It’s after the holidays and maybe your home is now filled with an overabundance of new toys piled alongside all the other toys your child already owned. Is the clutter driving you nuts? Is your child already showing signs of boredom with all his brand new toys? Then, think toy rotation!
What is toy rotation you ask? Toy rotation involves de-cluttering your child’s play area by sorting his or her toys into like piles and putting similar toys away for a week or up to a month at a time before bringing them out again. Sound confusing and time consuming? Most parents who use toy rotation swear by it and on average it doesn’t take more than a 1/2hour to complete a toy rotation each week or every few weeks. Plus it helps keep your child’s play area clean and tidy.
You probably noticed that your toddler’s attention span may have temporarily improved when she received new toys at the holidays, but now that a few weeks have passed she is back to dumping containers and searching for something to do.
Young children are overwhelmed with choosing a single toy or activity to play with when there is so much available to choose from. I see playrooms filled to the brim and I hear parents saying “She has 200 toys and she doesn’t play with any of them!”. Your child may want to play with a puzzle, but when there are 17 puzzles on the shelf, this may lead to simply pulling puzzle after puzzle off the shelf and dumping the pieces without actually completing an activity. The same goes for books, cars, blocks and any other favorite activities your child may have.
To alleviate this, parents can sort their kid’s toys into like groups: Literacy (books, pictures, flashcards, etc), Transportation (all vehicles), Manipulatives (blocks, Legos, pegs, ringstacks, nesting cups), Active Play (bikes, balls, push toys), Dramatic play (dolls, action figures, dress up, kitchen sets), Art (Crayons, markers, coloring books, playdoh), etc. Once this is accomplished, do you notice that your child actually has 25 trucks, 36 books, 18 dolls, 12 puzzles , 7 balls and so on? Great! This is where rotation starts. Grab some empty boxes or plastic storage bins. Mark each box or bin with the name of the toy group, such as “Active Play”. Now choose 2-4 items in this group to remain in your child’s play area and put the rest in the bin for later rotation. Do this with all toy groups until your clutter is minimized and your child now has 5 trucks, 6 books, 4 dolls, 3 puzzles, 2 balls…you get the idea. You chose the number to stay on the shelf, but try to keep it under 7 of each item (one for each day of the week) to minimize your clutter and maximize your child’s attention.
Week one, we have 3 fire engines, football and basketball, crayons & markers, animal figures, nesting cups and number puzzles. Week two we have 3 race cars, soccer and texture balls, Playdoh, Star Wars figures, stacking rings and shape puzzles. Get it?
Gauge your child’s interest level with her toys and then as you notice your child beginning to get bored with toys or spending less and less time engaged in play, rotate to all NEW toys in each toy group! Yes, indeed, when you rotate toys, those same toys that your child had no interest in 2 weeks ago will now be BRAND NEW to him again! We suggest trying this for at least 3 weeks until you get the hang of it and don’t give up. You can start rotating weekly if you have the time and energy, but two weeks seems more standard. Some kids do well with the same toys for an entire month. You’ll see an amazing difference in attention, play and creativity each time you roll out a new rotation. Good Luck!
PS: This also gives you a chance to throw out broken toys, find missing pieces to toys and donate toys that are too young for your child or that they clearly do not play with anymore.