep more toys than your family needs or to hide clutter.
Your toy rotation system and the toys in your rotation will likely change and evolve over time. When you notice something in your toy rotation system is no longer working, make changes to keep it working well for your family. Also, keep an eye on what your kids are playing with and using. If a toy isn’t being played with, get rid of it!
Do you use a toy rotation system? Leave a comment and tell me more about it!