When you walk into your kids’ bedrooms, what do you see?
A neat and tidy room with everything in its place? Or a total disaster zone complete with Legos lying in wait to attack your unsuspecting feet?
At my house, I get a little of both.
My daughter is very neat and likes her room to be clean and clutter-free.
My son, on the other hand, has this awesome superpower that allows him to walk right by a mess without batting an eye.
And if you’ve got a kid who’s the same way, a toy rotation could be just what you need to master the mess for good.
What’s a Toy Rotation?
Good news, this isn’t anything super complicated. Essentially, it’s a system for organizing kids’ toys so you’re not overwhelmed by clutter and mess.
When you start a rotation for toys, you’re basically putting them on a schedule.
Instead of your kids’ bedrooms or playroom being a big free-for-all with toys everywhere, you’re being selective and intentional in giving them options for what to play with.
Kids have a smaller selection of toys to choose from. Then when it’s time to switch them out, you introduce a new set of toys and put the others away.
Toy rotations are often associated with the Montessori style of homeschooling. But even if you don’t homeschool your kids full-time, you and your family can still appreciate the benefits of rotating toys.
Why Would I Want to Rotate Toys?
That’s a good question mama and there are some real advantages to starting a rotation system for toys to organize your kids’ rooms.
Rotating toys can help cut down on clutter.
Each time you organize the rotation, you can weed out toys your kids have outgrown. And that’s a good thing because less clutter = less mess = less stuff for you to pick up and clean.
A toy rotation can make old toys seem new again.
If kids haven’t played with something in a while, then it can seem like new when its turn in the rotation comes around.
When kids are interested in the toys they already have, they’re less likely to ask you to buy them more toys they don’t really need. And another plus is you save money since you’re not buying toys unnecessarily.
Instituting a rotation can also encourage creative thinking.
I’ve found that the more toys my kids had to choose from when they were little, the easier it was for them to get bored or overwhelmed. But when there were fewer options they were more likely to exercise their imaginations and play creatively.
Fewer toys can help cut down on sibling arguments.
A surprising side effect of having a rotation for toys when you have multiple kids is that fewer fights may break out over who gets to play with what. When there are fewer toys to go around, it can encourage sharing which means less stress for you.
How to Start a Toy Rotation
Truth time, there is a little bit of a process involved with this in the beginning. But once you and your kids get used to the idea, it’s smooth sailing.
These tips can help you start a simple toy rotation you can keep your kids’ rooms clean and organized.
1. Talk to your kids about what you’re doing and why
Listen, as a mom who’s been fed up with the mess in my kids’ rooms I know how tempting it is to just start chucking stuff. I always think of Mama Bear from “The Berenstain Bears and the Messy Room” when she started tossing everything in a box because she was 100% done with those cubs junking up her treehouse.
But here’s what happens when you start going through your kids’ toys without an explanation. They get frustrated and cranky and angry and hurt and all the feels.
Because little kids don’t understand what’s happening when all their stuff suddenly starts to disappear. So before you start on your quest to declutter your kids’ toys, sit down with your kids and have a chat.
Explain to them that you’re going to try a new way of playing with toys and how it’s going to work. Let them ask questions and answer honestly.
If you can get kids on board with the idea and even a little excited about it, that can make starting a toy rotation so much easier.
2. Block off time to declutter and sort toys
Setting up a rotation for kids’ toys takes time. And it really works best when you can focus on it all at once, instead of working on it little by little.
So look at your busy mom schedule to see when you can find a couple of hours to work on it. Ideally, you can pick a time when your kids won’t be under your feet trying to play with all their toys.
And don’t plan to do this when you’re tired either. If you do, you’ll just end up skipping over steps to get it done faster and your toy rotation won’t be as organized as you want it to be.
3. Gather your toy organization supplies
If you’re going to rotate toys that means you’ll need something to store them in when they’re not being played with.
So before you get too far into the sorting and decluttering stages, decide how you’re going to sort and organize toys.
If you need ideas, here are some of the ways I’ve organized my kids’ toys over the years:
- Storing loose puzzle pieces in large Ziploc bags
- Stashing loose Legos in stackable plastic containers
- Using cube organizers with flexible bins to stash dolls, action figures, My Little Pony toys and other miscellaneous items
- Keeping dress-up clothes in oversized tubs or large baskets
- Using bookshelves and book racks for kids’ books
- Keeping art supplies (i.e. paint brushes, colored pencils, markers, etc.) in a metal picnic caddy
What you choose to store your kids’ toys in is up to you.
There are super low-budget items, like cardboard boxes, that work just fine. But if you want your kids’ bedrooms or playrooms to look a little more pulled together, you can always splurge on some cute storage options.
My Amazon Picks for Sorting and Organizing Kids Toys
4. Round up your kids’ toys
This is kind of the fun part of getting started with a toy rotation system. Because corraling all your kids’ toys in one place can almost be like a scavenger hunt.
Go through your house room by room and look for toys. The goal is to get them all back to your kids’ room or the playroom, wherever toys normally live at your house.
Don’t just stick to the house either. Also check the garage, the backyard and even your car for toys that have gone astray.
5. Weed out the junk
Once you’ve got your big pile of toys, it’s time to do an initial sorting.
Here, what you’re looking for are broken toys or junk you can either throw away or recycle.
So for example, wooden or cardboard puzzle pieces may be recyclable where you live. Broken crayons could be melted down and made into fun kids’ crafts. Dolls or action figures with missing limbs can go in the trash.
You don’t have to spend a lot of time here but do go through and sift out the junk first.
6. Sort remaining kids’ toys into categories
Now you can get down to the nitty-gritty of matching up toys into categories.
For example, you might have these groups of toys to work with:
- Stuffed animals
- Dolls or action figures
- Toy cars and trucks
- Blocks and Legos
- Paper dolls
- Stickers and sticker books
- Arts and crafts
- Creative play (think kitchen sets, tea sets, dress-up, etc.)
- Puzzles and board games
You might be wondering if you should also divide toys up based on who plays with them or by age.
And you may want to do that if you have older kids and a toddler who maybe isn’t ready for Legos or smaller items yet. Or if there are some toys your kids don’t share you may want to keep those separate from each other.
7. Do a second decluttering run
This is my favorite part of setting up a rotation for toys. Here, you want to look at each category again and pick out items you can get rid of.
These aren’t toys to throw away. This is stuff you can either donate or sell for extra cash if you’re so inclined.
The goal is to eliminate stuff your kids have outgrown or don’t play with anymore. But that doesn’t mean getting rid of just anything.
If your kids have a treasured stuff animal or a favorite toy that a grandparent gave them, you wouldn’t get rid of that of course. But you don’t want to hang on to everything either, otherwise, you could be setting your toy rotation up for failure.
8. Identify any toys that won’t go in the rotation
Next up, pick out any toys that won’t be part of your regular rotation.
These are toys that will either always stay out or always be stored away.
For example, those favorite items that don’t get played with but you want to keep would go in this pile. Or toys that are only played with on special occasions can also be set aside.
And some toys you might not put up at all. For example, my daughter had a large kitchen set in her room so that and the food that went along with it always stayed out.
Again, don’t spend a lot of time on this but do make sure you know what’s what.
9. Create toy sets from the rest
Alright, now you’re down to the last of the big steps. Here’s where you’re going to create your toy sets.
There are so many ways to do this but it’s really best if you just keep it simple.
For example, you could organize kids’ toys for your rotation by theme.
A toy set with a dinosaur theme might include some plastic dinosaur figures, a book on dinosaurs, some dinosaur stickers and a stuffed dinosaur. A toy set with a princess theme might include a tea set, some dress-up items, a princess coloring book and some crayons.
Or you could build toy sets around each toy’s function. So you might choose one sensory toy, one toy that’s designed to improve motor skills, one toy that encourages creative thinking and one “fluff” toy that’s just for fun.
Here’s my number one rule: do not overthink this.
The whole point of having a toy rotation is to take the stress out of playtime for your kids. So it makes no sense for you to stress over what goes into each toy set.
10. Set your schedule for rotating toys
Now that you’ve got your toy sets sorted it’s time to set your rotation schedule.
There are different ways you can do this and what you choose really depends on what works best for you and your kids.
So you might do a daily toy rotation, for example, where kids get one set to play with for the day. Or you could try weekly or monthly instead.
The most important thing is that once you set a toy rotation schedule, you stick to it.
Kids really thrive on routines so it pays to be consistent.
Posting a simple schedule so kids know when the next round of new toys is coming gives them something to look forward to. And it means they’re not asking you 100 times a day when they can play with a certain toy.
11. Display one toy set and hide the rest
Congratulations, if you’ve made it this far you’ve truly accomplished something big, mama!
Now the final step is to pick a place to keep the toy sets that are currently in the rotation and put the rest away.
It’s good to pick a central location for this to cut down on the odds of toys ending up lost all over the house.
So you might keep toy sets in each child’s room, the playroom if you have one or the living room. Depending on the kind of containers you used, a bookcase, cabinet or console table can be great for storing current toy sets. The rest can go in the closet.
And make sure toy sets are in reach. Kids should be able to get toys out themselves (and of course, put them away again) easily.
More Amazon Picks for Organizing Kids’ Toys
Bonus Tips for Organizing and Rotating Kids’ Toys!
Need a few more ideas for making your rotation system work? Here are some other tips to try.
Swap toys with another family
A toy swap is a simple way to introduce new toys into your rotation.
Here’s how it works. You team up with another family or group of families to share toys. If they’re also doing a toy rotation, this can be as easy as swapping out age-appropriate toy sets.
Just remember to keep track of who you’ve swapped with so you can trade back again later.
Shop thrift stores and yard sales for inexpensive toys
Toys can eat up a huge part of your budget if you let them. So if you want to add a few new items to your rotation, don’t pay full price.
You can find plenty of great used toy options at thrift stores, yard sales and consignment stores. You’ll need to clean and sanitize anything you buy secondhand but I saved a ton of money buying my kids toys this way.
Create seasonal or holiday-themed toy sets
Some toys may be more appropriate for seasonal or holiday play. If you’re already using the theme idea to create your toy sets, then be sure to add in some that can change with the seasons or whatever holiday you’re celebrating.
Those are all things you can buy super cheap if you don’t already have them at home. And it’s a fun way to celebrate the holiday when you need some fun things to do at home.
Consider setting up book sets to go with toy sets
I have a confession. I’m a super frugal mom but books for my kids are the one thing I’ll spend unlimited amounts of money on.
I love to read and I want them to love reading, too so books abound at our house. And if you also have a ton of books, why not create separate book sets to go with your toy sets?
So for instance, say you have a toy set with a Thomas the Train theme for your son. (My boy loved these when he was little).
You could create a book set with pop-up books, easy readers or picture books about trains.
It’s my theory that kids don’t necessarily need to know how to read to enjoy books. And making books a regular part of their day early on can help foster a love of reading once they begin learning to read.
Do you use a rotation system to manage clutter in your kids’ rooms?
These tips can help you get started with rotating toys. And once you try it, you may wonder how you ever managed your kids’ toys any other way.
Are you rotating toys at your house? If so, head to the comments and tell me how it’s working for you.
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