Before I was a mother, the idea of having a toy rotation was silly. I mean, let your kids play! But now, I know that having toy rotation ideas keeps kids more interested in what they have and in the end keeps them playing longer. So some of you are asking why and how… well sometimes toys lose their luster or as parents we are just sick of our child constantly playing with the same thing. As a first time mom, I also have been very guilty of just putting all the toys out there, not realizing that having a toy rotation is part of having a Planned Environment. In the end this backfired on me. In the times I needed her to be busy playing, she wanted to have nothing to do with anything because it was all the same.
Before birthdays and holidays, it’s always a great time to assess the children’s toy stash in your home. Give yourself these two weeks to take inventory of what you have now, what your kids are getting, and how you will rotate them. You can prepare the next week before Christmas so you have a game plan going into gifts from you, unexpected gifts from grand parents, and inappropriate gifts from childless relatives. Because, really, we all need a game plan!
Let me also be honest and say that this “two week rotation” that I have heard of is ridiculous. It absolutely does not work for my family. Why? Because I don’t have time to rotate and hide toys every 14 days. Plus, the fallout of hiding a precious toy that I didn’t realize was so wonderful is awful. I like going on a monthly evaluation. Each month a child can develop so much and their tastes can significantly change. SO here they are, my tips…
Practical Toy Rotation Ideas to keep kids interested in what they already have.
1. Assess your Child’s Development
This is one you have to be really honest with yourself and your child. Is the toy developmentally appropriate? If not, put. it. away. I learned this one the hard way. I would find toys I loved in a thrift store and buy it and put it out on our shelves… and it would not get played with or even worse, it would just become something to scatter across the house aimlessly. You have to know what benefits your child’s learning. A little bit of a challenge is not a problem at all, but the idea that an 8 month old needs to know their alphabet is a bit ridiculous. So just be mindful of how a certain toy can facilitate growth.
2. Donate the black sheep & Pick up the Pieces.
It may seem harsh, but there is absolutely no reason to keep the toys your kids never play with. Even as a mom of one that hopes to have several more down the road, I know that hoarding is not the answer! So start collecting the toys that never get interaction consistently even after taking them out of rotation and bag them up during nap time or bed time. Take them to the car in a black non-descript bag immediately! We were able to both downsize and declutter and entire house with kids, so I have faith in you.
If any puzzles or toys are missing pieces, identify those. Gather up as much as you can and be sure to put those away for the coming month. If you find a piece in that month, return it to its rightful place in the toy world. The leftover, make new toys out of and utilize in different ways. New uses for old toys give them longer lives!
3. Identify the timeless toys
For us, we will never rotate out our musical instruments. My daughter is the baby that wiggles her hips when a commercial comes on and bobs her head when the dogs have an off-key howl that somewhat sounds like music. I know that our world would come crashing down and suddenly end if our tambourine or bells suddenly were nowhere to be found. I am sure that there are similar toys in your household and only you know which ones are the end-all-be-all toys. Give them a special place in your play room or kids room so that in the moment of your worst mommy brain snafu, you don’t put them away.
Similarly, I will never put away practical life toys or anything relating to life skills. So the kitchen toy and play dishes will always stay in the kitchen and they will not be a part of the rotation.
4. Adopt the 3 part toy rotation system
This has worked REALLY well for us! The toys that you are considering putting away for a time can become car toys. So the rotation goes Household>Car>Storage and then in the time frame you have chosen (for us it is a month) they come out of storage and into the home again!
For us, I also do a four part system where there are two rooms in our house with toys (Game Room and Living Room). Of course all of the toys in rotation are in the game room but there are a few select toys that hang out in the living room; those are the favorites and/or the most likely to head to the car next.
5. Plan it as part of your calendar.
As you prepare for the coming year, take inventory of toys on paper. It means you know exactly how many toys you have and what they are. This is important because it is really easy to take some toys out of rotation or put them in storage and forget about them forever.
Plan out a calendar for the next twelve months and have at least an idea of how you want to move the toys, where you will keep your storage toys, and keep notes on how a child reacts when a toy comes back into rotation out of storage.
One of the best ways that we plan toy rotation with a calendar is by having weekly learning themes. This means that there will always be at least something new each week and then a few others can come out of rotation.
Your are a manager of your home and it’s your job as a parent to keep things running smoothly, right? So plan accordingly and make play more meaningful and less cluttered! So you might want to adopt toy rotation in order to control toy organization, or maybe you just need a plan to keep your children busy longer. Whichever one you are, good luck and happy rotation planning!
More on toys & gifts
What are your toy rotation ideas and how have they succeeded or failed?
Kara is an author and advocate for positive, grace-filled parenting. She is homeschooler to her 4 children living in Boston, MA and believes in creative educational approaches to help kids dive deeper into a rich learning experience. She has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development and is passionate about connecting with and helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!