Toy Rotation. You’ve probably heard of it and maybe you've got questions about it.
Such as, A: Is it really something I have to worry about, on top of all my other parental duties? And B: Isn't it a ma-hoo-sive organisational headache?
To which we reply, A: Of course it's not compulsory, but loads of families swear by it. And B: Not at all. It’s actually pretty straightforward and (because we love to be helpful) here's all you need to know:
THE THEORY: A smaller but more balanced selection of toys clears mental & physical space for your child.
Why should I do it?
Inspired by Montessori thinking, Toy Rotation theory goes like this: having access to a smaller but more balanced selection of toys clears mental and physical space for your child. It helps them develop focus so they can play more independently, giving you more time for the 1001 things on your to-do list. Having fewer toys on display also reduces clutter in the home and makes tidying away easier and less stressful. What’s not to love?
Sure, it does take some initial effort to sort their stuff. But then you simply choose a regular rotation day, make the switch and watch while they dig into a whole batch of ‘new’ toys. Which is like giving them the pleasure of Christmas or a birthday every Rotation Day. Yay!
So, if you'd answer 'Yes' to any of these....
1.Would you like their room to look nicer?
2. Would you like MORE TIME to yourself (!!)
3. Would you like tidying up to be easier?
4. Would you like them to get more from their toys?
...then Toy Rotation might well change your life!
So how do I do it?
It’s not a science and there are no super-strict rules, but these are the general steps to follow. Before you start, you’ll need at least half a dozen big boxes, plastic crates or baskets and some way of labelling them.
STEP 1: CULL THE JUNK
Get all their toys in one space. Look at each one individually. Do they love it, or have they never taken to it? Is it in good shape, or a bit broken? Are they ‘past it’? Toys they definitely like and play with, keep. Toys they don’t like - or that are broken or outgrown - donate, bin or (if you’re saving them for future family members) stick them in the loft.
STEP 2: CATEGORISE THE KEEPERS
Okay, so now you have only ‘keeper’ toys. Divide them into 4 categories and put in separate boxes or crates, labelled:
Moving Toys – that develop their gross motor skills. E.g. balls, ride-ons, trikes & bikes, skipping ropes, tunnels, push toys, Wobbel boards.
Pretending Toys – that encourage social, emotional and language development. E.g. play food & kitchens, toy cars & garages, cuddlies & dolls, dress-ups, tea sets.
Thinking Toys – that support their problem-solving, cause-and-effect reasoning, numeracy & literacy, sorting skills etc. These types of toys also tend to teach hand-eye coordination and support fine motor development. E.g: Lego, puzzles, nesting cups, stacking blocks, pattern blocks, shape sorters, board games.
Creating Toys – anything that helps kids relax and learn to express their emotions while also growing social, emotional and fine motor skills. E.g: art supplies, play dough, craft sticks, musical instruments, rain sticks.
As for the Not-So-Sure Toys - stuff you’re not sure how to categorise, don’t stress. The most ‘obvious’ category is fine. This isn’t brain surgery!
STEP 3: BUILD YOUR ROTATION BOX
Choose 2-3 toys from each of your 4 Category Boxes. Put them in one big Rotation Box. This way you will have in each rotation some Thinking Toys, some Moving Toys, some Pretending Toys and some Creating Toys.
This next bit is up to you. You can carry on building Rotation Boxes until you run out of toys to add. That way, you have several Rotation Boxes ready for the next few Rotation Days. Or you can leave your Category Boxes as they are and pick a selection of toys for your next Rotation Box, as and when you decide to rotate. It’s your choice and it doesn’t really matter whether you do it one way or the other.
The end result should be the same: your kid gets a selection of 8-12 toys to play with at any one time, representing a good spread of each of the four categories.
TOO MANY TOYS: According to research, the average 10-year-old owns 238 toys, but plays with just 12 on a daily basis.
STEP 4: HIDE THE REST
Store all the other Category Boxes or Rotation Boxes out of sight, in a big cupboard, or under the bed, or in your loft or shed. They need to be somewhere they can’t be seen, or easily accessed.
STEP 5: DISPLAY TO BEST EFFECT
Now for the fun bit. Display the toys from your current Rotation Box in as welcoming and exciting a way as you can on their shelves. Spice it up with some artwork and books and you’re all set!
STEP 6: ......AND ROTATE!
How often do you rotate? Again, it’s up to you.
You could do it to a schedule: Once a week is a good place to start, but don't let it become a chore. It's OK to leave it a couple of weeks if you're busy. Maybe set a reminder on your calendar or phone?
Or you can do it ad hoc. When your child seems bored of the toys they’ve got out and are pestering you more often for attention, put that set of toys away and take out (or make up) the next Rotation Box.
Should I discuss it with my child or do it while they’re asleep or out?
Ideally, start Toy Rotating as early as possible and then they're comfortable with the idea from an early age. For older kids, of say 2 or 3, the idea of toys being taken away and replaced can be tricky. So beware getting into lengthy negotiations about which toys they can have and when.
Instead, explain that you’re going to try something helpful and new. Remind them that tidying away or finding their favourite toy is more difficult when there are too many things cluttering up their room. Say something like, 'Hey, we’re going to start a fun new routine, where every week some toys ‘go on holiday’, while others stay in your room for playtime.'
But what about my child’s huuuuuge Lego collection? Is that just one toy?
If it’s a toy with lots of pieces, like Lego, or a set of building blocks or cars, you can edit the toy in different ways. Perhaps do blue blocks one week and the red ones next week. Or give them the emergency vehicles one week, the trains the next, the cars the week after.
What if I don’t have much from one of the categories?
If your categories seem a little unbalanced, it’s a great way to flag up areas where you could buy or ask for something different for Christmas or their birthday to even things out.
Or do a temporary switch or a permanent trade with a friend. Why not swap one of your seven fire engines for something from their mammoth dressing-up chest? Or one of their three tea sets? Moving away from a sense of ownership to a more flexible relationship with toys is partly the point of rotation too.
What about large toys like garages and kitchens?
Anything that's too big or bulky to store away, leave these where they are and don’t worry about them.
What if I have more than one child?
If your kids are in pretty different developmental stages (like 8 and 2), you probably want to include a few more toys in your Rotation Boxes to give you the variety to meet everyone’s interests and needs. But each child doesn’t need their own box. Instead, aim for 3-4 items from each group in that week’s Rotation Box, rather than 2-3.
So there you have it, Rotation gurus. We hope this helps your kids enjoy more engaged play and you enjoy less mess and stress around the house. And remember, if you need any guidance on any of our products, our Live Chat Team are always here to help, 8am-10pm, every day. Just hit that purple button, bottom right.
Playing xylophone: Kelli McClintock on Unsplash
Robot toy: Robo Wunderkind on Unsplash
Lego: Rick Mason on Unsplash