While I’m a pretty rubbish cleaner, I do like my house to be tidy and organised. Young children’s toys can make this somewhat challenging! I’ve found that toy rotation helped me keep toys organised, as well as helping the kids to appreciate them more.
What is Toy Rotation?
When I had my first baby, people bought a few toys as gifts. Being the organised type, I went out and bought a nice wicker basket to keep then in. It was tasteful and sat neatly in the corner of the room. As time went on, more toys arrived. My pretty basket filled up. Before long, it was overflowing. As we tended to just grab one of the toys on top when we needed something to distract the baby from trying to eat our keys, I decided to put some of the toys away for a bit. This is how toy rotation begun for us.
We found that being able to produce “new” toys was an excellent solution when the baby was grumpy. As he grew into a toddler, swapping the toys over could change a boring afternoon at home into an exciting adventure. Once I had a preschooler, getting different toys out could actually buy me an hour or two of peace and (almost) quiet.
There is evidence to suggest that having too many toys is overwhelming for children and makes it hard for them to settle to an activity. Limiting what’s available at any one time can encourage small children to use their imaginations and play more creatively.
Toy rotation can also make play less repetitive for parents. Can’t stand to hear that toy sing wheels on the bus one more time? Change the toys over. Feel like you might tear your own hair out if you have to do the voice for that particular doll again? Change the toys over.
You’ll also find that less toys makes tidying up much easier!
Toy Rotation for Babies
When you have a baby, toy rotation is really easy. If it’s out of sight, it essentially ceases to exist. For this reason, its not worth rotating toys until some degree of object permanence is established. Even once it is, baby memories are short, so you can change your toys over fairly regularly if you want to. You also don’t have to worry too much about hiding the toys that have been rotated out.
Toy Rotation for Toddlers
Toddlers take a bit longer to forget than babies but are unlikely to question you as to the whereabouts of a particular toy that is out of rotation. We usually rotated our toddler toys around every 3-4 weeks. This was usually long enough for the novelty of the current toys to have worn off and the previous toys to seem novel again.
I usually rotated the toys at night or during nap time so that he woke to found his toys magically replaced.
Toy Rotation for Preschoolers
Preschoolers are a bit more complicated. They are likely to have wised up to what you are doing which means two things may happen. They will ask you for toys that are out of rotation and they will ask you if its time to change the toys yet. Neither of these are a big problem, you just need to make a plan on how you will respond to these requests. Our toys were only stored in a cupboard so it was fairly easy for me to go and grab anything they particularly wanted. If you store yours in a loft or similar you might not be so keen to get them. We also found that there were toys they regularly asked for so stopped rotating those ones.
With requests to rotate the toys, you can either follow their lead and rotate the toys when they ask, or a have a set period of time and explain they need to wait. If your child doesn’t ask until they are genuinely bored with the current toys then rotating on request might work best but if they are asking after a day or two you might need a set timescale.
How to Start Toy Rotation
You might think that you need to have a huge number of toys to have a rotation system but that’s not true. Think about how few toys our parents had growing up. As a child I probably had about a third of the toys that my children have. Children don’t need loads of toys, if they have less, they will likely just use them better. Even with ten toys, you could still benefit from rotating them.
To do toy rotation, you’ll need some containers. You can use proper storage boxes or just cardboard ones. You’ll also need somewhere to store the toys when they aren’t in use. When you just have a baby, they don’t really need hiding but as they get older they will need to be out of sight. In cupboards, under beds, in a garage or in the loft can all work.
You can do toy rotation perfectly well with just two sets of toys but as they get older, and the number of toys you have grows, you might want more than two sets. I had three by the preschool years which was the most I could reasonably store.
If you have children of different ages, you can rotate all of their toys together, so that each rotation has some of each child’s toys. Alternatively, you can separate them out and change one child’s more frequently. This can work well if you have a baby and a toddler or preschooler.
How to Organise Toy Rotation
If you don’t have a huge number of toys, you won’t need to worry too much about categories but if you’re like me and have ended up with loads of them (mostly due to gifts and visits to the charity shop) then categories can be useful. Below are some suggested categories, you would aim to have one item from each category in the rotation.
- Noisy Toys – While it is tempting to remove them from the rotation altogether, musical toys are great for development. They also meet the criteria for a cause and effect toy as described below
- Something to build with – This might be stacking cups for babies, blocks for toddlers or Duplo for preschoolers.
- Games – Not one for the babies but toddlers and preschoolers may enjoy a game in the rotation
- A Cause and Effect Toy – For babies and toddlers, a toy where they do something (cause) and then something happens (effect) are good for development
- Small World Toys – Toys for acting out real life scenes are important for kids. I had things like a farm set, a tree house set and a garage set which I rotated
- Role Play Toys – Dressing up clothes, tea sets, tool boxes or dolls are all great roll play toys to rotate
- Hand Eye Coordination – These are particularly important for babies and toddlers, things like shape sorters are great for this
What We Don’t Rotate
We tended not to rotate large toys like ride ons and play kitchens. This was for practical reasons really but if you have a lot of large toys and space to store them there’s no reason not to rotate them.
We didn’t rotate art suppliers as we wanted them always to have access to those but there were (and still are!) some that they could only use with an adult. We also didn’t rotate soft toys are neither of our children really played with them, they just got carried around the house from place to place!
With books, we didn’t rotate our own books (although we certainly had enough to do it) but we used the library regularly so there were always plenty of different books for them in the house.
We stopped rotating toys around the age my oldest stared school. We found by then that changing the toys over didn’t get them as excited as it previously had. The focus moved then to trying to actually get rid of some of the toys although it’s only now that they are 7 and 9 that I am managing to get rid of more toys than I am gaining!
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