Our Toy Rotation Plan

We've been slowly amassing a hoard of toys for little M since he was born. Throw in the holidays and his birthday, and things were getting downright overwhelming. Before he was born I thought that we'd have a dozen or so toys for him at any given stage, and that I wouldn't let toys overtake my house. Now I realize that not only do toys last through more than one stage, but buying toys is fun! And free and really cheap toys off my local mom's list are nearly impossible to resist.

We certainly don't have as many toys as most people I know. But we have a small house that we try to keep as clutter-free as possible, and just after Christmas I was feeling overwhelmed. So I set out to figure out a toy rotation plan. After searching for inspiration, I found a few posts on the website Intelligent Nest about "rethinking the playroom" that resonated with me. She explained that her kids would play with the same few toys all the time and ignore the rest. In one of her toy rotation posts she explained that kids learn from new experiences, but if they keep seeing the same toys in the same place all the time, they lose interest and stop playing with them because the toys have become predictable. She explains that toy rotations, which are most effective for infants through 5 or 6 year olds, are done in early education environments all the time. She really hit the nail (or the bright peg toy) on the head: little M was bored with toys he found fascinating just a few weeks ago.

I read that an every-fifth-day rotation is ideal, but we decided on a once a week rotation to keep things easy and because little M is only home and awake for a couple hours, max, each day. (We rotate Friday night, but I should point that little M does get noticeably less interested in his toys by Thursday.)

One night after little M was in bed, I printed out a list of 13 categories and went through all of Little M's toys, assigning them to categories. I determined that based on the number of toys, we could do a three week rotation. I pulled out all of little M's toys and made three piles by taking an equal number of toys from each category - from some categories I took one toy, from others I took two or three. I made the weeks loosely themed - we have airplane week, which has his toy planes and books about planes and tractor week with his tractor toys and some farm books. Because he's learning to walk right now, we kept out his walker to use as a bin for his soft toys each week and his stacking cups, which I occasionally use to give him sips of my tea or soup. His play kitchen is always out in our dining room, but I move around the kitchen accessories so he has new stuff to play with each week.

13 Toy Rotation Categories

1. Active play - riding, pushing, etc.
2. Art (we don't have any of these yet) - drawing, cutting, painting, taping
3. Building - blocks, Legos
4. Dress-up & Dramatic play - tool belt, princess dresses, baby dolls
5. Science - gears, cause & effect toys, mixing colors
6. Math - counting, shape sorting
7. Manipulating toys - small items that are used to focus on fine motor coordination like screws and latch boards
8. Literacy - books & pictures
9. Music - we have an abundance of music toys, our favorite!
10. Logic - puzzles
11. Wheels - any kind of vehicle with wheels
12. Stuffed animals & dolls
13. Balls - this is little M's favorite category!

I neatly packed two weeks of toys into two bins that I store in my office. Because we spend most of our family and play time in our living room, I arranged the third pile of toys in the cubbies of our coffee table.

I was skeptical of the rotation plan at first. We have some really nice toys and I'm all too aware that little M is growing and changing at lightning speed; I was afraid he'd "outgrow" a toy in the two weeks it was in storage. But we decided to give the plan three weeks, and three full rotations before deciding if toy rotation is for us.

OH MY GOODNESS! I am a total toy rotation convert! Saturday mornings have been like Christmas here since we started the rotation seven Saturdays ago. Little M is SO EXCITED to see the new toys when we come downstairs on Saturdays. He goes through them like a hurricane and plays with everything! Nothing goes untouched. My fear of his outgrowing toys was totally unfounded; he's still interested in everything. Best of all, I haven't bought a single new toy since we started the plan; there hasn't been a need at all. And our house isn't overrun with toys anymore. Whew!

Do you have a toy rotation plan? Are you ready to try it out and join me as a toy rotation convert?

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  1. This is a really neat idea!! And so glad to hear it is working so well! :) Lids only has a few toys so this wouldn't really work for us. All of her toys don't even fill her 3 sprouts toy box/bag (same one but hippo.. love it!!) 3/4 full. She does have two different push toys and a few different stuffed animals though so we try to mix those up.

  2. Only a nuke or nuke family member would create such a list :)

  3. Anonymous2/25/2013

    We rotate toys as well. We have three (sometimes two) bins of toys and have a variety of toys in each. Right now my 9-month-old son is fascinated with balls, sorter toys, and anything he can chew on (teething for the past couple of months and isn't likely to end anytime soon).

  4. I'm totally doing this tonight. I wanted to clean his toys anyhow, so this is a good reason to do it. We have so many toys and I feel like Henry plays with very few of them. We actually have different spots he plays with toys (the living room and the upstairs landing while I'm getting ready int he morning), so I think I'll just rotate them to each area and then have the others in the closet. Looking forward to seeing how this goes. Thanks for the inspiration.

  5. I started doing a toy rotation right after Christmas but I didn't really have any rhyme or reason to my groupings and they kind of fell apart after a few months. I think I will give this grouping a try.

  6. I started doing a toy rotation right after Christmas but I didn't really have any rhyme or reason to my groupings and they kind of fell apart after a few months. I think I will give this grouping a try.


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