Toys. How many do you have in your home? If like us you can’t see the floors, you are constantly picking them up, constantly asking your kids to help tidy up and are wondering why half of them are never even played with, then it may be time to move over to a toy rotation system. I have only just tried this in the last couple of weeks and it has been an absolute revelation for us. Here is why and how I implemented it.
Toys, Toys, Everywhere!!
I am not even joking. Oh, and lockdown has not helped with this situation either. I mean, I have found toys in places you wouldn’t imagine (or you may if your kids are anything like mine) Down the toilet, in my bed, under my bed, in the kitchen, out the cat flap, on the stairs… I was starting to think we also had gremlins! My back was killing me from picking them up, my head was pounding trying to put sets and pieces back together and my patience was wearing thin.
On top of this, I also have a 6-year-old who struggles to play alone, who won’t think about finding toys to go together and who lacks the motivation to look through a toy box. It’s not a new thing but as the wooden train track has always been a firm favourite, we usually focussed on that and he could play for hours with it. However, with the lack of a school routine and him being stuck indoors with a 2-year-old (who plays very differently), the problems began to escalate. He wasn’t playing with any toys and was relying too much on the TV or tablet for entertainment.
Finding a Solution
I came to realise that there was actually just TOO much for him to cope with. Too much choice, too many bits hiding at the bottom of a toy box, too many toys to know what to do with them all so the easiest thing for him to do was to ignore them. William, on the other hand, was getting them all out and leaving them all over the place then going back for more. I had 2 problems which needed a solution.
Toy rotation was something I had seen come up a lot on social media and one very stressful (toy explosion) day, I decided to order a new unit, remove all of the unnecessary toys from my living room and trial a new system for the boys.
What Is Toy Rotation?
Toy rotation is the method of providing a selection of toys at any one time to allow your child/children to enjoy these, to play with these and not feel overwhelmed by choice. You can then rotate them out for a new selection as and when you see fit (once a week is usually a good time frame but you can play this by ear). The benefits of doing this include helping your child to play in a more focussed way and at a deeper level, allowing them to develop more creativity as well as perseverance during play and also increasing their attention spans. It may also encourage them to tidy up as each toy has its own place to live (we hope!)
Choosing The Toys
Choosing what toys go out is going to come down to personal choice and your own parental judgement. You know your kids, you know what they like to play with, what sparks their imaginations, which toys often get missed and so on. In general, you should be choosing toys that could be played with together, that could perhaps create scenes, that are open-ended (i.e. have a variety of ways for play to happen), ones that help with fine motor skills, puzzles etc. Looking at them as groups should really help you to decide:
- Loose parts
- Soft toys
- And (if you are brave enough) arts and craft items
You can then set these out in a bookcase, on a storage unit or on a shelf in a way that will make your children gasp with sheer excitement when they come down the stairs in the morning.
I had a huge sort out of their toys and chose our first toy rotation set as a mixture of things they love and also things they often missed playing with. I also had a think about what could be played with together and what may bring both boys together.
Here you can see that the wooden train track has stayed. If you have toys that are ongoing favourites and are always played with, leave these to be enjoyed (I also kept the Duplo box, a large bin lorry and the Twirly Woos boat). On the top, we have a wooden car toy, a wooden puzzle and wooden building bricks. I then have a selection of cars in the first cube. In the second cube, I added Intey magnetic building blocks, marbles and a toy camera. In the third cube, I have a wide selection of figurines. I then went with some toys which focus the children on using their fine motor skills and next to that a toolkit. In the final cube, I have a selection of tractors. Now, some may think this is quite a lot but it needed to appeal to both boys who are at different ages and abilities plus I wanted to encourage them to use as many in a play situation as they could. And it didn’t fail to deliver…
The boys were straight in there, they immediately began to mix the items from each cube and started to work out how to play. Jake very quickly had an army base with figurines as the troops, cars as tanks, marbles as bombs, building blocks as defences and he was willingly inviting William to play too.
And the added bonus was that it was quick and easy to tidy up at the end of the day.
I left this rotation up for a week and they didn’t tire of it at all, they just kept finding new ways in which to play.
Our next set-up was a wooden toy one…
We love our wooden toys and now have such a lovely collection. As you can see I kept the car toy on top as well as the building blocks but I added the Grimms rainbow and a stacker toy. I carried on the idea of the cars but removed the metal ones and replaced them with wooden to stick to this theme. The middle cube is a musical one with a pull-a-long xylophone, a maraca and shaker. Then I have a post box, a skittles set, a magnetic fishing game and the toolbox again. A nice selection for both boys to play together or alone with and plenty to keep their minds active.
And we are now onto a sea and pirate theme…
This was a bit trickier to put together but with a little hunting around I managed to bring together books, a pirate Playmobil set, building blocks, boats, Duplo, a pirate puzzle, soft toys, the magnetic fishing game and some dressing up.
The joy of this is that you are in complete control and you can change it as often as needed (if one theme bores them just change it sooner to another and if one is working just stick with it for a bit longer), you can choose the themes, you can mix up the toys as you like and test to see which toys are played with the most, which may also give you a good idea of what could be passed on or donated to charity if you wanted to declutter a little.
I honestly wish I had done this years ago. It is so simple yet so effective. Do you use a toy rotation system in your house?
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