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The Ultimate Guide to Toy Rotation

May 29, 2023

Once you become a parent, it isn’t long until it seems as though toys are taking over your entire living space. Experts say that having fewer toys is better for children, but keeping play things to a minimum is easier said than done. Gifts from well-meaning friends and family, impulsive purchases made during late-night nursing sessions, and over-excitement for every first holiday can mean that these toys pile up—and quickly, too. The older your kiddo gets and the more toys that they have, tidying up becomes more of an impossible task. And, despite there being a mountain of toys in the living room and in their playroom, they might complain that they’re bored. Luckily, there’s a solution to this, and it’s a simple one: toy rotation.

Toy Rotation

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the amount of toys in your home, it’s likely that your child is, too. Toy rotation is the process of keeping only a few toys out at a time and packing away the others, then rotating them out as often as necessary. Cycling toys in and out this way not only keeps the clutter to a minimum (for your sanity!), but also keeps old toys feeling exciting and fresh for your little one. When there’s less clutter to deal with, it’s easier to encourage your child to clean up and build good habits. Rather than going out and buying a new toy that will entertain your little one for all of an hour before they toss it somewhere to never be picked up again, older toys will foster new interest as your child grows and is able to play with it in different ways they weren’t able to before. This promotes independent, creative play, and is a great tool for building focus. Here’s exactly how to implement a toy rotation system in your home:

toys on a toki mats play mat

STEP 1: GATHER ALL THE TOYS IN ONE PLACE

Gather all (yes, all)  your child’s toys in a spacious area, like the living room, when they’re asleep and unable to interrupt. This might seem like a daunting task if the toys have completely taken over your living space, but it’s a necessary one so you can take inventory and figure out what you’re up against.

STEP 2: SORT OUT THE JUNK FROM THE KEEPERS

Carefully assess each toy in your pile. Not all toys are alike, and you’ll definitely want to keep open-ended ones that promote creative play because these are the types of play things that will grow with your little one. All the little knick-knacks you’ve picked up over the years from Happy Meals and birthday party goodie bags? Toss ‘em. Trust us, your kiddo won’t miss those tiny toys that always seem to end up under the couch or in between its cushions. If you come across broken toys or ones with missing pieces that defeat their purpose, it’s time to toss those too.

STEP 3: CATEGORIZE 

Once you have all your functional toys gathered, group them together in relevant categories. Markers, crayons, coloring books, and Play-Doh go together. Stuffed animals, dolls, and all their accompanying accessories go together. Play food, kitchen accessories, and tools go together. Dress-up costumes and accessories go together. Legos, building blocks, and train sets go together.

toddler and mom playing with blocks on a toki mats play mat

STEP 4: CHOOSE AND DISPLAY THE TOYS IN ROTATION

With all the toys separated and categorized, you can create rotation sets with several toys in each category so that you don’t have too many of one type. Aim to have about 8-10 toys out at a time. One rotation set might look like this: a Lego set, a few Play-Doh colors, a doctor costume with accompanying accessories, and 2-3 dolls. This way, your little one can choose which type of play they want to engage in on a given day, whether it be building something or playing pretend with their dolls. If you have a Montessori shelf in your playroom, display the toys that are in rotation. This creates a tidy, attractive look that is as aesthetically pleasing to your little one as it is to you, and will make the toys more enticing to reach for.

STEP 5: PACK EVERYTHING ELSE AWAY

Now that you’ve chosen your toys to display, all other toys should be packed away and put out of reach and out of sight of your kiddo. If your little one can’t see them, they won’t be as likely to ask for them, and will play with the toys that are currently in rotation. If they do ask for a toy that isn’t in rotation, gently let them know that it isn’t available to play with, but that you’ll add it to the next rotation.

STEP 6: CREATE A ROTATION SCHEDULE

How often you choose to rotate toys will depend on your child’s age and their interests. You can start with rotating toys every 2-3 weeks and adjust the time as you observe how they do with that schedule. Aim to rotate toys out no more than once a week, and pay attention to the toys they play with and the ones they don’t play with. If your little one fails to show interest in a toy time and time again throughout multiple rotations, it’s probably a sign that they’ve outgrown that toy and that you can donate it!

babies playing with toys on toki mats play mat

When it comes to toy rotation, there are no set rules. Do what feels right for your child and your home, and adjust accordingly. The idea is a simple one: by only keeping a handful of toys out at a time, it may renew their interest in older toys and also spark creativity when they discover new ways to play with them. After all, less is more!

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The Ultimate Guide to Toy Rotation

About the Author: Alice

Alice Mendoza is a copywriter and blog writer based in Los Angeles. She began writing for a baby brand while on maternity leave, and realized she had found her niche. Today, she writes exclusively within the baby space, using her BFA in Creative Writing and her own experience as a mother to guide her. When she’s not working, you can find her chasing down her toddler, going on walks around the neighborhood, or watching reality TV.

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