Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Toy Rotation System

It’s been a while since I’ve posted. I have several topics I’d like to update on, but I’ve been distracted, and growing a baby in my belly, and stuff. But this is important: a few weeks ago I decided we were in desperate need of better toy/cleanup policies. I hate stepping on a Barbie shoe or crawling around on my hands and knees cleaning up knex. And I hate even more when my kids are whining/fighting (usually over a toy).

I’m sure most moms have put this little equation together…

too many toys = they all become boring = bored kids = whiney kids = frustrated mom

…and none of us can afford to be frustrated. So I implemented a little toy rotation system now that the kids are older (3, 3, 1.5) and can handle a moderate amount of responsibility. The idea is that they only have access to certain toys, and then they actually play with the toys that are given to them. Here are the general guidelines.

  • No toys in their rooms (we’ve always had this rule and it makes bed/nap times at this age much easier). They do have lots and lots of books since reading in bed is ok by us.
  • No toys in the living areas accept the toys in the rotation tubs. We keep our rotation tubs on a bookshelf in the family room. They know exactly where they are and the rules (clean one up before getting out a new tub). All non-accessible toys are kept in the guest/toy room.
  • I circulate the contents of the tubs every 4 days – week, depending on the interests of the toys. I always do this the night before when they’re asleep.
  • Each tub gets one toy. Examples of tubs contents include; stacking cups, Legos, Barbies, etch-a-sketch, etc. Just because the tub is big, does NOT mean it needs to be full.
  • I actually went to the extent of cataloguing all of our toys and each one is categorized as either; moving (pull toys, chasing toys, tunnels), building (wooden blocks, connecting tubes, wooden train sets), social (dress up, babies, Mr. Potato Head), or a logic toy (puzzle, game, magnets). I aim for setting out 2 from each category, but that can of course vary. You could also do more or less tubs depending on the number of children and their ages.

We’re two weeks in and it has been magical! They love the responsibility of cleaning up their own toys back in the given tubs, and that the toys are rotated to new things they didn’t even know they had, on a regular basis. It takes me about 10 minutes to set out the toys every few days, and I haven’t cleaned up one toy since starting this new system

Here’s an example of my Toy Rotation list (of our toys). I just print it out and highlight the toys I pick to keep track of the frequency.


I used the Sterilite Storage Box, 12-Pack, 16-Quart for the tubs (without lids), and they work perfect for our bookcase. But any sort of bin/box/tub will work. I do like the see-through ones though, it makes it easier for the kids to see quickly what the options are.

These tubs are meant for “free play,” which is a couple hours per day for my kids (we do daily out-of-the-house activities, art and table activities, and helping mom around the house to occupy other blocks of time).


  1. I love this! I am really anti-clutter, and every single person who has had anything to say on the matter has told me I will have to embrace clutter the second my baby is born. Every time you post pictures of your house, I think "now there is someone who keeps the house looking reasonable with THREE KIDS, it must be possible for me!"

    Anyway, I love the idea of not keeping toys in the kids' bedrooms. I had never thought of it but it makes so much sense.

  2. Thank you, Jaclyn! Clutter definitely overwhelms me and managing it is a process (as they grow older). I hear similar stories of accepting clutter along with kids, but it's very manageable. True, you'll have more "stuff" but it doesn't have to equal clutter. :)