Let me start by reassuring you that any activity, toy-management strategy or general parenting idea I offer right now is EASY. Do-able. Totally feasible for you. How do I know? Because every day I spend with a newborn and one and a half year old is like swimming upstream. Survival mode. Beautiful chaos.
Which brings me to an update on how our toy rotation has morphed over the recent months. Back when I was only wrangling one baby, I shared how we use a toy rotation to cut down on kid clutter and help our little one play more deeply and independently. But I thought I’d share some updates to our toy rotation system that have helped me survive my days with a baby and a toddler (and all their stuff). Maybe it will inspire you to start or tweak your toy rotation!
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Creating A Daily Toy Rotation
With one kiddo at home a weekly or every-two-weeks or whenever-he-got-bored toy rotation worked great. We had plenty of closet space and mommy got weekend breaks to leisurely sort through toys while Daddy took kiddo on outings (translation: Home Depot).
Enter new baby. We’re short on closet space and this Mommy is so short on time that I actually forget to go to the bathroom. Like daily. I digress.
With the prospect of my husband going back to work and being home all day with an 18 month old and a newborn, I needed fresh, exciting toys every day of the week to keep the toddler busy while I nursed baby, diapered baby, changed baby’s outfit for the fourth time in a day, etc. (Meanwhile I kept baby busy, happy and learning during her awake times with activities from my infant play book, Begin With A Blanket)
I bought 6 stackable Sterilite storage containers to create a daily toy rotation (yes, I know that there are 7 days in a week but the containers came in a pack of 6 so that’s how we roll). To up the wow-factor for the first month with baby, I invested in a half-dozen new toys with some Christmas money and gift cards our toddler got. Into each box went a new toy, a few old toys and a few new books from our weekly library trip. The bins were stacked four-feet high in the (tiny) nursery closet.
Every morning at baby’s first feeding, I’d kick the dog out of the room (to protect him from toddler antics), shut the door (to protect the rest of the house from toddler antics) and pull out a new box from the bottom of the stack (to protect a weary Mommy and hungry baby from toddler antics). So our daily toy rotation began as what some would call “nursing boxes."
Quiet Time Boxes
The nursing boxes worked great for the first month but you and I both know that with kiddos nothing stays the same for long. Just as big brother was getting more used to me caring for baby without as high a need for distraction, he dropped his morning nap.
After I wept about losing my hour-long morning break from toddlerhood, I decided to shift our "nursing boxes" to "quiet time boxes" to give me a few moments without brother to get the baby down for her first nap.
The boxes are basically just beefed up versions of the “nursing boxes." I added more to each box (in totally unrealistic hopes that he’d play independently for, say, an hour) and organized a few with themes (animals, trains, construction zone). To give you an idea, here are a few of our boxes:
Construction Zone Toy Box:
-Dazzling Diggers book
-Mike Mulligan & His Steam Shovel
-Feel and Find Building Site Book
-a collection of small construction toys
-wooden hammer and nail workbench
-and a favorite big dump truck toy added to the mix
Train Toy Box:
And a few of my less theme-y favorite toys:
Expectation management: at 20 months old, quiet time is 7-8 minutes. I leave the door to his room open (because a closed door leads to him screaming and banging at it after a few minutes) and do my best to get baby down QUICKLY in that time before the toddler train comes barreling into her room.
Why A Daily Toy Rotation Feels Easier
Most importantly, I set it up ONCE and it's keeping my kiddo's interest for several months
Also, the vast majority of the toys we own are distributed in those 6 boxes so when the daily box is packed up at night and returned to the stack in the closet - our house no longer resembles a toy store. In fact, it almost looks clean (but trust me, it's not)!
Are there still toys out in our house? Yes. Our primary play spaces are the playroom and both kids' rooms. Each space has 4-6 toys available on a low shelf and a handful of books available at any given time plus 1-2 gross motor toys (our tunnel, Cozy Coupe car, ride-on bus, push cart, etc.). I'll still rotate those toys and books periodically but we're two months into having two kids and it hasn't happened yet. So, let's just call it very infrequent.
For now, this toy rotation is working wonderfully. Maybe it would work well for you, too!