Ahhh, toys. How do you stop them from taking over your entire home and turning it into a cross between Toyworld and a natural disaster recovery zone?
I wouldn’t have a clue, but if you have any idea, please let me know. ‘Kay, thanks.
KIDDING… kind of.
The truth is that in a house of four children, I always seem to be picking up toys. The kids are messy, and they create chaos out of thin air like little anarchy alchemists.
I, on the other hand, like order and a tidy living space. Too much mess and clutter makes me go a little stir crazy. I actually feel stressed when there is stuff strewn everywhere.
In our last home, we had a playroom. I loved our playroom. I loved it more than coffee or Conoisseur ice-creams.
(Actually, that is a lie, because it turns out I’ve managed to live on this earth for three years without said playroom, whereas I wouldn’t last a week without coffee or Conoisseur.)
Anyhow, I miss the kids having their own dedicated play space. We’re currently in a small rental in which our family of six is bursting at the seams, so for now, our living area IS our play room. Oh, and I have a two-year-old toddler at home. Toddler toys are particularly obnoxious in terms of:
- How much space they take up
- How much noise they emit
- How little their bright clashing colours compliment any sort of adult décor.
I’m kidding, mostly. I’m actually not as OCD as I realise I sound right now. I’ve embraced a fair amount of chaos as we’ve added children to our family. But I do have a thing for not wanting our living room to be completely overtaken with toys.
Enter: our toy rotation system.
This is currently our living room toy box:
Not too bad, eh? It’s pretty small and discreet.
There’s also this in our entry hallway:
… which used to be a beautifully styled bookcase and is now home to those bulky toys that take up too much room in a box and get played with much more regularly if they’re displayed on a shelf.
It’s not my ideal entry feature, but we’re living in a small home with lots of kids, so that’s just life right now.
So how on earth do we keep our toys down to what will fit in that one small box + on those two shelves?
Well, we don’t.
As much as I’m a huge fan of decluttering, I’m not THAT good. For starters, this is just the toddler toys. We also have a good-sized toy storage unit in my daughter’s room. We use this to store the type of toys that we keep together by category: Duplo blocks, MegaBloks, toy animals, musical instruments, play food, Mr Potato Head and so on. Each category of toy gets its own basket. (I’ll show you more about that system later this month!)
But for the random toddler toys that get played with out in our living area, my trick is to keep 2/3 of the toys stashed away, and only bring out 1/3 of the collection at any one time.
Our toy rotation system is comprised of three boxes. Two live on the top shelf of Charlie’s bedroom cupboard, out of reach:
While the third is the one you see on the living room floor. (Incidentally, I wrote a post about how I stencilled those boxes waaaaaaay back when I first started blogging. They’re still going pretty strong.)
Every so often I just do a box switcheroo: put our current box away on the shelf and pull out a new box. In my ideal fantasy of life this would happen weekly, but let’s be honest, I usually forget.
I made sure to include a good variety of toys in each box – something noisy, something that requires fine motor manipulation, some cars, something cuddly, etc.
I also culled the toys right down to the most popular and most-used toys. I find that if the boxes are over-filled, Charlie won’t go digging for what’s at the bottom. The less there is in the box, the more likely he is to engage and play with what’s there.
Now when we pull out a new box, we have the novelty factor on our side. Everything old is new again! It really is fun to see how much more Charlie engages with his toys when they’ve been hidden away for a little while.
(In case you’re wondering, the striped box in the picture below holds the clothes Charlie has grown out of. When the box gets full they get passed on or given to charity.)
As for the bulky shelf-toys, we rotate those too. I use a gigantic storage tub to hold the excess toys. It has a lid and gets tucked away in Charlie’s cupboard.
When we switch the toy box over, we also pack away the shelf toys and pull out a new set.
So that’s our simple toy rotation system. It definitely helps us keep our living room from being overrun with toys, even in a small home with four kids.
Want the short version? Here’s an overview.
THE BENEFITS OF A TOY ROTATION SYSTEM
- Keeps the toys in your living areas to a minimum, thereby reducing mess and visual clutter
- Encourages children to appreciate their toys and engage with them more
- Makes you less likely to purchase more toys you don’t need in an effort to keep children entertained
- It’s easier for kids to pick up their own toys and put them away when they can’t get everything out at once!
HOW TO SET UP YOUR OWN TOY ROTATION SYSTEM
- Start with a good declutter. Get rid of toys that are broken, outgrown, or unpopular.
- Get three to four good-sized boxes or baskets. Choose ones that you wouldn’t mind having on display in your living area.
- Distribute toys between the boxes or baskets. Try to include a good variety of types of toys in each.
- Set up a separate rotation container for more bulky toys, if needed.
- Make room on a high shelf to store the toy boxes, so kids can’t get into them until you pull them down.
- Rotate the boxes every week or two to keep things fresh!
If you’re having trouble decluttering your giant toy collection, make sure you check out my post: 20 Best Toys for Toddlers (and the toys I would not buy again!)
It will help you identify why kids play with some toys more than others, which toys they engage with better and get extended use out of, and which toys are just adding clutter to your home and would honestly not be missed.
Still stuck? I’ve also shared a checklist of specific things to declutter from a kids’ zone. You can get it for free in this post.
That’s the gist of our simple toy rotation system. Do you rotate your kids toys? Is this something you would like to try? If you do, let me know how it goes!
Until next time, wishing you a house full of sunshine.