Have you ever felt like you live in a toy store? Everywhere you turn, Fisher Price, Melissa & Doug, and Playskool are staring at you. You find collections of toy parts, but have no idea where the actual toy is hiding. Dolls and cars and the whole Paw Patrol crew seem to be in every nook and cranny of your home. Is that you? It was definitely me a couple of years ago.
We lived in a smaller home with only one child, but the struggle was real. She had SO. MANY. TOYS. Being the first and only grandchild on both sides for 3 years meant lots of toys. (Don’t get me wrong, we are so very thankful that our family and friends love Little Miss so much and give her the occasional spoiling!) Dillon and I have also been suckers in the past for the impulse toy buy, so it’s no wonder that our home was seemingly overflowing with toys. Because it was.
And then, I discovered the magic of the toy rotation.
Have you ever heard of a toy rotation? I’ll admit, I’d heard about it before and kind of scoffed at the idea. I didn’t want to take away my kid’s toys and it sounded like a total pain to rotate through them every so often. But one day I’d had enough and I decided to look at it again.
The beauty of a toy rotation is that you make it what you want it to be. Do you want to rotate toys daily? Weekly? Monthly? The schedule is up to you! Do you want to rotate the toys by theme or set? Then go for it! Once I realized that a toy rotation wasn’t going to be my new master and that I could set it up however I liked– or even change it altogether if it wasn’t working out!– I was on board. And it was an incredibly freeing experience.
I know I sound crazy, but having a toy rotation changed how Little Miss played with her toys. She wasn’t completely overwhelmed by the sheer amount of options she had on a daily basis. Having just a few choices made her play with her toys more independently and for longer periods of time.
We’ve done toy rotations a few different times in different phases of Little Miss’ life. I started the first one when she was about a year old and had really started showing interest in having a variety of toys. For that rotation we were in our old house and the majority of her toys were in the living room. Originally we stored most of her toys in one basket in the corner. Eventually we bought a bookcase with storage cubes and I split up her toys by days of the week. There were six cubes (she used the same one on the weekends) and I divvied up her toys by category. For example, I made sure she had some kind of building material each day like blocks. And then each morning when it was playtime I just grabbed the next cube and we played with those toys for the day. I didn’t have to worry about putting things back in the correct cube or finding all the parts because they were all together in that day’s cube. This worked well for us for several months until we moved.
Once we were in our new house and Little Miss was two, I decided to go back through her toys and make weekly rotations. She had a longer attention span and more toys. Plus, we have a whole playroom in this house so we had the space to spread things out a bit. I pretty much did the same thing with the weekly rotation, giving her dress up toys, building toys, etc. each week. We also have a few larger items (a ball pit, easel, Paw Patrol activity table, mini trampoline and basketball goal) that stay out all the time. She also has a tent and tunnel that get brought out every once in a while. My initial goal was to put those big toys up every couple of weeks, but that got to be a hassle, so we’ve left them out and she uses them often enough that I’m ok with that. We also leave her books and puzzles out at all times, although I might start a book rotation at some point.
Today I’m tackling a new toy rotation in our playroom. Little Miss had a birthday recently (ahem, it was actually 2 months ago) and I haven’t put her new toys into the rotation. Ok, let’s be real here, I haven’t rotated her toys in a long time. What’s up twin pregnancy!?! So I have some work to do, but it’s going to let me walk you through how I set up our toy rotation.
Most of the toys in our house stay in the playroom. Little Miss has her “hideout” in the closet under the stairs where her play kitchen and baby doll toys live. And she has some smaller, quiet toys and a dollhouse in her bedroom. Spoiler alert: These are her bedroom toys after the rotation was made.
So here you have your step-by-step guide to your very own, mostly painless toy rotation. You will probably want to set aside a minimum of an hour for this project. It took me a little under two, but being 6 months pregnant with twins, a lot of that time was hoisting myself back up off the ground. I’d also suggest that if you have younger kids that will just get everything back out as soon as you’ve put things away, do this while they are sleeping or being watched by someone else. Older kids, I’m sure, could actually be really helpful and give you ideas on how they want their toys sorted or let you know which toys they may not even want anymore.
All of the toys in your home
Large boxes or tubs (we use these tubs) based on how many rotations you’ll do
A few smaller boxes or tubs for holding small pieces of a set
A trash bag or two
A box for giveaway or donations
Duck tape or masking tape
Some good music (if you’re an Amazon Prime member, check out Prime Music for great music options)
Create Your Toy Rotation
Decide what kind of rotation will work best for you and your children. Do you want to rotate daily? Weekly? Bi-weekly? Monthly? Once you figure out how many rotations you’ll have, you can gather enough tubs or boxes to store the toys.
Now it’s time to get this party started! The most important step to any toy rotation is to gather up all of the toys that you have (even those not in the toy rotation) and put them in a large pile in the floor. This might take some time. Think about any place in your house or even your car where you might have toys stashed and bring them all together into one pile. Warning: This can be a little scary. Don’t freak out, it will get better!
Pick out any broken toys or trash and throw them away.
Gather up any sets and make sure you have all of the pieces. If there are pieces missing, decide if the toy is still usable or if it’s trash.
Look through what you have and remove any toys that your children have outgrown or just don’t play with anymore. Decide if you want to save those toys for younger siblings (or cousins or friends) or if you’d rather just donate them. As sad as it made me, it was time for the shape sorters to go away until the twins are ready for them. I also pulled out some toys that are a little too old for Little Miss and we will revisit them next time I sort the toys.
Start sorting the toys into rotations. If you’d like well-balanced rotations, try to have some toys from different categories in each rotation. For example, I put all of Little Miss’ dress up/imaginative play toys together and then separated them out into our different rotations to make sure she has some available during each rotation.
Once you have everything sorted out, put the toys into a tub or box to be easily pulled out when the rotations switch.
Decide where you will store the extra rotation toys that aren’t being used at that time. Our attic is right off the playroom, so that makes an easy place to keep our tubs. Other options are a closet, basement or garage. Find what works best for you and will make rotating the toys easiest.
Doesn’t that feel better? Now you’ve got a handle on the toys in your home. Take a deep breath and enjoy that blissful feeling!
The key to a successful toy rotation is management. It’s easiest to reassess the toy rotation a couple of times a year. If you notice your child is getting bored with certain toys, take them out for a while, or even forever. When your child gets new toys (think birthdays and Christmas) put the new toys into your rotation and remove a few toys that have been outgrown. You don’t want your whole system falling apart because you’re drowning in toys again.
And as with any new system, give it some time to work the kinks out. Your first rotation might be a total bust while your kids are getting used to it. Or they may completely freak out that a certain toy is put away. If that’s the case, don’t be afraid to make changes and get that toy out. Make the toy rotation work for you and your children.
Have you tried a toy rotation before? How has it worked out for you? Are you going to try this system out? Let me know if you have any questions or concerns in the comment section below!