Tired of the mess of toys, especially when your kids ignore or get bored with them? Learn how to rotate toys to make better use of them.
Even for a self-proclaimed minimalist, I was getting overwhelmed with my kids’ toys and books.
We don’t have too much storage space to dedicate to toys, much less a playroom where they would belong. Instead, we only have a few shelves, tables, closets, and of course their bedrooms to house the growing number of toys.
I wanted to keep many of them since the kids hadn’t outgrown them yet. But I also noticed there were toys they ignored or didn’t even care about or those that littered the space we had.
And I had given up on asking them which ones they absolutely loved and wanted to keep (because the answer was always “everything!”). I knew I needed to get a handle on this before the mess got too out of hand.
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Top reasons to rotate toys
Then I learned about rotating toys. Rather than displaying every available toy at once, I stored many of them in closets and cabinets. Now, only a select few would be visible. Once the kids had played with those long enough, I’d store those and bring out the ones that had been hidden.
Perhaps you can relate to the madness of keeping your kids’ toys and crafts organized. If so, take a look at the top reasons below why you should rotate toys. I’ll also answer common questions about rotating toys and give tips on the best ways to get started.
Every situation is different and depends on factors like house size or the number of kids. But hopefully, with these reasons and tips, you can make better use of the toys they have, in a simple and organized way.
1. Less clutter and clean-up time
At the end of the day, right before my kids are allowed to watch television, we clean up the common rooms and their bedrooms. Typically, this takes five minutes with all three of them pitching in, putting superhero capes and tiny cars in the right baskets.
But if we had every toy available, clean-up time would take much longer, not just at the end of the day but throughout the morning and afternoon as well.
With most of their toys out of sight, they have fewer toys to make a mess to begin with and much less clean up with their play area.
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2. Kids won’t get bored
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A common misconception in parenting is that kids need a lot of toys to be entertained. But psychologists, including Barry Schwartz, author of The Paradox of Choice, have found that too many choices can overwhelm us into indecision.
The same is true for kids and toddlers. This is why they can say, “I have nothing to play with!” while standing in a room full of toys. There are too many options to choose from, especially when they look the same day after day.
But if you rotate toys, then even old toys can seem new once more. They’ve forgotten all about these toys that they dive into playing with a renewed interest. This curiosity wouldn’t be there if those same toys were available every day.
3. Take an inventory of toys
We sometimes forget what we have when we don’t actively sort toys.
I was putting away toys in a box under my son’s bed when I saw several poorly-made trinkets they never even cared for. Another time, I stored puzzles, only to discover a few more we’d received as gifts on Christmas that we hadn’t even opened.
By rotating toys regularly, you have a better idea of the toys your kids have. You can take an inventory of the ones you want to keep, toss, or donate, or even which ones they’ve outgrown or broken. Maybe they don’t fit into their Halloween costumes and pretend play accessories, which could be better used by your niece.
4. Encourage mastery
Do you worry that your child isn’t able to focus for long, or that she gives up on a project the second it gets difficult?
You can encourage mastery by reducing the number of toys she can play with. You see, with too many choices, she’s more likely to jump from one toy to the next. But with a limited number available, she’s almost forced to find creative ways or solve problems.
Instead of her attention scattered, she can focus on mastering a toy’s features, whether it’s building a house out of Lincoln Logs, playing a board game, or using crayons and coloring books.
5. Less focus on new things
We all get excited when we get new things, kids and adults alike. Think back to when you first opened the box to your smartphone, or when you wore a new shirt from the store.
The same is true for kids, but sometimes this can backfire, especially when all they want are new things. You may have even started decluttering toys by tossing or giving them away, assuming they won’t ever be interested in them.
The problem is, replenishing their stash with only new toys makes them think they can only have fun with those.
By rotating toys, you can encourage appreciation for old toys as well. They can play with ones they haven’t seen in a while just as eagerly as a new one from the store. Seeing an old but familiar toy can even trigger a nostalgia unmatched by any new toy they would receive.
Now they won’t only rely on shopping for new toys to have fun—they can do the same playing with old toys they haven’t seen in a while.
And if they couldn’t care less about the old toys? That’s when you know they’ve really lost interest or outgrown them, at which point you can purge or donate them.
Common questions about how to rotate toys
Now that you know the many benefits of rotating toys, let’s take a look at a few common questions you may have about the process:
“What do you keep the unused toys in?”
If the toys came in a box that stores easily, keep them in their original box as much as possible. For instance, if your kids have a box of Legos with an easy snap-on lid, then you don’t need to get an extra box when you can store the blocks exactly as-is.
But many toys don’t come with easy-to-store boxes. In that case, store them in clear boxes like these. These boxes stack well for easy storage, and you can see the items that are inside without having to open them. They’re perfect for little cars, train sets, superhero figurines, and art supplies.
You can also get an easy-to-reach toy storage organizer. That way, your kids can reach them and be able to identify what goes where. The boxes can also be moved around and even taken from the shelf to play with.
“How often do you switch toys out?”
This is completely up to you. I don’t have a schedule I follow and instead rely on when my kids say they’re bored or when they’ve been playing with the same toys for a while.
That said, I know many parents find a schedule helpful, even if it’s just so they don’t forget. Typically, parents rotate toys every 2-3 weeks, and some might swap a small toy collection every day.
You can even rotate toys when circumstances call for it, like when you’re home during rainy days or around birthdays or holidays.
“How many toys do you keep out at a time?”
Again, this is a preference, but generally, I keep out however many toys I have space for. For instance, a shelf looking cluttered is my cue that there are too many toys available at one time.
I also reserve one shelf “slot” for one type of toy. So, if a shelf has six slots, then that’s how many boxes I can fill it with.
“How do you display the toys that are available?”
Everything kid-related in my home is accessible to them, so I keep toys at their height. I use low shelves, child-sized tables, and storage bins they can easily get to.
Once the toys are out, try to keep them in the same places at clean-up time. For instance, keep dress-up clothes in one toy bin and animal figurines in another so the kids know exactly where to put them back.
“Where do you store the out-of-sight toys?”
I find it’s best to store toys in places the kids can’t get to. That way, they’re out of sight and out of mind, helping them focus on the toys that are out.
For me, that includes a hallway cabinet and the kids’ closet. You can put bigger toys like a play kitchen or dollhouses in the garage, while smaller ones like shape sorters and dolls can go in a spare bedroom.
Best practices to rotate toys
Below are a few more tips to make rotating toys even more effective:
- Don’t rotate toys your child has played with recently. Encourage mastery by having him play with the same toys for a good period of time. He might be in the middle of figuring something out and feel frustrated if the toy is no longer available.
- Store the toys in the same places. Just as you’d want the visible toys in the same places, so too should you store them in the same places. This can make it easier for you to remember where exactly you put them.
- Use a “box line” toy rotation system. Not sure when a box of toys was recently made available? Use a box line: store boxes either left or right or stacked on top of each other. Then, put the most recently played with on the left of the line and bring out the box that’s on the right. I do the same with books. I return books we read on the left side of a shelf and pick the ones we haven’t read in a while from the right.
With toys both available to play with and stored out of sight, you and your child can reap the benefits of toy rotation. Your home can have less toy clutter, reducing the time you spend cleaning up. He can also be better entertained by only having a selection of toys available.
Rotating toys allows you to take an inventory, helping you remember forgotten ones, or discard those that are broken or outgrown. Fewer sets of toys also mean he can better master the few that are available, instead of jumping from one to the next.
And finally, rotating toys drives a real appreciation not just of new things, but of old yet treasured ones as well.
The best part? All it takes is swapping out toys—and perhaps a few clear storage boxes—when you notice he could use a few “new” toys.
Get more tips:
- Learning Activities for 2-3 Year Olds
- 6 Not-So-Obvious Reasons You Can’t Keep Up with Cleaning Your Home
- Best Building Toys to Nurture Creative Play
- Top Toys for Preschoolers
- Do You Have an Ungrateful Child? Here’s What to Do:
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