This has by far been one of the most FAQ and I’m so excited to provide this post as a guiding tool on how you can start implementing toy rotation with your child/children at any age.
What is toy rotation?
Toy Rotation is the practice of parental regulation of how many toys are accessible to your child/children at one time. The rest of the toys and resources are storage away and in regular intervals swapped out. This helps keep the interest of your child/children play at a high level, which is optimal for behavior management, creativity, imagination and development.
Where to begin?
The easiest way to implement toy rotation and being consistent is truly keeping the time of when you swap out the toys as quick and easily as possible, because truly a mothers motto is “I ain’t got time for that”. How to achieve a successful toy rotation is having a organized and easily accessible system for the toys that will be away in storage awaiting to be swapped out.
I wrote a blog post on different ways to implement easy toy storage solutions in your home with different items. Take a look and come back to this page for the next step.
How many toys do I put out at one time?
The toy rotation rule of thumb is 10% of your child/children’s toy collection out and accessible to them at once and 90% away out of sight out of mind.
When I rotate Amadeo’s toys on his Ikea kallax unit, to which he has complete access to ( nothing that is left on this shelf could be unsafe without supervision) there will be 8 individual sets of toys in baskets or displayed in an inviting way in the boxes itself and then top will consist of a couple larger items that don’t fit in the box.
At one time Amadeo has around 11 sets of toys total out in the playroom that are accessible to him to explore and create with.
When you rotate that 10% of your child/children’s toys you are bringing the toys out at different developmental stages, and points of interest, their old toys become new again and more of a novelty. The way they play and explore will most likely evolve and change as well.
How does Implementing Toy Rotation in our home benefit my child?
One of the biggest reasons you’re finding that your child is bored of their toys and no longer playing with the majority of them is that by having all of their toys out and accessible at once they become over stimulated and unable to focus on the toy they would like to explore.
Children thrive with new experiences. Usually this is why if you bring your child to a museum, play date or even daycare they are more focused on what they are interacting with an added bonus because they are focused and interested their great behavior goes hand in hand with this. Children’s brains are hardwired to intake information with their senses, when a child is challenged with exploring a new experience or to create and explore something new the brain is creating new pathways of connections in the front end of their brain. It is those changes in the prefrontal cortex during childhood that help with regulating emotions, making plans and solving problems. If they are constantly presented with the same toys or activities they become predictable to your child and that is when they loose interest.
What kinds of toys should be out together at one time?
There is no right or wrong answer to this question. How I recommend to approach which items you have accessible to your child during rotations is based primarily on their interest. Sometimes you have to put out a couple different items to see what they are drawn to play and explore.
To start off you can have one set of blocks or building materials, animal figures, a puzzle, cars, dramatic play, loose parts etc. Once you observe and see that maybe your child at that time is more drawn to building you have a couple different options of blocks, maybe a stacking toy, Lego if appropriate to their age etc.
There have been many times that I put out a toy that Amadeo literally doesn’t touch, in that case I try to move it maybe to a different vantage point, if it was in a basket I would try to place it on the shelf by itself to see if he decides to play with it. Even still after my attempts Amadeo still may not touch the toy so that’s when I put it away and will put it back into rotation in a couple weeks.
How do I know when to rotate the toys ?
In a traditional sense of toy rotation you would rotate the toys every couple of weeks, from my perspective and how I recommend rotating the toys that are accessible to your child is purely by their behaviour.
Children will show us with their behaviour if they are interested in playing and exploring with their toys. When they are bored with their toys children usually don’t play with them “as intended”, engage with the toy for a short amount of time, or don’t touch the toys at all and instead get into other household items to create their own play that interests them more.
What if my child doesn’t have very many toys to begin with?
I get asked these questions a lot from parents who are concerned they might not have enough toys to do a toy rotation. I still recommend following the 10% out at a time and 90% away. Less toys around and accessible to your child the better for focus and concentration. too many toys can be overstimulating especially at a young age!
Another thing I recommend to parents who would like to provide more opportunities for exploration and rotate different types of toys more often but don’t have the space to store many toys, to use your cities public toy libraries. Its just like taking out books from a library and its free!
What’s the best way to display toys to help engage my child?
I get asked this question a lot. Having the toys directly on the shelf or in a low basket will be more inviting to your child. They should be able to look at a shelf or into a basket and know exactly what materials and toys are inside to make that split-second decision if its something they would like to play with or not. Having a large bin or basket with many different types of toys is going to overwhelm your child and be less appealing to engage with.
I purchased Amadeo’s baskets at the Dollarama and Walmart a long time ago and haven’t seen them since but I’ve found a couple great options on amazon if you search Montessori toy baskets, many options and price points come up like these.
In your opinion what are the benefits to doing a toy rotation with our children?
When you look at the big picture of how a child learns, develops, behaves etc. it all stems back to the environment and routines.
*Implementing a toy rotation will ease behaviours due to your child feeling less overwhelmed and over stimulated with have access, physically and visually in the space.
*Toy rotation will help give a clear picture to your child on where the toys belong, thus making clean up faster and with more ease for you and your child.
*Your child/children’s interest will be clear as you will be able to see what toys your child is gravitating to at that time.
*Toy rotation helps you keep a minimalist approach to your children’s toy collection since you will constantly be cycling through and keeping their current toys new and fresh!
How do I introduce this to my children?
I get a lot of questions of concerns that it may be too late to implement a toy rotation because their child/children have come accustom to having all their toys accessible and aren’t sure how to get their child/children ” on board” with this change.
Explaining what will be happening and getting your children involved (depending on their age) can be beneficial. Having them be involved in the sorting toys and storing them will give them responsibility and ownership in this process. They can help decide which toys they would like to have out and play with.
You can explain that the toys in storage are “resting” or “taking a break” from being played with but make sure you express that the toys aren’t being put away due to punishment.
Will you come to my home and help organize and set the Toy Rotation system?
I get asked this question on the daily, and if you’re local to Ottawa in the (hopefully) near future I will offer consulting services that would fall under this at an hourly rate. I hope this post will help give you the confidence to implement a toy rotation in your home. Take a step back and know this is suppose to be easy once implemented and we are really bringing things back to the basics for your children’s development, imagination, creativity, emotional well being, and behaviours.