Toy Rotations – A Guide For Parents Buried In Toys

Your home looks like a toy shop, there are toys EVERYWHERE yet your child still seems bored and is constantly jumping from activity to activity. Then toy rotations could well be the answer you are looking for, take a look at the; what, why and how below to start making the toys you already have work for your family.

Toy Rotations

What Are Toy Rotations?

A toy rotation is where you leave some of your toys out in rotation but hide the rest away. As your child looses interest in the current selection of toys you hide them toys away and bring out a few from storage.

To keep your toddler entertained you don’t have to have all of the toys. Actually less is more in the case of building purposeful play.

That’s what we want isn’t it?

When our children are engaged in their play they are building them key connections in their brain so they can: concentrate for longer, increase their problem solving skills, push their limits and ultimately test their ideas. 

How you rotate the toys?

Here are are few key things you should consider as you begin to work out what toys to leave out.

What does your child enjoy playing with? You probably don’t want to hide all of their cars away if they love pushing cars around.

What skill is your child working on at the moment? If they have been really focused on building towers leave out something they can use to build towers with.

What are their next steps in development? If they are really good at counting to say 5. The next step would be to help them understand what the quantity of 5 looks like. Therefore is would be worth leaving out a selection of things you can count.

When should you start rotating toys?

You can start at any time really I would say once your child is mobile. However, even before then you can rotate the toys that you offer them as they show interest in new things.

Getting Started With Toy Rotations

So, the key is, less is more.

Now is your chance to sort through all of the toys and organise them into categories. You can organise them by theme, development area, role of the toy or any other way that will make it easy for you to find the toy when you are ready for it to come back into rotation. This is also your chance to get rid of any toys you don’t need anymore!

Now it’s time to box up the toys into their categories leaving out one maybe two toys from each category. Hide the boxes out of sight! 

Out of sight out of mind is key! 

Now with the toys you have left out set them out in an inviting way. We use a cubed unit but that’s not essential. Make sure you deconstruct any toys that are completed through play, no one wants to break up a completed puzzle.

Why Is Toy Rotation Important?

A research paper was released in 2018. They were trying to find out if the number of toys in a toddlers environment influenced their play.

The results where really interesting. 

They took a group of 36 toddlers and split them into two groups. One group had 4 toys available while the other group had 16 toys available in their play space.

The trial found that the children with only 4 toys played with each toy for twice as long as the group with the bigger selection.

The play was also of higher quality, meaning they where more engaged with their play and used each toy in a variety of ways. One and a half times more than the group with more toys to choose from.

Here’s the link to the research paper in you would like to have a read yourself 

Although they didn’t explicitly research a toy rotation, they did find that having less toys doubled the toddlers attention span. 

Toy Rotations

Creating Opportunities For Purposeful Play

Purposeful play is when a child is fully engaged within their play. They are fully in their little world creating what they want to create. Whether that is rolling a car down a ramp over and over or making their very own small world scene. When children have less toys within their environment it means they less likely to get distracted by another toy.

Creativity And Imagination Bloom 

It gives them opportunities to flex their creative muscles. Your child will use items and create a whole range of different play scenario’s, where we can only see 1 or 2 uses. They might use their blocks to create a tower or a house but they may also use them to create a pattern or pretend it’s a item of food they have just bought from the shops. Play doesn’t have to be perfect to work.

Tidy Up With Ease

Who doesn’t need this one!! As there is less out, there is less to pick up at the end of the day. Not only that! Because toys have their own spot your child will quickly work out where toys need to go tidy up time.

Make Gift Season Super Easy

Last of all, because you have your categories and because your child is now fully engaging in their play. When it comes to holidays and birthdays you will know where the gaps are and what sets to extend on. Plus you haven’t been buying new toys all year!!

toy rotations

Toy Rotations and Montessori Parenting.

What is Montessori parenting?

Montessori is a child development theorist who supported child led play but also encouraged independence. She spoke a lot about our role as parents and carers of children to guide them through their experiences as well as supporting the use of natural resources and a clutter free environment.

Find out more about Montessori parenting here

Where do toy rotations come in?

Montessori believed a child’s environment shouldn’t be cluttered to allow them to focus. Toy rotations reduce the amount of toys in the child’s environment which reduces clutter. Children are also encouraged to be independent, because the toys all have a place it makes it easier for children to help tidy away.

Toy Rotation Boxes.

What are they?

Some divide the toys onto 4 boxes and they will simple rotate through the boxes. This is a really handy technique to making the rotations quicker. However, this it isn’t really child centred. Which may mean the rotation is less successful because your child may not be interested in what the toys have to offer at that point in time.


How often should you do a toy rotation?

When your child’s interest starts to dwindle. I do mine every 3 weeks but if Ayla is still interest in the toys I’ll leave them out for longer. If she looses interest sooner I will rotate sooner.

How many toys do I need for a toy rotation?

It depends how many children are playing with in the space and each individual child. I would aim for no more than 10 but play around with how many items you have out and see what works best for your family.

How do you categorize toys for rotation?

Group items together however you like; theme, skill, what it is. Whatever makes it easy for you to find on the next rotation.

Should I rotate the toys with my child?

Normally we rotate the toys at night time. Other wise you will end up with all of the toys out! But this one is up to you. If you think your child will be more interested with the toys if they can choose give it a go.

Do I have to rotate the toys all in one go?

You can do a bit of both. If a big rotation is just to much to handle swap out the toys that aren’t being played with and leave out the ones that are.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below if you found the information above useful!! 

Happy Playing – Emily

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