2 little girls playing together with dinosaur toys
Motherhood

The Ultimate Guide to Toy Rotation: How to Spark Imagination and Decrease Boredom

What do you do when toys you’ve spent hard-earned dollars on seem to be reduced to room clutter? The toy industry generated 90.7 billion dollars in revenue globally in 2019. Various sources estimate parent spending on toys per child to be between $200 and $400. This can add up fast!

Your child has a countless number of toys. Yet they always seem to be bored and looking for something new to do, or someone to bother. Thankfully, a toy rotation system can help revive your child’s interest in their toys. Ready to reclaim your sanity and revive your child’s interest in their toys? Read on for our guide on toy rotation and how to implement it into you and your child’s life.

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What is Toy Rotation?

Toy rotation is a playtime method designed to reduce toy fatigue and increase your child’s engagement. This is done by only providing a smaller subset number of toys at any one time, then rotating between different groupings of toys on a schedule.

Now, I’m not saying to get rid of excess toys or stop treating your kids to new ones! Instead, you can create themed days of the week or times of the day in which to provide different sets of toys.

With toy rotation, your child is given a chance to focus on fewer toys at a time. While every little one’s attention span differs, rotating toys may avoid overstimulation.  It is definitely worth a try!

Benefits of Toy Rotation

Toy rotation exposes your child to only a few toys at one time. Thus, you can expect great things once they get used to this way of playing.

infographic of the benefits of toy rotation

Increased Stimulation and Imagination

With toy rotation, your child is not overwhelmed by all their toys at once. Now they have a chance to engage and interact with the ones available. And by pairing toys that may not usually be grouped together, you allow for their imagination to take off.

For example, your little girl’s favorite dollhouse can now be a shelter for her jungle animals! Or your little boy’s action figures have to jump over wooden blocks to save the day.

Toy rotation will also increase engagement with forgotten toys. When all your child’s toys are available to them, it’s easy to get overstimulated with too many options. In this way, only the newest and greatest toy gets played with. Until the next new toy comes along. By limiting the number of toys available, your child will learn the full depth of each toy and may even think up new ways to play with it!

little kid playing with animal figurines on floor

Less Boredom

With your child’s increased imagination, they become less bored. Or less likely to, anyways. Instead of using a toy for its advertised purposes, your child can think of new ways to play with each one! Now play ideas become virtually unlimited.

For example, jungle animals are no longer just for the jungle. Now, a doll can pretend to be an exotic veterinarian, taking care of these amazing animals.

As you decrease the quantity of your child’s toys and clutter, you increase their attention and their capacity for deep play.
Kim John Payne, M.ED, Author of Simplicity Parenting

Cleaner, More Organized Home

Toy rotation tends to lead to a cleaner, more organized home. There will no longer be toys all strewn about. Hopefully. Well…there may still be toys strewn about. But there will be fewer of them since only one rotation box will be out at a time.

And clean-up will be a cinch! Your child will be more willing to help clean up since it shouldn’t take more than a few minutes. Again, this is the hope. I can’t make any promises. 🙂

clean and organized toy shelf with bins

A Happier, Calmer You

Okay, this may be stretching it a little bit, but I do believe that toy rotation led to a happier, calmer me! I can now set a toy rotation box down at playtime and my toddler will be able to play independently for at least 30 minutes.  This leaves me free to meal plan, do our family budget, or drink a hot coffee (gasp!).

I will admit that this did not happen overnight. When we first rotated toys, I had to “teach” my toddler this method of playing and using imagination.

How to Start Toy Rotation

Okay, this all sounds so great! But how do you even go about implementing toy rotation in your household? Here is a step-by-step guide on how to start rotating toys:

Gather and Declutter Toys

First, collect all the toys your kids currently have. Yes, all of them. Go searching behind the couch and under the bed to get every single one.

Declutter their array of toys by getting rid of any toys that are worn out or broken. Divide the remaining toys into keep or donate piles. Give the “keep” toys a deep clean.

Divide Toys into Categories

Then start sorting the toys into categories. Make a general pile for each category. For example, you can sort each toy into its most obvious category: cars, figurines, building blocks, etc.

See “Tips and Tricks” below for more category examples.

bin of toys categorized for toy rotation

Create Rotation Bins

Once you have your piles of categorized toys, it’s time to finally create the actual rotation bins. Divide the number of toys in each category among the number of bins you have.

For example, let’s say you have 12 cars and 6 action figures to make up 6 toy rotation bins. Each bin will have 2 cars and 1 action figure.

Feel free to instead have “themed” bins of only one type of toy if you notice your child gravitating toward one at a time.

Another option that I’m a fan of is to randomly grab a handful of toys from each category for each bin. There’s no right or wrong way to do this! And you can change up your method each time you do this.

2 little boys playing together with a bin of toys

Plan Toy Rotation Schedule

Now that your child’s toy collection is cleaned, organized, and sorted into bins, what’s next? Decide on a rotation schedule and how often you’ll switch out the toy bins. This can be daily, weekly, or every few weeks.

Or you can be like me and just switch it up randomly. (aka I don’t keep to the schedule very well and forget to change bins 😜).

Keep one toy bin out in the playroom or where your child plays with toys. Store the rest in a safe location. For younger children, you may have to hide the other bins. If they know where the toys are hidden, toy rotation becomes moot. I speak from personal experience. 🤣

If your child is older, this is a great opportunity to set some ground rules. Discuss that only one bin can be out at a time and the other ones are saved for another time. Consider allowing them the independence to know when they are done with a bin and to exchange bins on their own.

little girl putting bin of toys back on book shelf for toy rotation

Again, there’s no right or wrong with toy rotation. Do what works for your family, your child’s age, and personality. The great thing about toy rotation is that you can individualize the bins or schedule.

Tips for Toy Rotation Success

After doing toy rotation in our household for a few months, here are some tips and tricks to ensure its success in your family.

Category Examples

Here are some examples of categories that you can use for your kid’s toys:

  • Things that go – vehicles, cars, trucks
  • Characters/figurines – can also sort this further into small or large figurines
  • Construction – wooden blocks, magnetic tiles, Legos
  • Imagination play – kitchen items, dress-up clothes, costumes

Keep your Collections Well-Curated

It’s important to remember the goal of toy rotation and being intentional with the toys. Thus it’s better to have more toy rotation bins with only 10-12 toys in each rather than have fewer bins but too many toys in each bin.

Get the Kids Involved

Starting toy rotation in your family can be quite a shock to any kid, no matter what age. Get buy-in by getting your kids involved from the very start. Have them help sort and organize the toys. Let them choose the rotation schedule. And as mentioned before, allow the older kids to self-regulate when they are ready for a new bin.

Make it Fun

Taking toys away does not seem fun, right? But show your child that toy rotation can be fun as they become more creative with the toys available. Make a big deal out of switching bins out. Heck, make a big ceremony out of it! For example: “Every Sunday, we are getting a new bin out and we’ll take the time exploring what’s in the new bin!”

older sister and little brother playing with train set on floor in front of tent for toy rotation

Take Notes

Once you implemented toy rotation with your kids, your job is not done. So sorry! Now it’s time to take notes. What do your kids play with the most? What tends to get ignored? What seems to be missing that you can add to your bins?

This way, once you get to the next tip, you can take action from your notes. Replace the ignored toys with something that your child loves playing with more.

Mix it Up

Every now and then, start the steps all over again to mix up the bins. This will spark even further imagination as new combinations of toys are made.

Common Questions about Toy Rotation

  1. How do you do toy rotation with a favorite toy?

    Don’t be afraid to keep the favorite toys out all the time. There’s a reason why they are the favorite. Toy rotation will still work as the overall combination of toys is varied each time. So definitely keep that lovey out!

  2. At what age should you start toy rotation?

    There is no age limit for toy rotation! You can start as early as your baby interacts with toys. And even if your child is older, you can still implement it!

  3. Where do you put the toy bins that are out of rotation?

    There are few options where you can store the toy bins that are currently inactive. You can store them in a hard-to-reach area, such as a hall closet or on top of a bookshelf. The choice of whether to allow your child to know where the other toys are is up to you. Will they have a tantrum if they can see the toys but can’t have access to them? The key is to communicate that only one bin is allowed out at a time.

  4. Do you need special supplies for toy rotation?

    The great thing about toy rotation is that you can start it right away without any fancy storage bins. You can opt for these clear shoe boxes or these stackable plastic bins. But cardboard shoe boxes also work!

Final Thoughts About Toy Rotation

Toy rotation can have many benefits for your child, you, and your home. It can help revitalize your child’s interest in older toys and lead to a more organized and cleaner home. Toy rotation can also serve as a learning opportunity for you as a parent. You can observe how your child plays and interacts with different sets of toys.

If you are overwhelmed with the number of toys your children have and yet they still seem bored, I recommend giving toy rotation a try. It certainly doesn’t hurt to do a trial period to see if it improves the way your kids play. You may find that you and your family love it! What are your thoughts on toy rotation? Have you tried it or have always been interested in doing so? I would love to hear about your experience!

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