Tidy up. Declutter. Destress. Sounds great, right? It might also sound impossible if you happy to have a young child for a roommate!
Be sure to check out this post's freebie: Clear The Clutter for a step by step worksheet to help you reclaim your living room! It also includes our favorite types of toys by age for your home
My living room is a mess. There are toys everywhere. How do I fix this?
How often do you come home or just scan across a room in your home because you are filled with disappointment, anxiety and/or maybe a twinge of anger because TOYS and KID STUFF has officially taken over your space.
Jodi, my Business Partner, and I say that we LOVE our kids… but they make for terrible roommates.
They completely lack the vision for how the house should look, the coordination for systems, the memory for routines, and the willpower to institute any of these things themselves. So, this becomes part of our job… YIKES!
Likely, we have a vision of the home we WANT to live in. The issue is the establishment of systems and, often, time to put them into place. There is also this massive tension… we want our children to have access to all of the developmentally appropriate toys and gadgets, but likely, all of those toys and gadgets do not have homes in our playrooms, play spaces or or established “put away spots” any where in our homes.
You are NOT ALONE. It's stressful!
We are not wired to have clutter around!
Listen, parents, THIS IS A HUGE and COMMON problem that so many families face! And, let's be real, it is a problem. It causes tension between family members (we all have a different tolerance around mess and clutter), AND multiple research studies have shown that mess and clutter leads to higher cortisol levels … yup, that is our body throwing a fit saying we’re stressed!
Think about it, if there was a saber tooth tiger who came into our cave at night, as cave-people, we would NOT be set up for success to try to defend our family while stepping on legos, play food, and train parts. We are not wired for clutter!
This does not necessarily mean that we need to start tossing (i.e. donating) toys… though many homes would benefit from a solid combing through (just to get rid of duplicates, broken pieces, or toys the kids have grown out of) NOT IN THE LEAST.
Nor does it mean that you need to keep your kid from amassing toys… though again, I want to emphasize that YOU are the keeper and queen of the toys. You get to put rules in place about how many kids receive, try to put limits on family members, and decide how many toys are available at one time for your kiddos.
HOW, you ask?
Let’s dive into the magical world of toy rotation!
Toy rotation is the practice of limiting the number of toys you have out and available in any play space in your home at any one time. You then continually and ritually rotate them in and out of each space every 2-4 weeks.
Where do the other toys go?
Well, good question. In any storage space that is easily accessible i.e. you don’t have to pull down a rickety ladder or feel like you are a daredevil, risking your life and diving through loads of other boxes to get to the toys.
In some homes, especially in cities, this can feel like a TALL order. WE GET IT! But, the smaller the house, the more important the toy rotation is! We would recommend that all the toys be kept in one space, but sometimes this is just not possible - store them in a couple DESIGNATED spaces. Keep long term toy storage locations to a minimum. ALSO IMPORTANT: make sure that all of the adults know about these spaces, why they are there and how to use them!
It is important to note that the phrase “easy to access” applies to you… not your children. Spare toys DO NOT go in an unlocked closet in the kids room. If your kiddos closet becomes the toy storage, make sure that you can lock it! if you can lock a closet in the playroom, that would work - out of sight out of mind is the best practice here!
How do you store the toys
We highly recommend storing your toys in clear bins. This helps in a couple of different ways. First, you can immediately see what is in each bin, which makes rotating the toys back into storage and choosing which go out for play much easier. Second, when your children are older, beginning around a year or 18 months, you can involved them in the toy picking process. You would do this because it is an AMAZING opportunity to practice language skills like asking and answering questions, using descriptive language etc.
Your bins should also be labeled based on the type of toy inside. We like to sort our toys by the type of play each toy encourages. This helps make sure we are putting out a diverse set of toys in each of our play spaces.
**Check out our freebie to learn about our favorite way to group toys and sample toys in each group. (also a big help for holiday/birthday shopping)**
What toys are out
There should be a variety of different toys that encourage different types of play (like gross motor, imagination, and mathematic) out and easily available at one time. Because we, at grOH!, wholeheartedly believe in the learning power of topic-based play, we make sure that a couple of our toy storage bins in each play area are reserved for topic based toys. So, for example, if we are playing with the topic: Fish, I would keep out 1-2 fish-related toys in each of our play areas.
You may or may not have a playroom in your home. Play spaces can be in your living room, family room, kids bedrooms etc. In each space where kiddos usually play, it is important to keep out 4-8 different toys during each rotation. Each space can be different… because each space is different, the storage it accommodates will also be different! Here are the 2 most important rules of toy rotation.
1. Every toy that is out MUST have a home. Ideally it is either alone on a shelf or tucked away in a bin.
2. Only one toy (type of toy) can be stored in each bin! (now if this is a set of legos, all legos in that set should be stored in the same bin. But if you have legos and blocks out at the same time, you should store them in two different bins… you get the idea)
Pro-Tip : Use rewritable labels, like chalk or dry erase to label the toy bins that are out and available for kiddos. This helps them take more ownership of cleaning up. If your bins have label holders on them, get a small fuji polaroid camera and take a photo of the toy in the bin and place it in the label holder. When rotating it out, keep the photo in your long-term storage area for the next time it is in rotation.
Toy rotations help you reclaim your space. This is super important to every family member’s sanity… but there are actually many other benefits to toy rotation.
1. When children have fewer choices of toys and are around less clutter, they, like us, are less stressed and can actually focus better. Less distraction means more opportunities for focused and continuous, creative play. They are more likely to carry out a play scheme if they are not interrupted by other toys and clutter, which serve as easy distractions.
2. Having fewer items out, especially because each of those items have a specific home, makes cleaning up so much easier and faster. In fact, fewer toys to tidy up makes it easier for you to institute a clean up routine before bedtime because it takes LESS TIME!
3. Having fewer toys out helps kids initiate their own play because they have fewer options to choose from. They need you a little bit less and they are practicing their independence!
4. You have complete control over the number of toys your kiddos have access to at one time. You decide!
It is easier to donate and comb through toys if they are out-of-sight out-of-mind. IF children don’t see the toys regularly, they will not say “it’s my favorite” when you try to donate it… even if they have not touched the toy in a year. This makes it easy to clear out old toys to make room for new ones!
Steps to implementation
For an even more detailed step-by-step experience to help you implement a toy rotation in your home, check out our Clear The Clutter Worksheet freebie!
1. Decide on a long term storage space
2. Create play space storage in the places your kiddos like to play - this includes but is not limited to the playroom. If your kiddos like to play in the living room, ask yourself “where can I place 4-6 bins to store toys that is easy to access (on the floor) and unassuming (think beautiful bins or a nice bookshelf)
3. Gather a BUNCH of clear bins in different sizes. Make sure you find options wide enough for wooden puzzles, and large enough for gross motor toys, like balls.
4. Pull out all of your toys
5. Sort them them by types of play they encourage.
6. Place in boxes, get more boxes as needed, and label the boxes.
7. Organize all of your clear boxes in your toy rotation storage area. I like to place all of our imaginary toy boxes next to each other and all of the building toys next to each other etc.
8. Gather your play space boxes and pull out the toys that will be out in each play area. Remember to limit the number of toys in each area.
9. ENJOY your more focused play AND your more organized space
Other Notes: YOU CAN ROTATE BOOKS!
Every play space should also have an area for books. Books can be as overwhelming with the same space conquering tendencies as toys. We recommend setting up the same type of rotation for books as for toys.
Click here to check out our awesome freebie that includes our favorite storage products for small spaces AND how we organize our toys by types of play - and some of our favorite toys to go in each category!
Leave us a comment! Do you do a toy rotation? How is it going?
Remember to check out this blog's freebie: Clear The Clutter for a super detailed step by step worksheet to guide you through setting up a toy rotation in your home AS WELL AS AWESOME TOY RECOMMENDATIONS FOR KIDS AGES 0-5!
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