Toy Rotation: How to Rotate Your Toddler’s Toys

By Sarah Ring

Baby Chick® Contributor

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Sarah Ring is a wife and mother of two southern gentlemen living in Dallas, TX, and a lover of all things home decor and party planning. To read more from Sarah, check out her blog at Bean & Beau.

What if I told you that I had the secret to a cleaner home, a more engaged toddler, and that you could have both completely for FREE? I know what you’re thinking. It seemed impossible to me too until I began reading more about the benefits of toy rotation. Toy Rotation is simply categorizing your child’s existing toys (we’ll get into categories shortly) and selecting one toy of each genre for a container that your child will be allowed to fully explore and enjoy for one entire week, until it is swapped out with a new container filled with new experiences, learning opportunities and fun! I used to get so frustrated by a room full of toys that seemed to entertain my tots for mere seconds before they’d dump it on the floor and take out something else. They would get overwhelmed by the sheer mass of it all and so would I. They would become frustrated and bored and so would I. Now, since I’ve begun the toy rotation those days are gone. My littles love and appreciate their toys. They play better with me and each other. They are more imaginative, engaged, and immersed in play. And the benefits extend beyond the playroom! My house is cleaner, and more organized. Which means we no longer lose track of toys and toy related tantrums have almost completely ceased. I’m going to share with you just how I’ve implemented this method in my home, and if you’re considering toy rotation for your wee ones, this is a great place to start!

1. Sort Toys Into Categories

When building your weekly containers you will want to make it a goal to have a toy from each fundamental category included. One toy per category, per rotation. If your missing one or two categories, don’t fret. The goal is to try and make the most of what you have on hand. The categories include:


  • Imaginative Play: play cookware, baby dolls, action figures, farm animals, play environments (doll house, play barn, model fire station), etc.
  • Vehicles: planes, trains, and automobiles of all shapes & sizes
  • Logic/Manipulatives: puzzles, shape sorters, lacing beads, play tool kits, peg and hammer boards, bead mazes, etc. These are usually quiet activities that require focus.
  • Music: tambourines, drums, maracas, xylophone, whistles, and keyboards
  • Literacy: alphabet sets, word flash cards, and books
  • Math/Counting: stacking cups, nesting toys, number charts
  • Dress Up: costumes, accessories, mommy and daddy’s old clothes, get creative!
  • Building: blocks, lego sets, magnet tile blocks
  • Art: craft supplies, finger paint, tub crayons, chalk, and play-doh

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2. Settle On Storage

Once you’ve sorted your toys into categories the next step is to decide on a vessel for your rotation boxes. Personally, I use clear plastic 20 gallon storage bins, but I’d recommend trying to recycle whatever storage you have on hand. Old moving boxes or big diaper boxes would be great for toy rotation and they are free! So long as you can number the box or container to keep up with the rotation, it will work just fine! The number of boxes you choose to build is completely up to you, but I have found that 5 containers (one a week per month with an “extra” bin) is more than enough to make my kids happy.

3. Build Your Boxes

You’ve numbered your boxes, you’ve sorted your toys so now it’s time to make the magic happen! You can be as detailed or as care free about this process as you’re inclined. Taking a toy from each of our established categories and placing one of each into your boxes and you’ve built in a week of educational play, a more organized home and, likely, a happier child. Personally, I like to take my boxes one step further by establishing a weekly theme. For example, I’ve included two “inspiration bins”!

4. A Time to Reflect

Toy rotation has done a lot for our household, but one thing it did that I wasn’t expecting was calling attention to what I brought into my home. Often times when we were out and about, if my toddler asked for a Hot Wheels car, I would give him one without batting an eye. At a dollar apiece they were cheap, made him smile and allowed me to get through my errands with a contented child. When setting up our rotation bins, I quickly realized that we had nearly 50 Hot Wheels cars and that my son had an emotional attachment and cared to play with exactly two of them. It dawned on me that not only was this wasteful excess, but it was a dent in my wallet I could have used towards a more purposeful toy for him, like a new instrument or building set. I actually did us both a huge disservice; to him by indulging in cheap and temporary satisfaction and to myself for accumulated junk that was keeping my home untidy. It completely transformed my way of thinking (similar to The Konmari Method; I’ll discuss later this month!) and made me happy to know that less was truly more, even to a fickle three year old. After setting up my weekly rotation bins, I had to take a long hard look at the toys that didn’t make the cut. Were they worth keeping? Did they serve a purpose? Were they even age appropriate? I was able to pack quite a bit away for our next baby as they were definitely outgrown by our preschooler. Other things were a lot easier to donate rather than finding extra space for, especially knowing that they wouldn’t be missed at all.

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Toy rotation pulled us out from under our mountain of toys, and I will forever be grateful! Would you ever consider revamping your playroom and overhauling your child’s toy collection in such a drastic fashion? We want to hear about it!

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