Even though the shortest day has officially passed and the days should be getting longer and warmer, it sure doesn’t feel like it where we live. There’s still a few months of grey rainy days to get through… so even though my last few Winter Survival Tips have been about getting outdoors with the kids, there’s certainly times when it’s nicer to be cosied up indoors. So today I’m going to talk about TOY ROTATION, which is an essential organisation trick that helps keep me sane during winter…
Keeping my two boys interested in their toys and presenting new exciting ways for them to engage with them has been a learning journey for me as a parent. I haven’t always been very intentional about how I present our toys at home. For a long time, they were often just stored in a messy pile on a train table that we had. But since I’ve been learning more about how children play, I’ve reflected a lot about the environment that I present in my home for our children to play in. As an occupational therapist, I inherently know the impact that environment can have on an activity, so in this case I have been looking at how play at home is impacted by how I store, arrange, and present our toys.
I have long been a fan of rotating toys, and as a stay at home Mum, I find it especially valuable during the cold winter months. So today I’d like to share the benefits of it with you!
First up, keeping a selection of toys away in the hall cupboard declutters my lounge. Even though I think I’d like to be minimalistic, we actually own faaaar too many toys to keep in the lounge. And when they’re cluttered and strewn all around, it stresses *me* out – can you imagine what that must be like for a little person? Potentially overwhelming! Being able to easily see, find, and choose specific items that they want to add to their play is a big benefit to keeping less toys available on the shelves.
Second, having less toys at the children’s immediate access gives them the opportunity to think creatively about the ones that they *do* have available, promoting creative thinking and problem solving. I have found that my children engage in a different type of play when they have less toys around. It ends up being quite imaginative and in depth. They can concentrate on their play and give it the attention they want to, getting into their own imaginary world, without having distractions of too many choices about.
Third: it makes clean up easier. Ummm hello…. WIN… enough said!
Fourth: it gives me an extra “parenting tool” up my sleeve for rainy days or when one child is sick. Getting a different set of toys from the cupboard can be made into a special event (it’s like Christmas haha).
Fifth: It allows me to set up “invitation to play” more easily. Sometimes my kids engage in free play. Other times I set up a little area of play specific to their current interests. Some examples are small world play (little animals and accessories), a lego play area, an airport scene, a car racing scene, or we do some dress-ups together. This is also where our toy library membership comes into play; if the kids have chosen specific toys, I extend play with these by using what we have at home.
In the interest of being transparent I’m going to share a photo of our toy storage cupboard and how I group our toys, just in case you’re interested. Beware, it looks messy, but there is actually a method to this madness…
board games and puzzles.
musical instruments, dominoes (remember those damn Countdown dominoes?! Banished to the cupboard!), pull toys, action figurines, buggy, giant magnets, airport, and other random toys.
cars and aeroplanes, car mat, mega blocks & duplo, small animals (in basket), wooden trollies.
See, an organised mess! I know, we have a lot of toys.
Personally, I keep the toys in groups, for example: toy animals + accessories, cars + garage, musical instruments, etc. But PLEASE, don’t let toy rotation be a hard thing to implement. Start by choosing a few things to put away and shove them in a cupboard. Our toy “rotation” doesn’t have a timeframe, nor is it organised any further to that which I have described.
Toys that I like to keep available all of the time are wooden blocks and our wooden train set. I recently got these great little shelves second hand, which fit our play area really nicely and allow me to swap out toys easily:
(That blue roll is a BluTrack Racetrack, which I’ll write a review of at some stage).
So, there you have it – how toy rotation happens in our house. If you haven’t done a toy rotation before, give it a go and see how it works for you and your kids. If you’re already a fan, then feel free to share this post and let other parents in on the benefits of it, it might help to save some Mama’s sanity this winter!
* The information I’ve given in this post is shaped from my own personal experience of observing my children play at home, attending playcentre education sessions, reflecting on the “PEO” model of occupational therapy, and also by reading this blog post here which has been written by a paediatric OT (who is also a Mom).