Toy Rotation

My boys are almost 2 and five. Emmett, my little one, likes to take all the toys out of the bins and dump them. And then both boys decide to just throw them around. At which point Graham, my five-year-old, usually starts whining that he has nothing to do and nothing to play with.

We are moving out of state in less than two weeks. (Which partially explains my absence from blogging.) As I've been packing up my house, I've also been taking the opportunity to purge and organize. I really don't have all that much stuff and yet I feel like we have too much.

Comparatively, my kids have less toys then others that I know. And in that same vein, comparatively, my boys have more than they could ever possibly need.

Feeling at my wit's end just keeping the house picked up and keeping my boys entertained - especially as we were trying to sell the house. It has just about pushed me over the edge. So I started Google searching about ways to keep the kids engaged with their toys and encourage independent play. Enter the toy rotation.

After reading several other blogs about how too many toys can overwhelm a child as well as seeing the same toys daily can make a child grow weary of the toys, the toy rotation seems to be the winning approach to keeping mess at a minimum and keeping kids happy and engaged with their toys.

The basic philosophy is that you offer a small sampling of toys with which to play and then you rotate them daily, weekly or monthly, depending on your preferences. The children are not overwhelmed by choices and they get excited when they see a toy that they haven't seen for a while once it comes out of rotation.

So here's what I did:

I brought almost all the toys into one room and I grouped them by category. Here are the categories that I used:

  • Transportation
  • Building stuff  
  • Puzzles 
  • Sorting and Stacking
  • Miscellaneous
Step 1: Group Toys in Piles by Category
Next I lined up my storage bins. If you live in MI, you can get these bins for $5 at Meijer! Then I started putting toys from each category in front of each bin.

  • We have a boatload of matchbox cars, so I put a couple handfuls in gallon freezer bags and put one bag per bin. 
  • Each bin got a couple "mid sized" cars. 
  • Each bin got at least one large vehicle.
  • Each bin got a puzzle.
You get the idea.

Step 2: Put Toys from Each Category in front of Each Bin
Feeling pretty darn good but I'll admit to thinking there was no way all of those toys would fit into each bin. But then I started packing and low and behold, each bin has room to spare!

I already had the various blocks/building toys in bins so I decided each toy rotation would include 2 boxes: the big tote with the assortment of toys and the bin of building stuff.

I even made a list of what was going into each box which I'm going to tape on the outside of the box in case a kid just HAS to have a particular toy.
Step 3: Pack Bins and Create Contents Lists

So here's what I left out - and my rational -  and I'm wondering also needs to be in the rotation:
  • arts/crafts - currently in a separate room and in bins by type (paint, playdough, etc.). Do they only get one type of craft? Do I divide the activity books into bins, too? Hate to stifle creativity, but right now they use very little of it....
  • balls/sports - thinking all balls will go in the basement and be used during the winter when I need the boys to do something phsyical. I don't really want this stuff in a play space/living room.
  • small legos - these are kept in a closet now anyways because they are too small for Emmett. I'm thinking we might keep these in Graham's bedroom as a way for him to have some quiet time.
  • kitchen toys - obviously the big things like the play fridge/stove will stay out. But do I put just a few pieces of kitchen gear/play food in each bin or do they have access to all of it all of the time?
How do you keep your play space/living space organized AND keep your kids happy?


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