Maybe you have been feeling overwhelmed with the amount of toys left everywhere, and how you seem to be the only one that packs anything away. Or maybe you have started on a journey of minimalism. Or maybe you are interested in how to get your kids to play with the toys they already have without continually buying more. Then a toy rotation could be the answer.
Discover what a toy rotation is, and the benefits of setting one up. Plus, all the tricks and tips for making it happen as easily as possible. What really is the best age for a toy rotation. Spoiler alert – it is great for any age kiddo! Find out how to have less toy clutter, kids who pack away, and play creatively with the toys they have. Yes, it can happen!
What Is A Toy Rotation & Why You Want One
A toy rotation is simply a system in which a number of toys is periodically swapped out, while the remaining toys are stored away. The idea is to keep a manageable number of toys available for your kids to play with at any given time.
“Stick the rest in the garage, give it a three-month rotation; you won’t need to buy anymore because they will have forgotten they had them and they will feel all new again.” – parenting expert, Maggie Dent
It is a great way to reduce the number of toys kids have to play with at one time without getting rid of toys permanently. A toy rotation means…
1. Less Clutter
Less toys means less mess, and less overwhelm too! When packing away is quick and easy, kids are more likely take to ownership of the process. Read more about the benefits of kids having less toys.
Storing some toys away when not in use also creates more physical space and reduces clutter in play areas. A toy rotation is a simple way to keep a play area more organized.
2. More Creativity
It seems counter intuitive but with a limited selection of toys, kids are encouraged to use their imagination and creativity to explore different play scenarios. They end up engaging more deeply with each toy, which leads to focused and extended play sessions. (Hopefully!)
“Boredom is something that is really uncomfortable for children, so if we don’t put something in their hands or immediately create something for them they are absolutely motivated to fix the boredom by creating something for themselves.” – Maggie Dent
Having too many toys accessible at once can overwhelm kids and make it difficult for them to focus on any one toy. Rotating toys limits the choices, making it easier for them to engage deeply in play.
3. New Toys Again and Again
Old toys become new toys again because kids simply haven’t seen them for a while. When toys are constantly available, they can lose their appeal quickly. Rotating toys reintroduces a sense of novelty and excitement, prolonging the interest in each toy.
Bonus, a toy rotation saves you money on buying new toys to get that novelty factor!
4. Opportunities For Learning
Rotating toys can expose children to a variety of themes and types of play, which supports their cognitive, social, and emotional development. Think of it as intentional play especially when you put together a range of toys from different categories. See below how to organize toys in categories.
Different toys often require different fine motor movements. Rotating toys exposes children to a range of activities that promote the development of fine motor skills.
Best Age To Start A Toy Rotation
A toy rotation can be introduced as the first 12 months and can continue throughout childhood. Really, the age to start will depend on your child. Here’s a general guideline for when to consider starting a toy rotation:
Babies (0-6 months)
In the early months, babies are primarily focused on sensory experiences and exploration. You can introduce different types of soft toys, rattles, and textured objects. A formal toy rotation is not necessary, however you can gradually introduce new sensory toys to engage your baby’s developing senses.
Babies (6-12 months)
As your baby becomes more curious and mobile, you can start rotating toys that encourage exploration, such as colorful toys, soft books, and toys that make sounds. Introduce toys that encourage reaching, grabbing, and rolling.
Toddlers (1-3 years)
A toy rotation is great for toddlers because at this age they are curious and easily engaged with a variety of toys. Start rotating toys to maintain interest and introduce different types of play, such as building blocks, puzzles, pretend play items, and art supplies.
Preschool (3-5 years)
A toy rotation continues to be valuable during the preschool years. Introduce more complex toys that promote creativity, problem-solving, and imaginative play.
Keep in mind that every child is unique, and there’s really no strict age requirement for starting a toy rotation. Instead pay attention to you kids. If you notice that they are becoming easily bored with their current toys or showing a desire for new experiences, it might be a good time to start a toy rotation.
The key is to make a toy rotation a fun and positive experience for your child. Involve them in the process, and adjust the rotation frequency based on their reactions and engagement.
What age does a toy rotation stop? A toy rotation doesn’t necessarily have to stop at any specific age. While the frequency and approach to toy rotation might change as your child grows, the concept of providing variety and managing clutter can still be valuable throughout childhood.
Remember that the goal of a toy rotation is to provide engaging play opportunities, prevent overwhelm, and maintain an organized environment.
As your child grows, the focus might shift from traditional toy rotation to managing belongings, introducing new interests, and encouraging responsible ownership. Adapt the concept to best suit your child’s age, interests, and family dynamics.
10 Steps To Create A Toy Rotation System
Step 1. Gather All The Toys
Start by gathering a diverse assortment of toys from your child’s collection. These can include toys of various types, such as building blocks, pretend play items, puzzles, art supplies, and more. You might be surprised by how many toys your kids have!
Step 2. Declutter
Not all toys need to be packed away or be part of a toy rotation. Some just need to be donated or binned!
Step 3. Sort Toys Into Like Groups
See our category ideas further down for how to organize toys.
Step 4. Plan Your Toy Rotation Storage
Store the toys that won’t be part of the current rotation in a labeled container or storage area. This can be a closet, shelf, or under-bed storage, depending on the available space. Remember the goal is to have less toys out at one time.
Step 5. Decide How Often To Rotate Toys
Decide on a rotation schedule that works for your family. This could be weekly, fortnightly, or monthly, depending on your child’s interests and attention span.
Step 6. Swap Toys
At the beginning of each rotation cycle, swap out the toys that are currently available for the stored toys. This introduces a “new” set of toys to your child, creating a sense of excitement and novelty.
Step 7. Declutter More If You Need To
Towards the end of the rotation cycle, pay attention to which toys your child seems less interested in. This can help you make informed decisions about which toys to keep in the next rotation and which ones to potentially donate or pass on.
Step 8. Organize and Repeat
As the rotation cycle comes to an end, swap the toys again, bringing back the ones that were stored. Repeat this process regularly to keep playtime engaging and fresh.
Toy Rotation Categories
Make it easier to decide what toys to swap out in your toy rotation by sorting all your toys into categories. Then each toy rotation choose a few from each category to provide a variety of play experiences.
Here’s a few ways to categorize toys for rotation:
1. Types of Play
Categorize toys based on the types of play they encourage. Common play types include:
- Imaginative play
- Art and creativity
- Fine motor skills
- Active play
Here is a list of categories you might include:
- Building Blocks
- Pretend Play
- Art Supplies
- Outdoor Play
Rotate toys with similar themes together. For example, you could have a rotation of space-themed toys, then switch to a rotation of animal-themed toys.
Whatever way you decide to categorize toys, make sure to consider these tips below.
Tips For Choosing Toys
TIP 1: Aim for a balanced rotation by including toys from different categories. This makes sure your kids have a variety of play opportunities.
TIP 2: Make sure to include some of your child’s favorite toys in each rotation. These are the toys they consistently enjoy and can be kept out longer. Some of those favorites you may choose to not pack away at all!
Books are an absolute favorite in our house and don’t get packed away! Here are some of our favorites!
TIP 3: If your child has specific interests, cater to those interests when categorizing toys. For example, if they love dinosaurs, create a “Dinosaur Play” category.
TIP 4: Include open-ended toys that can be used in multiple ways. These toys encourage creativity and extended play.
TIP 5: Consider the sizes of the toys when categorizing. You might have a category for larger toys and another for smaller manipulative toys.
By thinking about how you want to categorize your toys, you can create rotations that offer a variety of play experiences. Of course, regularly assess their interests and adjust your categories as needed.
How Many Toys Do You Need?
The number of toys included in a toy rotation can vary based on your child’s age, interests, and the space available for storage and play. However, you will want to have a manageable number of toys but still provide variety and engagement. Here’s how to work what number of toys is appropriate:
Babies (0 to 12 months)
Babies are often content with a few high-contrast, sensory toys. You could rotate a small selection of soft toys, rattles, and textured items.
Toddlers (1 to 3 years)
Kids this age benefit from having access to a variety of toys. Aim for around 10 to 15 toys per rotation. Include toys that promote different types of play. See our list above.
Preschool (3-5 years)
Preschoolers can handle a slightly larger rotation with around 15 to 20 toys. Include a mix of toys that encourage problem-solving, pretend play, creativity, and active play.
School Age (6+ years)
As children get older, they may have specific interests and preferences. A rotation of 10 to 15 toys can work well if you decided to continue using a toy rotation. Include toys to do with their hobbies, and interests.
Tips & Tricks For Organizing A Toy Rotation
Remember that the goal of toy rotation is to keep the play environment fresh and engaging while avoiding overwhelm or clutter. Here are a few tips to keep it simple!
Quality over Quantity: Focus on quality toys that encourage various types of play and learning rather than just having an a lot of toys.
Rotate Regularly: Whether you rotate toys weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly, keep a consistent schedule so your child knows what to expect.
Mom Tip: For younger kids, pack away the current toys when the child is napping or out for a time.
Observe: Pay attention to which toys your child consistently gravitates toward. These are the toys that are likely their favorites and can stay out longer.
Clean and Prepare: Use the rotation time as a reminder to clean toys as needed and check for missing parts or broken pieces. Repair or replace them if necessary. See how to clean soft toys.
Rotate Gradually: Introduce a few new toys at a time. Gradual rotation helps prevent overwhelm and keeps your child engaged with the toys they have.
Regularly Evaluate: Every few months, evaluate your child’s toy collection. Donate or rotate out toys that are no longer of interest or age-appropriate.
Keep it Flexible: A toy rotation is meant to be flexible. If your child is particularly attached to a certain toy, it’s okay to keep it out for longer.
Mom Tip: Don’t pack away the absolute favorites!
A toy rotation really is a great way to keep your child’s play space fresh and engaging while minimizing clutter. The key is to keep the process organized and enjoyable for both you and your child.