Babies and young children accumulate a lot of toys! Yet somehow still, at least over at my house, it can feel like we play with the same things over and over. And my little guy starts to get bored of those few toys. So then I need to switch it up and go rummaging through the other toys we have to find something new and exciting. Rotating your toys is a great way to keep their brains entertained and learning each day, while avoiding the aforementioned rummaging. It’s also a great way to manage clutter when you feel overrun with toys. So when faced with a mountain of toys (surely it’s not just me who overbuys for their little one), having a system for rotating those toys will be helpful!
Why Toy Rotation
If you’re not sure what the point of rotating your toys is here are a few benefits:
- Can decrease clutter and make cleanup faster.
- Limits overstimulation.
- Allows for more creative play. Less toys present means space for their brains to create new ways to use the items they have.
- Could be a money saver. When they start asking for new toys, pull out the next rotations and voila! Refreshed toys for them, no extra spending for you.
Gather, Sort, Donate
To get started with a toy rotation system it is super helpful to have a better idea of what you have. So I recommend first gathering up all (yes ALL) of the toys. Go through and pull out any that are broken to throw away. Or use this opportunity to replace batteries or superglue a favorite broken toy. Then do another pass and pull out the things that definitely don’t get played with or are outgrown- these can be donated! Pro tip- do not leave your kids out of this part if they are older. You’d hate to donate something and have them asking for it two days later. So let the older kids take some ownership in this stage.
After you’ve thrown away and pulled items for donation go ahead and sort the other items into a few overarching categories. For example maybe you have a category for stuffed animals, arts/crafts, building kits, musical toys, rattles etc. This part is helpful because when you’re creating your rotations in the next step you’ll want to be able to pull from a handful of categories to keep things interesting.
Build Your Bins
After you’ve sorted all of the toys you’ll want to go ahead and get them into bins to be used for the rotation. You don’t have to use bins but they will most likely be the best option for storing the toys that aren’t being used. How many bins you have will depend on a few things- how many toys you have and how often you want to rotate toys. In the different bins you’ll want to put toys from all of your different categories (or at least a few different ones). This way there will be plenty of different types of toys and activities to choose from each time you rotate your bins. Obviously you don’t want all the puzzles together leaving them with only puzzles to play with during that rotation. So grab a few items from each!
Decide on a Schedule
Once you have your bins together you can decide how frequently you’ll rotate through them, how many bins will be in each rotation etc. You can think about your child’s age and level of engagement with toys to help you decide how long is a good amount of time to go between rotating. You may decide once a month is ideal. Or maybe you don’t have as many toys and want to rotate more frequently such as each week. Or you plan to leave a larger amount of toys out so you can go farther between rotations stretching to every quarter. Whatever works for you is perfect! If a strict schedule isn’t for you, no worries! You can just keep an eye on how your kiddos are interacting with their toys and make the switch when you notice them getting bored or disinterested in the current ones. Keep in mind you can rotate as many bins at a time as you’d like. You can swap 1 bin at a time, 2 bins at a time, or 5- it all depends on what works for your family and play space.
Put Things Away
Once you’ve landed on your schedule, you’re ready to put things away. This is two fold. It means first deciding which collection of toys is staying out. Put those toys wherever you usually keep toys. Maybe that’s a toy box, a playroom, bins/baskets in your living room- whatever you already use! Secondly, the rest of the rotating collections will need a home too. A key part of this system is keeping these toys out of sight. Ideally you would put them in a spot the kiddos can’t get to them such as the attic, garage, a closet they don’t go in etc. Out of sight, out of mind right? But again, be sure your older kids are aware of this new system so they don’t think there is a toy thief in the family. When it’s time to rotate the toys, gather them into their bin(s) and put them in the “hidden” location, grabbing a new collection in its place. I think doing this part when your kids aren’t around is fun because then they have the fun surprise of all new toys when they come back/wake up.
If you have a lot of toys and therefore a lot of bins to rotate you’ll definitely want to a way to keep up with which ones you’ve used or what is in the bins. There are few ideas I have that could help. First of all you could color code! So if you have 10 bins of toys and you plan to rotate them in groups of 2 you could use 5 different color bins or 5 colors of masking tape to label etc. So you may start with the red bins, then trade for the blue bins then switch to black and so on until you’re back to red. Another idea is just putting a large and easy to see number on the bins and going in order. So for the scenario above you would number your bins 1-10 and you’d start with bins 1 and 2, then trade for 3 and 4 until you get to 10. Lastly you could just be sure to use clear bins and trust yourself to recognize the toys in the bins to keep from duplicating or swapping the same bins too often. This would probably work best if you don’t have TOO many rotations.
Short Term Ideas
Perhaps your children haven’t accumulated quite as many toys as I’m describing in this post. Or perhaps you simply have enough space and storage solutions that a true toy rotation doesn’t feel necessary or worthwhile. But maybe you would still like to keep things fresh for your littles and need some thoughts on how to do this without binning up their toys to trade out every few weeks. Here are two ideas that might be helpful:
- Use different rooms of your house to “rotate” toys. Have toys that are designated for different spaces so that if the kiddos need a break from a certain collection of toys they can simply go play in a different space. I did this with my newborn. We had living room toys, nursery toys and travel toys and we just migrated around throughout the day to keep things interesting. it also helped to give him a change of scenery which is always good!
- Use a scaled down bin/basket system. If you have a playroom or play space that houses most of their toys you could still collect toys into baskets and have your kids rotate through which basket(s) they play with each day or few days. They can periodically reorganize the baskets to create a different collection of items.
So as the new year approaches and we all vow to be more organized, hopefully this plan will get you out from under a mountain of toys and into the realm of tidy organization.