Have you considered to start rotating your children’s toys but you get overwhelmed and don’t know where to start?
Do you rotate toys? If not, you are likely wondering why bother? Mihaela shared some reasons in her post earlier in the series and I shared my reasons today over on Bambini Travel. If your child(ren) has trouble engaging in sustained play in your playroom or play space, my first guess is that there are too many toys. Both in my 10+ years working in child care centers and at home with my twins, this has held true. Rotating toys is one of the keys to providing an environment that stimulates focused, creative play.
There are many ways to go about rotating toys, but I am sharing some tips today that work for me.
Start organizing playroom by reducing the number of toys.
Go through your toys and get rid of anything broken or missing pieces. Take inventory of what remains and sort it into categories. I use the following categories, but pick a system that works for you:
- Dramatic Play: dress up costumes, pretend food and other props
- Literacy materials: alphabets, letter manipulatives, puppets
- Math materials: number manipulatives, number puzzles and games, shapes, etc.
- Blocks: all kinds – legos, wooden blocks, magnatiles
- Fine Motor: lacing cards, connecting toys, beads
- Games + Puzzles
Storage solutions for toy organization.
You will need both storage containers and baskets for shelved toys. I use clear containers and gallon ziploc bags to store most of our toys. Clear storage containers make it easy to see what is on the shelves. Make space in a cabinet or closet. This does not have to be pretty. In fact, as you can see from the photo of my closet above it likely isn’t going to be a tour worthy portion of your home. For a while our storage space was above the dryer in the laundry room. In one home it was on some random shelves at the top of the basement stairs. Right now we are lucky enough to have a huge closet with extra space. Work with what you have.
How to display toys.
Now that you have spaces and your toys are sorted, start with toys you want to have out on your shelves. I decide this based on two things: interests and developmental needs.
I start with things they are currently interested in. For instance, when our twins were interested in trains, this is what we had on our shelves. Sometimes I have a lot of materials about an interest, sometimes I do not. Sometimes I make some of our own materials.
Next, I think about what they are working on learning. I focus on things where they seem most interested. For instance, right now my son is interested in learning his numbers so there are several different counting materials and manipulatives out. Regardless, I always have at least one item from each of the above categories.
Storing the toys.
The remaining toys are put in the closet. I organize them by the categories I use to make the rotating process quicker. For instance, if my twins haven’t touched the stringing beads in a week then I go to the fine motor shelf, put the beads in a ziploc bag and find a different fine motor material.
Rotate Toys for More Play.
There are different ways to do this. Some people prefer to rotate everything in their room at once. They take everything away and put all new toys on the shelves about once a month or so. Some people rotate more gradually. I personally do a little of both.
I rotate interest materials as more of a collective group. When we finish a project or an interest wanes, I replace the materials for that project. This usually means that a bulk of our materials are getting switched either with a new interest or various other materials we haven’t used in a while.
I also rotate weekly. I observe what my kids are playing with during the week and take a little time during quiet play to switch a couple of things every week. Maybe there is a puzzle that is just sitting on the shelf or a basket of fairies that aren’t being played with right now. Or perhaps they are building with blocks every afternoon and I’m curious what adding trucks to their shelf might do to their play.
Observe the play.
This is always an important step in supporting play. I play with my kids, but I also spend a great deal of time observing. I watch what they are playing with and how they are using the materials. I think about how I can expand their play, deepen their explorations, or support their development of a skill.
Today’s article is a part of Less Toys. More Play. series. All 24 articles we will be sharing have been written by a number of prominent family friendly bloggers (some educators, all parents). These articles will be collected and you will find them on our page Less Toys. More Play.
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Erin Buhr has a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education and works as a freelance writer and early childhood educator. She currently lives in Mississippi with husband and twin four year olds. You can read more by Erin on her blog, Bambini Travel, where she writes about family travel, children’s books, and preschool activities.