Thursday, August 29

{Toy Rotations} Keeping Playtime Intentional and Toys Organized

I have been ready to write this post for over a month now. Don't ask me why it took so long but the day is finally here, that's what's important! Before I get started, I want to give a big thank you to Little Stories and Playing With Words 365. Thanks to these two women, I've received so much guidance on how to be intentional with my Little Man during play time (and now "Tot School"),  as well as tons of ideas on how I can help him to develop his speech, build is imagination, and explore the world around him with an eagerness to learn.

One of the fantastic ideas that I've gleaned from them is the concept of a "toy rotation". At first, the idea seemed a bit too time consuming to me. Who has time to rotate toys? However, once I gave it a try, I now make a point to carve out time to rotate those toys! Allow me to give you some benefits, bullet-point style:
  • You can officially kiss a cluttered toy room/corner/cupboard/closet...goodbye!
  • Your child(ren) will no longer play with a toy for half a second only to throw it to the ground and pull out yet another toy to throw down, and so on and so forth. Less toys means more intentional play.
  • You can save money on buying new toys! Thanks to the idea of "out of sight, out of mind", when you "go shopping in your toy closet" and pull out a toy that has been tucked away for a month, your child will play with it like it's brand new again.
  • Your child will learn even more from each toy that gets rotated. If the toy is put away for long enough, your child might actually come up with a new way to play with it once you bring it back out.
  • It doesn't take near as long to clean up toys when there aren't as many to scatter about the house.
  • Did I mention that it cuts down the clutter?? It's probably worth mentioning again.
If my bullets weren't convincing enough, I'm completely prepared with lots of photo proof. But before I reveal the the mess, the makeover and the MUST-HAVE "Toy Rotation Schedule", I want to share with you a little bit about the method.

Again, all credit goes to Kim over at Little Stories. She has many more posts on this topic and they're all very helpful. Please go read this post for all the nitty-gritty about how to rotate. I'll give you the highlights of what I learned from her and then move onto how the plan was put into action in our house.

1. You must get rid of the toys that are not age appropriate. When I did this, it immediately cut the amount of toys in Little Man's room by half.

2. Get rid of the useless toys. If there's stuff that has way too many missing parts to even have a purpose anymore, throw it out. If there's a toy that is broken. Get rid of it. Is there a toy you despise and wish your child would just kick it to the curb? Do it for them ;-)

3. Put the remaining toys in categories.
  • Thinking Toys -- The toys that target cognitive development (stacking blocks, shape sorters, puzzles, nesting cups, paper and crayons)
  • Pretending Toys -- These toys target social, emotional, and language development (kitchen sets, stuffed animals, farm toys, toy dishes, and dress up clothes)
  • Moving Toys -- Toys which target gross motor development (balls, tricycles, musical instruments)
*Once you arrange those three categories, you'll want to reserve a special place for your SCLANS.

4. Select the toys you are going to set out for your child(ren) to play with. I pick 3 for each category. To round it off to a nice even "10", I select one toy to be stashed away in my kitchen as a "witching hour toy" (more to come on that in a later post).

5. Put the selected toys out and visible for your child. Most importantly, put the other toys away and out of sight. I learned the hard way when Little Man happened to open one of the cabinet doors where I had stuck some of the toys. Needless to say, I purchased some childproof locks soon afterwards! 

Now I'm going to show you how I put this rotation into action in our own tiny cozy home.

Here are some before pictures of what Little Man's collection of toys looked like in each area of the house that he has claimed his 'toy territory'.

It was a mess, I know. Once I started sorting through the toys, I was shocked to find how many toys I still had out for Little Man to play with that weren't even age appropriate anymore. Why did I still have two bulky toys sitting around that are meant to encourage Little Man to stand up when he was already running at full speed? Who knows... Nevertheless, it was one of the first toys to be disassembled and packed away.

Next, I divided up the toys in their respective categories and placed them in cabinets that are located in our living room. This step will look different for everyone. We all have varying amounts of available space to stash things away and out of sight. The important thing is that it is out of your child's view and/or reach.

I used some washi tape to label the cabinet shelves. There's something about adding a label that makes me feel so much more organized.

I decided to use a drawer for all the animals. I still need to add a lock!
Finally, I selected the allotted amount of toys for each category and placed most of them in Little Man's room, but also a few in various places around the house that have become play spots for him. I've learned to embrace "toys" as part of my home decor ;-)

Gotta love a cardboard kitchen oven/stovetop!

Once your toys are organized, the whole rotation part is really simple. It only takes me 5 minutes max each time I rotate Little Man's toys. To make my life a little more organized, I created this "Toy Rotation Schedule" PDF that I want to pass along to you! Each category has 10 spaces, so that totals to 30 toys to be rotated through. If there are some toys that you're never able to really "put away", for example a tricycle or kitchen set, don't bother taking up a space to write those down. Since they aren't really being rotated, there's no sense in adding it to the schedule.

Click here to download
Along the top of the schedule, you get to pick the pace that you rotate toys. It can be each week, every other week, or once a month....up to you! Fill in the date for when the first rotation began so that you know how long it's been since you last rotated.

I didn't add this to the PDF, but I like to give myself a reminder of how many toys to pick from each category. For example, in the green space for one category, I might write "pick 3 toys".

I place a check in the box for the toys that I've selected for that week so that next week I won't pick the same ones. This also gives me a nice visual over time to see which toys get played with most and which ones have become like the Velveteen Rabbit. Hopefully I won't let any of the toys be forgotten!

I didn't put a spot for books because I don't really know of a "good number" to put on that. I don't know that there's any right or wrong answer for books, as long as they're educational :-)

If you're interested, you can always find more activities to encourage intentional play and learning on the Play to Learn page.

I'd love to hear from you. What other ideas/techniques have you found to be helpful when it comes to taming the toy clutter? Do you have to encourage your child(ren) to play with other toys or do they seem to play with all their toys pretty regularly? What do you do with the toys that seem to be forgotten? Pack them away? Sell them? I'm curious to know so leave a comment!

     Truly Lovely


  1. Even though it's only the hubby and me right now, I love this idea. Actually, we already decided to do something like this, plus a limit on how many toys they have. That way less clutter and hopefully they learn how to appreciate their toys.
    -Katrina @ Table for Two, please?

    *Visiting from Whatever Goes Wednesday @ Someday Crafts*

    1. I've been really happy with the results. I've noticed that he plays with toys for longer and there's also a lot less of a mess to clean up each day. You might also like this one article I found and linked to on my "Play to Learn" page:

      Thanks for stopping by!

  • Love this blog post:) I so need to go through toys and start kicking some to the curb;) Thanks for linking up to Tell Me Tuesday! You will be featured this week!

    1. Thanks Tori! This toy rotation is saving my sanity. Our house definitely qualifies as a "small living space" so all those toys were just taking over! I like them much better tucked away...or in someone else's house ;-)

      I'm looking forward to the next Tell Me Tuesday link up!


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