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.
WHAT INFLUENCES YOUR CHILD’S PLAY
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
(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!)