Top Tips for Toy Rotation

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Why Rotate Toys?

Toy rotation helps promote more thoughtful, purposeful play. It’s also very helpful in keeping your home less cluttered! How toys are presented can develop independence in play and responsibility for putting things back in their homes too. So, what is toy rotation? Simply put, not all toys are out all the time. Toys are put away (out of reach) and only certain toys are available. Too many toys can be overwhelming and cause children to flit from one thing to the next and not give them the time to deepen their exploration of concepts and ideas.

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How to Rotate Toys

One way of doing toy rotation is to divide up different types of toys (building, imaginative, creative etc.) and split them into 3-4 groups that you store. When you rotate the toys you bring out one of the boxes and you’re all set with a fresh injection of toys. A simple way to rotate toys.

This isn’t how I do it. Why not? Well, I believe in carefully observing how children play to discover how and what they are learning and what their next stage in development will be.

To do this children need to be able to have extended play with some toys and resources and carefully selected new items to spark their interests and deepen their learning in areas. Going with their fascinations is so important. If you just pick out a random box for your toy rotation these may not be what your child needs at that time.

To rotate toys and resources we have ours divided into themes such as ocean, fantasy, maths etc. I find this helps me to locate what I’m looking for more quickly, especially when I’m looking for resources to go with books.

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Toy Rotation & Fixations

Frequently, I’m asked what do you do if your child only wants to play with one thing? Often this can be something like Lego or in the case of my daughter she spends a lot of time playing with her fairies and house.

Firstly, I’d look and see if the play was repetitive or whether the play changed. Is the same Lego model being built every time? Are there minor amendments being made? Maybe they are honing skills? Are they playing with the same materials, but in lots of different ways. If any of these are the case then I’d probably leave them to it – they’re learning!

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Repetitive Play

If the play is really repetitive and doesn’t seem to change or extend then it could be time to introduce something new alongside their familiar toy. For Floss she’s been really enjoying playing with her fairies and house, but I wanted to change things a little. I removed most of the furniture from the house and left a box of loose wooden parts next to it. It was lovely to see her imagination take off and find different uses for these pieces of wood. She decide to re-enact a birthday party we had for her Grandad. I also chose to add a fairy house at the other end of the shelf to encourage her to move a little more as she can get very engrossed and play with the house for a LONG time – it really worked!

So, if your child is very much into one thing, try adding an interesting element alongside what they’re really comfortable with. Another way to develop new ways to play with the same toys can be to get involved yourself. Maybe play alongside your child, doing your own thing or asking questions about what they’re doing. You could have a play date with another child. These can help introduce new ways to play to your child.

Toy Rotation – Big Reveal!

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Another question I get asked lots is how I introduce a ‘toy rotation’ to Floss. I choose the BIG REVEAL. When Floss goes to bed I do our toy rotation. I find it easier to be able to change things without helping hands! When Floss comes downstairs in the morning I love her reaction, which is normally a lot of wows, ooohs and ahhhs. Another way you can do it is to get your children involved; this might work better for older children and children for whom change can be tricky. They can help choose what they would like to put away and what they would like out.

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Subtle Toy Rotation

Again, when children are really enjoying a particular aspect of their play it can be good to make subtle changes to enhance and extend their play. Floss has been enjoying dinosaur play and loves her Lanka Kade dinosaurs. We’d been enjoying fiction based stories with them, so for the latest toy rotation I decided to keep the dinosaurs, but move towards non-fiction texts and look at facts. Floss has really enjoyed this subtle change of direction.

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Toy Rotation – Imagination

Before the toy rotation Floss had been asking for a volcano to go with her dinosaurs. I got this one below from Black’s Toys and added it to the shelf alongside her dinosaurs and books. She thoroughly enjoyed using it in her dinosaur play, but I loved watching her then use it for so many different purposes. The red and orange section were moved into the house as a little fire for her fairies. Floss had decided they needed a fire to keep them warm as the weather had turned a little cooler when we were outside. The brown pieces were caves for her brown bears and the grey outer part was used as an ice cave for her polar bears. Aren’t kids imaginations awesome!

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By only having a few select items out at a time it challenges children to use things in different ways and for different purposes. It gets them thinking, creating and imagining in different ways. That’s what I love about giving open ended toys a place in our home as the possibilities are really only limited by your imagination.

Toy Rotation, Seasons and Nature

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Linking part of our toy rotation to the change in season and the natural world is something I like to do. Often I base this around a book or a couple of resources. We also have a seasonal, nature table in our home too. Floss takes toys and resources from both areas to use in her play. If you’d like to find out more about our nature table click on my blog post here.

Leaves matching game

Is the Toy Rotation Right?

How do you know if you’ve put the right things out? Well if they’re being played with and especially if your child is engaging in independently play you can rest assured that you’re on the right track. When I rotate I often keep a couple of things out that have been there before. Things that have been particularly popular. I think this familiarity helps to make them feel secure in their play.

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But what if nothing is really getting played with, or their attention isn’t held for very long? Maybe their play is not very independent. Yes, it might be that the toys in the toy rotation aren’t quite right, but there could be other factors.

At times, when we’ve made changes it’s important to reconnect. Spend some time playing with your child and the new toys. Model ideas of how to play. Show them how to bring different toys together. Often you’ll find this time together helps to build their confidence, gives them new ideas and you will see their play start to develop. Don’t be too quick to change things if they don’t look like they’re being played with. Something that doesn’t get played with today can be the new obsession of tomorrow.

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Toy Rotation Tidy Up

One thing I love about toy rotation is that the amount of toys ‘out’ in our home is limited. This makes tidying up MUCH easier. Everything has a home and for us I like to group different resources into their own little space on the shelving unit. This makes it easier for everyone to tidy up. As there are fewer toys at any one time I don’t feel like I need to hide them away. I try to arrange them in a way that makes them look beautiful and appealing to Floss, but also in such a way that I am happy for them to be out when she’s in bed – without feeling like our home is overrun by toys!

How often to do a Toy Rotation?

We generally rotate our toys every one to two weeks. It’s not exact and it really depends upon how the play is going and how engaged and independent her play is. If she’s really enjoying a rotation then it’ll remain out for longer. I may just add one or two new elements to extend based on what I’ve observed.

It might be that an experience we have influences us to change what is out. The other week we saw a squirrel on our way home and this prompted a change in our books and resources to go with Floss’s emerging interest in squirrels. Flexibility is so important.

My best advice would be to not be too rigid and go with what feels right. I’ll also add that your needs are important too. If you’re having a busy day or not feeling great – the toy rotation doesn’t need to happen today.

Do you rotate toys? What do you do? How do you do it? How frequently? What have you found works?

Here’s a link to our Gruffalo woodland themed toy rotation.

Gruffalo woodland top toys toy, shelf rotation. Small world play, story sacks and bookish play ideas.Toy orgnaisation and ideas for gifts.

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6 thoughts on “Top Tips for Toy Rotation”

  1. I think I will have to try a toy rotation, even if it is just to make tidying up easier! Seriously, I love how you explain how little changes in the toys have resulted in big changes to how Floss plays with them. I will have to look at what small changes I can make to our daughter’s toys to further develop her play.

    1. I’m so pleased it’s inspired you. We also do seasonal book rotations, I love getting out old friends that we haven’t read since the previous same season. 🙂

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