If you haven’t yet read “Shopping In Your Own Toy Closet“, please check that out so you’ll fully understand why rotating toys is so important. Once you’ve done that, here’s the nitty gritty about how to rotate.
1) Get rid of toys that are not age-appropriate for your child (or children).
If you have baby rattles still out for your 2 1/2 year-old, box them up. Get out any toy that is not developmentally appropriate for your child.
2) Get rid of junk.
Broken toys, toys with missing pieces, toys you hate and beg your child not to play with, all need to go. Remember, playrooms are not meant to be toy graveyards or storage, they are meant to be PLAY rooms. So make room for real play to happen there.
3) Categorize what’s left.
You want to take what’s left and think of what purpose it serves for your child as far as his development. There are five main areas of development in early childhood: cognitive, social/emotional, language, fine motor, and gross motor. Those five areas have a great deal of overlap early on in your child’s life and any one toy may cover several areas of development. For example, the activity of feeding a stuffed animal may target social/emotional development as your child cares for the animal, language development as your child practices the concept of “eat”, and fine motor development as your child opens a toy bottle and stirs a spoon. For that reason, I feel the five areas of development are covered by three types of toys: 1) thinking toys, 2) moving toys, and 3) pretending toys. Here’s some examples of what would fit in each category and how they work:
- Thinking toys – These toys tend to target cognitive development and usually are carried out through small movements of the hand, therefore working on fine motor development as well. They include toys like puzzles, paper and crayons, nesting cups, stacking blocks, and shape sorters.
- Moving toys – These toys tend to target gross motor movements. They include toys like balls, swings, ride-on toys, tricycles, and instruments.
- Pretending toys – These toys tend to target social/emotional development and language development as your child acts out stories from his mind. But, as your child moves around to act those things out they may have to solve problems related to cognitive development or complete any number of gross or small motor tasks. Pretending toys include things like kitchen sets, car garages, fire stations, stuffed animals with available cups and spoons, or dress-up clothes.
Separate all of your toys into those three categories of toys. Once you’ve categorized you’ll probably have a fourth pile of SCLANS. Set those aside for now. If you are short in any one pile, that’s okay. Make do with what you have for now, but just keep that in mind for future purchases. To keep costs down in the future you may want to borrow toys from a friend. (I’m sure they have plenty they’d like to get out of their house). Or try a toy rental website like this one (http://www.toygaroo.com/).
4. Make your sets.
Depending on how many toys you have in each category, we are hoping to make 2-3 sets of toys by taking about 3 toys from each category. That’s a total of around 9 toys. If you must, you can throw in one SCLAN, which equals around 10.
Ten toys. That’s how many you are going to put out at first. If it seems slim, it is. We are trying to really give your child repeated experiences with those ten toys. To make you feel better, you still have your books out (which I haven’t limited, yet) and no matter what, a few things seem to always sneak into our rotation leaving us with more toys at the end of the rotation than at the beginning.
5. Put toys “out” or “away”, and then rotate.
Put your “out” rotation stuff out. You can put smaller toys in boxes or baskets on a shelf. I’m dying to use these peek-a-boo bags and hang them on low-mounted coat hooks. Put away your “away” rotation(s). Then watch your child enjoy.
To sum it up…
At our house we leave our rotations out for about 2 weeks, but sometimes my daughter is still going strong at 3 weeks with the same toys.
If you still have questions about rotating with older kids, multiple kids, and storage, check out my post “Toy Rotation – The Rest of The Story“.
For toy rotations in action, here are some examples of real life rotations…
AND if this toy organization system is just too complicated for you, here’s a super-simple system I shared over at Modern Parents Messy Kids. Now you have no reason not to get control over those toys!