As parents, we’re forewarned that a mountain-sized collection of toys will soon overtake our lives. And it’s true—most of the time, parents face this calamity about two years into parenthood.
For many reasons, though, your kids’ toys may be causing issues in your family. Perhaps it’s the clutter that’s driving you mad. Or maybe it’s that your kids only play with a few favorites while the rest of the toy mound collects dust. It could be that your kids are overwhelmed with the number of toys they have, so they avoid them altogether.
Whatever the reasons might be, implementing a toy rotation could be just the ticket to reclaiming your peace of mind (and your floor!). Plus, this strategy will encourage your kids to imagine and get creative in their free time. Here’s how to make it work for you.
1. Inventory Your Toy Collection
First things first, it’s best to know what you’re working with precisely before you start stashing items away. If your kids’ toys are already reasonably organized—aka shoved on shelves and crammed into boxes—this feat won’t be too challenging. However, if “reasonably organized” isn’t your reality, it’s time to start gathering those scattered toys. Tackle the pile in the corner and clear underneath all the beds. Leave no stone unturned!
Many parents like to lay all the toys out on the floor to get a solid visual of their inventory. The point in taking a toy headcount is so that you have a general idea of the space you’ll need for storage as well as the types of toys you have.
Now is an excellent time to weed out any toys that are broken, outgrown, or no longer strike your kids’ interest. Toys that come with kids’ meals or cost you a buck at the store tend to fall in this category, too.
Keep in mind that decluttering toys is hard work, and kids typically aren’t top-notch helpers when it comes to this part. They might want to cling to their beloved action figure even though he has no arms or legs, for example. So, it’s not a bad idea to tackle this part of the process when the kids are out of the house.
2. Divide and Conquer
Once you’ve got a good handle on your toy inventory, it’s time to start categorizing. By now, you’ve likely matched most of the small pieces back with their original toys and separated minuscule Polly Pocket pieces from the Legos—a heroic feat in itself.
With a critical eye, begin to divide the toys into categories. Some parents physically move toys around to create new stacks while others merely make a mental note of the toy type. Some popular categories to develop include:
- Musical instruments – Any toy that is used to create noise or music
- Movement toys – Balls, bikes or trikes, jump ropes, climbing toys, sports equipment, etc.
- Pretending toys – Kitchen set, baby dolls, dress-up clothes, stuffed animals, etc.
- Building toys – Legos, blocks, erector set, bristle blocks, Lincoln Logs, etc.
- Creation toys – Art supplies, coloring books, play dough, clay, etc.
- Thinking toys – Puzzles, brainteasers, shape sorters, etc.
- Board games – Candy Land, Jenga, Soggy Doggy, Go Fish, etc.
The categories you create are entirely up to you. Remember to divide and conquer according to your family’s lifestyle and routine. Some families have loads of Legos and only three board games. Other families load up on books and musical instruments. Each family is unique with a different type of play style, so do what works for you.
3. Create the Perfect Mix
Accomplishing the previous step will make creating the perfect toy mix a breeze. Most parents want a variety of toys with each rotation. In other words, having a toy or a few toys from each category will offer your children enough to choose from, but not too much that they feel overwhelmed.
To land on the perfect mix, decide how many rotations you want. Keep in mind that families go through a single rotation at different intervals. For example, one family might keep out the same toys for a week before rotating while another family goes an entire month. Only you know your kids best and how much stimulation is adequate for them. Plus, only you will understand what will work best for everyone.
In general, most parents decide on about three to seven rotations, depending on various factors, of course. Seasons, toy size, kids’ ages, and many other variables will play a role in this particular decision. Remember to leave some staple items out all the time, such as your kids’ favorite basketball or the most played with baby doll.
Next is the fun part: start creating your rotations. Dedicate one or more toys from each category into rotation until you have the number of rotations you desire. Random and rogue toys will happen, so try not to worry if your strategy isn’t perfect.
4. Store Toys Correctly
Establishing a toy rotation in your household offers many benefits. Clean-up will be significantly quicker, and it will encourage your kids to be more imaginative and creative in their play. Also, who can forget about the clutter-free space a toy rotation provides?
Before committing to cardboard boxes and garbage bags, though, consider how well these items will survive in storage. Both cardboard and plastic tear easily, offering little protection from dust, moisture, or critters.
To sustain the life of your kids’ toys, consider investing in large, stackable storage bins that seal tightly. It’s not a bad idea to secure a safe place to store the containers, as well. An attic, basement, or spare bedroom is an excellent place for toy rotation storage—assuming accessibility. However, self-storage is another idea to consider, especially if your kids are prone to snooping around the house and tearing through your neatly organized stacks to find a certain action figure.
Most self-storage facilities have cement floors for sturdy stacking. If climate-control is what you need, that option is typically available, as well. Climate-control will keep the heat from melting crayons or making rubber surfaces turn tacky. Plus, units come in a variety of shapes and sizes. A quick trip to the self-storage facility each month and your toy rotation is in motion.
When you’ve gone to all the trouble cleaning, sorting, and implementing a toy rotation, it only makes sense to safeguard the toys.
5. Reassess Your System As Needed
As with most parenting endeavors, tweaking and updating continually are a must. Life, in general, and kids change at lightning speed. To keep up with everyone’s needs, you must stay on your toes and in tune to the present.
It’s best to give a new toy rotation a grace period. While some parents nail the venture from the get-go, others have to do a lot of adjusting during the process. Everyone is different, so cut yourself a break.
You might find that your kids need more time with a specific toy rotation, such as a seasonal rotation filled with holiday-themed items. Other seasons, such as springtime or summertime, might call for more hands-on or outdoor toys if you live in a seasonal climate. Or, perhaps you add more books and peaceful activities to your toy rotation during the colder months.
Once you establish a toy rotation, it’s bound to change eventually. There’s always an ebb and flow when it comes to family life, so move along with your family’s unique pattern. Likely, you’ll find having a toy rotation is easier than you thought it would be and far more beneficial than you imagined!