DIY

Our Toy Rotation

Our toy rotation has been on and off for years. Sometimes it seems to work perfectly, other times, it seems cumbersome and ineffective. Right now we are coming up on a season of life that I am feeling the itch to use a strict toy rotation. We are about to add another baby to our family AND we have a toddler. It’s time to give it some serious thought. A lot of things go into what makes or breaks a toy rotation for our family.

Toy Rotation | makethemostofitblog.com

WHAT INFLUENCES YOUR CHILD’S PLAY

Children’s Ages

I find that toddlers/preschoolers benefit the most from toy rotation. When it is difficult for them to clean up after themselves and put things away correctly, toy rotation simplifies and encourages them to focus on a few things instead of dumping the whole room out and then getting overwhelmed. Older kids can benefit from this too if they are in a particularly stressful season of life.

Seasons and Weather

Our playtime tends to change with the weather. Partly because our play room is in a sun porch that isn’t heated or cooled with the house, and partly because of school, having the big kids here during the day changes a lot about how we play. Most likely, your needs and your child’s needs will change with the seasons, even daily, weather changes! Don’t be afraid to change it to make it work, even if it’s for a short period of time.

Current Life Events

Just like the weather, our lives change often and sometimes dramatically. Moving. Holidays. School. New Baby. New Job Hours. These life events can and will affect how your children play. We will be bringing a new baby into the house soon, and I want to help set our toddler up for success. Having a toy rotation is the best way I can think of to help him learn to entertain himself as I tend to the new baby’s needs, especially since I rely so heavily on help from the big kids, and they are off to school next week! No family is without change, and children need our help getting through those changes.

House Layout

We moved a year and a half ago into our current house and the layout couldn’t get much different from the house we were in before. We are still adjusting. There is still a lot of work to do in figuring out what works best for this house and how to organize the constant moving parts from having kids ages 0-8 all trying to play in their own unique ways. It’s a work in progress, and sometimes I feel like if we get one thing figured out, then the last thing doesn’t work anymore. As the kids grow, their needs change, and the way our house functions will too. Do what works in your space right now and then adapt as your kids do as best you can, there is no harm in experimenting.

Number of Toys/ Type of Toys

If you live a more minimalistic lifestyle, your toy rotation will look a whole lot different than someone with a stocked playroom full of toys. Having one child will be different than multiple children of varying play stages. Use extra storage to your advantage if you need to, plastic bins and basement storage have been our saving grace in our new house.

Using a few select toys that don’t rotate is also helpful in keeping your toy rotation a success. We always have books accessible, this never changes and the kids will grab these if they aren’t feeling what’s in the toy rotation bins at that time. We also added this magnet board up on the wall in our game room. Finn has been having a blast with this and I am finding he engages in it more than a normal toy. If I am feeling overwhelmed I can simply leave out a few large magnets and put away the small ones. The toy itself isn’t on a rotation, but the little pieces are. That’s helpful for adapting as well.

toy rotation | makethemostofitblog.com

CREATE YOUR TOY ROTATION

Having a toddler that needs constant attention, and not being able to give him that full attention is a recipe for disaster in our home. So I have started a simple 3 bin toy rotation to try to help guide him into success, which will help the whole family. Here is our current toy rotation:

3 BINS IN THE LIVING ROOM

I have set up 3 bins to store our toy rotations on a shelf in our living room that he can access himself. The actual shelf is under the coffee table, but I pull them up onto the table when he is there and ready to play, or sometimes I wait for him to pull them out. I chose 3 because I wanted to give him options, but I didn’t want it to be so many things that it would take me all evening to clean up after him.

I also wanted to put the bins in a place I think I’ll be nursing a lot in the beginning. The living room used to be a no-toy zone, but I need to set him up for success, and that means giving up the no-toy zone temporarily.

toy rotation | make the most of it

Eventually, I will switch to 3 bins that all look the same, but for right now, and for the sake of energy (yay 3rd trimester!), I just pulled what I had on hand. He doesn’t seem to mind.

FILL THE BINS AND ROTATE

Toy rotation is something that needs to be personal. Use the 5 factors listed above to guide you in deciding how often to rotate your toys. I am aiming to switch the contents of the bins every month. But that will change depending on Finn’s interests and how I am handling adding a 4th child into the family. If I feel like we are able to get outside in the fall weather more, then the bins probably won’t be changed as often as they will in the dead of winter. Adapt and notice when your child is ready for a change.

For this first month, I chose 3 things that Finn has been into.

BIN 1

Cups and Lids.

He likes to stack the cups and take lids on and off of cups and containers. We had just recently gone through all the playdough and I collected all of the empty playdough cups and lids to put in one bin. I also added a few solo cups that he can stack and knock down. He likes to fill the cups and crush the flimsy ones too. Some of the cups are hard to unstack, and some of the lids get pretty stuck on there. I like that he has to work through a bit of frustration and ask for help, which is giving him practice his words and patience.

BIN 2

Story Stones.

These are still fun to him and he uses them to play with the cups. He’ll fill the cups with rocks, dump, clean up, and repeat all on his own. He asks me what is on a rock, I can respond with colors, or the name of the object, or the letter that’s on the rock. Another way he has been playing with the rocks and cups together is by hiding the rocks with the cups and revealing the rock underneath. He loves this and claps every time.

toy rotation | make the most of it

BIN 3

Stacking cups

I have these in the bin with the lid. These have numbers inside each cup and he finds them challenging to put together. They are similar to bin one, in style of play, but he has been actively engaged in each bin so far, so I’m keeping them until he shows me he needs a different style of play. If you know your child is interested in a certain type of play, go with it!

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DIY Story Stones

(Affiliate links are included for your convenience. I earn a small percentage from a purchase using these links. There is no additional cost to you, thanks for your support!)

DIY STORY STONES_Make the Most of it

We have loved playing with our story stones and I am so excited to show you 2 DIY story stone ideas for you to try out yourself. For our first set, I hand painted little pictures on each stone. You could try this for your kids, or even let them have fun painting their own if they are old enough to work on a smaller surface. These turned out very cute and my kids love to play with them, making up their own stories. Need theme ideas? Check out my post on 5 Ways to Use Story Stones!

The next set was made using printed letters. I simply printed them off on regular printer paper and cut them out. I used a block alphabet font so that we could play with letter recognition and word building, but you could use this method for pictures too, especially for any story book characters or your kid’s favorite tv show characters!

After trying out both methods, I found the printed version a lot easier and less time-consuming. I got the letters done in one nap time! But both methods work and the kids have enjoyed interacting with both kinds of stones.

PAINTED STORY STONES

Supplies:

River Rocks (I got mine for a dollar at Dollar Tree, but these are similar)

Acrylic Paint

Acrylic Matte Finish

Paintbrushes (you can use anything you have, the smaller the better for detailed painting!)

DIRECTIONS

One: Paint a base.

DIY Story Stones_ Make the Most of it

Our Rocks were black, so the first thing I did was paint a white base on each rock.

For the planet rocks, I just painted a white circle on each rock as a base for the color of each planet.

For the rest of our rocks, I just painted one side of the rock white as a background for different mini figures and pictures.

Two: Paint your design.

Get creative! I looked up examples of the planets and played around with colors to look like different planets. For the rest of our rocks, I tried to think of what the kids would want to include in their stories. I would pick a theme and do 2 or three rocks in that theme. Better yet, let the kids come up with what they want to paint! The paintings can be as simple or detailed as you like. They don’t need to be perfect to be fun.

Better yet, let the kids come up with what they want to paint! The paintings can be as simple or detailed as you like. They don’t need to be perfect to be fun.

Three: Paint a matte finish over the whole picture after your paint dries! You’ll want to protect your little works of art as much as possible. They will get bumped around and dirty, and they will eventually chip, but the matte finish will help delay all of that.

Four: Let the matte finish dry and that’s it! Let the fun begin!

PRINTED STORY STONES

Supplies:

River Rocks (I got mine for a dollar at Dollar Tree, but these are similar)

Printed Clipart

Scissors

Foam Brush

Mod Podge

Alphabet story stones during nap time! (And netflix because #friYAY)

A post shared by Make the Most of it (@makethemostofitblog) on

One: Paint the rock with a layer of Mod Podge

Two: Place clip art cut out on top.

DIY STORY STONES 2_Make the Most of it

Three: Paint another layer of Mod Podge on top. This seals the paper to the rock and will dry clear!

Four: Let it dry and have fun playing!

I hope you have so much fun making your own DIY story stones! I’d love to see what you come up with!

How to Make a Family Command Center

How to Make a Family Command Center

How to Make a Family Command Center

When we moved into our house about a year and a half ago, I knew the first thing I wanted to do was figure out how to make a family command center that worked for our family. The 2 older kids were starting school, participating in sports, and making new friends to schedule playdates with each day. All of our scheduled plans and obligations were beginning to pile up, and it became clear that we needed something the whole family could use to stay up to date on where we needed to go.

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I knew we needed 3 things in our family command center:

1: A large calendar.

2. A to do/done bin for papers.

3. A Clock and Decor.

Step One: A Calender

You know what they say; Go big or go home. We went big for our calendar. I did not want a dinky little thing that no one could read or write on. I wanted lots of room for info and for it to be clean and simple.

How to Make a Family Command Center

I knew you could print large scale prints at Staples for insanely cheap, so I started there to see how big I could go. At Staples, you can print Engineering Prints for dirt cheap! I decided on the 24″ x 36″ size for the wall we would use and I went with gray scale, too. I picked it up in-store all for under $4.00! So inexpensive!

Amazon is always my go-to to find what I need, keeping the cost down for that size frame was a priority. There were so many to choose from, I picked a black frame and plexiglass cover to help keep the cost down. If you can spring for a glass front, that would work even better! I find the plexiglass to bend just a bit too much while writing. It works, but glass would be a bit smoother. {Something like this is similar to what I purchased}

FREE PRINTABLE!

Once I knew the size I wanted, I created my print. I used Adobe Illustrator for mine and made it big enough that it prints clearly on 24″ x 36″ paper. Click on the picture below to download! You can save the file to your computer and upload it directly to Staples for a large scale print!

Family Calendar Preview

Once you’ve picked up your print and tested it out in your frame, you’re good to go! I write directly onto the plexiglass with these markers. Sometimes, I stick with black, but I’ll switch up the colors occasionally, depending on my mood, and the month. They don’t smudge like dry erase. You have to use a wet cloth to wipe them off, but I like that better!

You’re ready to hang your calendar!

My Super Secret Calendar Hanging Trick

This is a large scale frame that I tend to take on and off the wall a lot. I wanted it to be level all the time and be as secure as possible for writing directly onto it. These picture hangers make everything so much easier! They are called French pleats in the woodworking world. I used a large metal one similar to these, and I love it! It makes taking it on and off the wall simple, and I don’t have to worry about it being level every month when I update it.

STEP TWO:

With school in full swing, I knew I needed a to-do bin and a done bin in the family command center. I wanted them to be hanging on the wall to get them up off of the desk space below. This bin is something I found at Target, but you can find similar bins just about anywhere!

How to Make a Family Command Center

I used inexpensive clipboards I found at Dollar Tree to keep things together so I can easily pull them out. It’s worked really well so far. We keep our filing in the basement, so the done bin is often more overflowing than the to-do. School papers and documents are always stacking up and I wanted to make sure they weren’t on the desk. Now, they are up off the desk and I love that!

STEP THREE: CLOCK AND DECOR

Nothing is more frustrating to me than to get my times mixed up when planning family events. I do it often and every time I kick myself. For the decor, I knew I wanted something around the calendar and to-do bin to help it feel more like a gallery wall. The first thing I wanted to include was a clock. Clocks are pretty and functional. There are so many styles you can choose from to create the look you’re going for in your own family command center.

I liked the wood look of this one to offset the metal going on with the bins. Again, I found this one on Amazon (they have everything!) Here is a similar one: Foxtop 12 inch Silent Non-Ticking Wall Clock Vintage Wood-Grain Plastic Quartz Wall Clock Mute Quiet Sweep Country Style (Dark-Brown)

How to Make a Family Command Center

For the rest of the decor. I wanted to fill in with things that encourage myself and my family. The small canvas was actually done by a friend from church. She’s so talented and just happened to have a few of these pre-made. I love the hymn “It Is Well with My Soul” and the colors worked perfectly! It’s hard to tell in the picture, but she used gold paint for the letters which look fantastic with the metal bins. Having these words right next to our calendar help me to remember in the chaos that He’s there in it all. No matter what we have planned for the day or month, or how crazy I feel trying to keep up, He is constant.

Last, I made a few arrows using scrap wood we had lying around. When I made them, I was inspired by my 3 kiddo’s distinct personalities. Each arrow is different and represents them in their own way. I’ll have to add a 4th one after Asher comes! I hung them all together using twine, I love the way they turned out.

HANG IT UP!

Now you can complete your family command center! I started with the biggest item, the calendar, and made sure the bins were reachable for ease of use. Functionality came first and I went from there. Then, I played around with the spacing and placement, but with the size of the wall and the large scale pieces, I didn’t have a whole lot of wiggle room. I love how it turned out!

I’d love to hear from you! What’s does your family include in a command center?

How to Make a family command center

5 Ways to Use Story Stones

5 Ways to Use Story Stones

Have you heard of story stones? Or maybe you’ve heard of them but don’t know how to use them?

As I was looking around Pinterest for no screen time activities (we cut our screen time this summer!), I kept coming across these fun painted rocks and I just knew I had to try them out. Rocks draw kids in, even plain ones! Add pictures or words on them, and kids of all ages can’t resist. They just feel good to pick up and move around!

I began to search around for how to use them in different ways and came up with 5 ways to use story stones so I thought I would share with you!

5 Ways to use Story Stones

There are endless ways to use story stones! Here are 5 ways to use Story Stones to get you started:

1. Story Building – Start your story with any stone, you can either grab them as a surprise or lay them out and let your kids pick which one they want to use next.

Example; I pick up an apple, and I start my story with, “There once was a very special apple who didn’t want to be eaten.” Then pick another stone, and add on to your story! Say the second stone is an umbrella. I would add onto my apple story with, “The special apple carried around an umbrella to use like a shield anytime someone tried to take a bite out of her!” Continue to add as many stones as you like until your story is finished.

My kids like to take turns within the same story, building off of each other’s stories. It gets so goofy, they almost always end in laughing tears!

2. Color Sorting – For younger kids, challenge them by asking them to sort each stone by color. After you sort, you can count how many of each color you have, which one has the most, least, etc. I just love all the ideas from A Crafty Living. She has so many great examples of how they use their story stones. Aren’t they just gorgeous? 

3. Book Reading – I have used a few books with our stones so far. We have a colors book that I use to encourage color sorting. Animal books can also be used, find the stone to match the animal on the page. You can even have them pick a stone to tell the story in the book. We have a sheep on one of our stones, and it would be so fun to have the sheep read a book about a sheep with us!

4. Adding to Nature – Fairy gardens would be a great way to take story stones outside, paint a few fairies and your kiddos can play with them out in the flowers and plants, then if they get left outside, it’s no big deal! Another idea is to write kind notes on a stone and leave them in parks for others to find. Such a cute little kindness activity for the kids! Story stones are also great additions to sensory bins of all types!

5. Word Building and Addition – Make a set of alphabet stones for word building or letter recognition! Putting numbers on your stones can help with homework or number learning. Look at these really cute examples! (Lady bug spot numbers, domino stones, numbers for homework help)

5 Ways to use Story Stones facebooks

Let Your Kids Lead The Way!

Let your kids lead the way! How do they want to play with them? They might surprise you and come up with a new way you never thought of. Encourage them to get creative with what’s on the stone itself. Did you paint a water droplet for rain? Maybe it can be a tear of sadness or happiness! A Water droplet could be a drop of blue paint or the bath after the painter finishes her masterpiece.

Age will play a huge role in how your kids will like to play. I have an 8 year old, 6 year old, and an 18 month old. They all want to play in different ways!

Play According to Age

Finn, our 18 month old just likes to pick them up and move them, he likes to take them out of the bag that holds them, but them back in…over and over and over. He also has begun to hold one out and ask, “this?”. I love that he is learning some words as he plays! The stones that we used are large, he can grab them easily, and when he tests the limits by putting them in his mouth (which he HAS done!) they fill his whole mouth, giving me enough peace of mind that I know if he’s trying it. I always watch him closely as we play.

Olive, our 6-year-old, is still learning to read. I can not wait to make some alphabet stones so we can build words to go along with the stories she likes to create. Right now, her favorite way to play is to build a story one stone at a time. She loves the stone with a book on it, it’s her “Once Upon a Time” starter stone, every time!

Eli, our 8-year-old, is less adventurous in his imaginative play. I do love that these encourage that part of his play, it stretches him a bit and that’s great. He’s picked them up on his own several times, which I wasn’t expecting. I included the solar system rocks in our first set to give him a way to explore in a specific way. We looked up our solar system and he matched which rocks he thought represented each planet. He also lined them up in order and we discussed orbit, gravity, and atmosphere!

5 Ways to Use Story Stones Insta

Build Your Collection

Start with a handful of rocks and paint or mod podge some images on them, you can start with anything! I made sure to have a girl and boy figure as our first two rocks and then just kept adding on. Soon, I’ll be posting a tutorial on how I made our story stones. Stay tuned!!

Continue building on your story stone collection. Here are some ideas just to get you started.

Book Themes:

Does your toddler want to read the same book, over and over? Try creating a few stones to go with that book. You can even print out pictures and use mod podge!

Holiday
Christmas Nativity (love these! from Rainy Day Mum), Easter, 4th of July, Birthday

Special Events

First day of school, 4 Seasons, Birth of Sibling

Pop Culture
Emojis, Fidget Spinners, Favorite TV or Movie Characters (mod podge and cutouts!)
Family

Your Family, Cousins and Aunts and Uncles, Grandparents

City

Cars/Trucks, Buildings, Bikes

Nature

Trees, Flowers, Animals

Space

Planets, Stars, Spaceships

Weather

Clouds, Lightning, Snow

Camping

Tent, Campfire, S’more

School

Book, Pencil, Ipad

Food

Fruit, Veggies, Pizza

Alphabet

Upper, Lower, Cursive

Numbers

Roman Numerals, Dominos, (+, -, *,/)

Tools

Hammer, Saw, Level

Animals

Birds, Farm, Zoo

Geography

States, Countries, Landmarks

Royalty

Crown, Princess/Prince, Castle

Church

Cross, Church Building, Praying Hands

I could go on and on, the best way to start is to pick what your kids are interested in and go from there! I’d love to hear: How would you play with story stones?