How and When to Rotate Toys

Last week I introduced the concept of toy rotation and the benefits it can offer you and your children. That post may have left some of you asking, "How do I get started?" With toy rotation, there’s more work up front and more payoff later on. Follow these steps to get your family set up:

1.     Take stock. Gather all of the toys in your house into one space and take a good look at everything. If something is broken or has irreparable damage, put it aside. You want your child’s toys to be in good working order, or they could cause frustration during play. If you feel like you own too many toys, now is a good time to purge. Donate, sell, or pass along to another family.

Forgive the grainy cell phone image, but here is our current storage solution, which is just the top shelf of Wilson's closet. It's definitely a work in progress! 

Forgive the grainy cell phone image, but here is our current storage solution, which is just the top shelf of Wilson's closet. It's definitely a work in progress! 

2.     Decide on storage. Usually the best place for storage is somewhere out of the child’s reach and/or site; you may have to get clever with this. I’ve seen toys stored in closets, in underbed bins, on shelving units, in cabinets, even in the basement. Choose an option that works for you, since you will be visiting this area frequently to choose new toys. Keep it organized so you can find what you’re looking for.

3.     Choose toys. Take your best guess about which toys your child will enjoy using and display them wherever play takes place at your house. I would suggest starting with just a few toys (3-5). If you have siblings close in age or interest, this number will still work well. If your children are farther apart in age or are interested in different things, you may need to offer more than five toys.

4.     Observe. Try to take some time each week (or each day if you can) to watch your children playing. After a while, you’ll know if a toy isn’t popular anymore. Your child may also start requesting certain toys. Keep note of your observations.

Wilson inspecting a fresh rotation. When it's time for a switch, I usually get what I want while he plays in his room and then set it up during a nap. More on those fabulous toys next week!

Wilson inspecting a fresh rotation. When it's time for a switch, I usually get what I want while he plays in his room and then set it up during a nap. More on those fabulous toys next week!

5.     Rotate as necessary. After two weeks, reassess the toys you have out. If your child is happily, safely, and constructively playing, you may not want to make any changes. If something is collecting dust or not being used appropriately, put it away and replace it with something new.

Remember that every child and every family is different, and you may need to tweak these suggestions to work better for you. If you have older children, you’ll probably want to talk to them about your plans to rotate their toys, and maybe even involve them in organizing and paring down the collection. After a few rotations, you’ll start to get the hang of it—and you’ll also start to notice all those benefits I talked about last week.