Toy Rotation: Save Your Sanity, Reclaim Your Home and Foster More Fun

Tips for rotating toys to reduce kid clutter.

Do you ever scan the landscape of your home - littered with cars and animals and blocks and books and tiny plastic men -  and marvel (or shudder) at how the smallest members of your family seem to accumulate the most STUFF?!

Perhaps even more baffling is how your little ones can stand in a sea of toys and insist that they're bored. Or, for younger kiddos, how they can ignore a floor covered in objects designed for their amusement and instead find great interest in chewing a shoe or putting cheerios down the air vents.

I may not be able to save you from the pain of stepping on Legos barefoot, but I'm here to share some simple tips that work for us to minimize toy clutter AND to keep kids more engaged in the toys they have.

Toy Rotation - decrease clutter - increase play - organize toys. CanDo Kiddo

The Benefits Of Toy Rotation

Toy Rotation is exactly what it sounds like - periodically changing the toys available to your child. So why would someone so obsessed with the benefits of play for kiddos be shouting from the rooftops of the blogosphere about the benefits of offering fewer toys to your child?! Because rotating toys to reduce the number offered at any given time works like magic to:

- Reduce your child's stress by reducing the number of choices your child has to make. Did you know that too many choices can lead to overwhelm, stress, and difficulties making decision?
- Foster genuine appreciation for the toys your child already has. We don't notice or value what we see every day as much as those things we only see periodically (which explains why I neglect my houseplants but always remember to water the Christmas tree). 
- Create an environment conducive to sustained attention instead of flitting from one thing to the next.
- Reduce the number of objects to be picked-up, cleaned up, gathered, hunted for in between couch cushions, stepped on and more.
- Make it easy to clearly see where toys belong so that children are better able to help with clean-up.
- Dramatically decrease the visual clutter in your home. Visual clutter is a huge source of stress so steps you take to reduce the chaos you see when you walk through the door of your child's room, playroom, the living room (or the pantry - why are there toys in our pantry?!) will help you feel like a calmer and more relaxed parent.

Toy rotation - Simple steps to save your sanity and foster more fun with less stuff. CanDo Kiddo

A Simple Toy Rotation System

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Designate your toy areas

Pick a few spots in your home for toys to "live." For us, it's the kiddo's bedroom, his play area in the living room and the master bedroom (to keep him busy while I get dressed, fold laundry, etc.).

That doesn't mean that toys can't migrate (they WILL), it simply means that at the end of the day they return to their "homes" in these areas so that the adults in the house can enjoy the evening without feeling like they're in a Fisher-Price factory. Kim at the Educator's Spin On It shares great tips for creating toy stations to encourage play in babies and toddlers. 

Have kid-friendly toy displays

This might consist of buckets, baskets, shelves or any other spot that gives your child a target for cleaning his toys up. Even babies can help clean up! Once they've learned to drop objects into an open container, your little one can learn the habit of picking up. 

We love a low shelf with only a few spots for toys, like this one {affiliate} which allows your child to clearly see what toys are available for play. But you can display toys on the floor of a designated play area, on a bench, on a coffee table...really wherever your space allows and your kiddo can reach! 

Have adult-friendly toy storage

Shoe storage used for storing toys - toy rotation. CanDo Kiddo

You'll need a spot to store toys when they're "out of rotation." This can be as simple or complex as your organizational tendencies permit. In 5 Easy Steps to Toy Rotation from Handmade Kids Art, certified art instructor Jamie describes her system for labelling her storage bins and cycling through toys.

I store toys in clear plastic storage bins to pull from when I rotate.  I try to store toys by category (a bin for vehicles, a bin for animal toys, a bin for musical toys and rattles, a bin for puzzles, etc.). A clear shoe rack on the inside of a closet door is perfect for storing smaller toys and those with loose pieces in Ziploc baggies out of kiddos' reach. 

Decide your toy rotation schedule

You can rotate your toys every week, every month or whenever you notice your child seeming bored. Here's a great list of signs your child will give you that it's time to rotate toys from Dirt & Boogers. I started out trying to rotate each Sunday but not only did I fall off schedule, I noticed that at different ages, my kiddo seemed to need more or less frequent rotation. 

Choose your toys and let your kids help

It's helpful to have a set number of toys in mind when you rotate and to try to offer a variety of types of toys. I aim for one or two toys from each of these categories:

  • fine motor/visual motor play (manipulatives, puzzles, blocks)

  • sensory play (musical toys, rattles, textured scarves, items of different weights, etc.)

  • pretend play (dolls, vehicles, toy animals, practical life items like wallets and keys)

  • gross motor play (ride-on toys, push toys, play tunnel)

Don't forget to rotate books and keep a handful of kid-friendly books (board books for babies) in a basket within your child's reach. The Fireflies and Mudpies blog offers great tips for rotating books

If you're starting a toy rotation with older kids, involve them in the process - let them select a designated number of toys per time period and maybe let them choose one or two each time that they can keep out for an extra rotation.  

What do you think?

Does the idea of rotation appeal to you? If you already rotate toys - what's your system? Leave a comment below.

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