Toy Rotation.

We have several small ‘play spaces’ tucked into nooks and crannies of our little old house.

There is a little table tucked in near our big dining table, an easel that often lives at one end of our tiny kitchen, and a corner of our living room that is dedicated to toys.

We don’t have lots of room for toys, nor lots of child friendly storage in our house, actually we don’t have much storage inside our house at all, so we rotate toys.

Every few weeks I change around the toys that are available in the living spaces of our house. Depending on what the children are interested in and what stages they are at, I get out a selection of toys that they have open and easy access to, all the time.

Because we have a range of ages (almost 8 years old – 1 year old) I try to choose toys that are safe for everyone to have play with. They may not all be toys that the baby is interested in or able to use the way an older child would, but they are all toys that he plays with in his own way and all are safe for the occasion chew too. We also use higher shelves to store toys like little Legos and non-board books so that they are safe from Noey, but accessible for the bigger kids who use them on the big table or when the baby is asleep.

We use lots of baskets and boxes on the shelves so that things are easy to get out, and move around, and easy to pack away.

I usually try for a selection of toys that include something to build and create with, something to pretend with, and something to read. That usually covers pretty much all the learning areas you can thing of. I mostly stick to ‘open ended’ toys that can be used in lots of different ways (this helps with the range of ages too) and I think about the sort of things the kids are into at the moment and try and include those things too.

toy rotation

On our shelf at the moment (from left to right, bottom to top):

  • A basket of baby toys, including posting boxes, soft books, cars and some other favourite toys
  • Duplo – despite having moved on to ‘little Lego’ last Christmas all the kids still really love the Duplo.
  • A basket of wooden tree blocks – some of these stick blocks and other home made wooden pieces
  • A basket of wild animals, with a few fairies and elves who’ve also found their way in too
  • A basket of board books, and in front of those are the wooden rainbow, fire and water blocks we love so much.
  • A box of kitchen and cooking accessories – because my big boy is going to be a real chef one day!
  • A selection of little toys for the bigger kids – tiny animals, dominos and the counting frame.
  • Little Legos

We also have a big basket of basic dress-ups, hats, bags and necklaces and simple doll accessories, and a small table with the magnadoodle in the same area as our toy shelves.

We have art materials and puzzles and games in a separate closed cupboard which the big kids can access, and the girls and Morgan both have a stash of special toys in their rooms.
They are always able to request other toys that are put away, but keeping the ‘out’ toys to a minimum helps us manage in this small space and helps everyone keep on top of the packing up.

play space

Sometimes I wish that we had a separate ‘play room’ so the kids had their own space, and so I could just shut the door and walk away from the mess. But I really love that our children play and work in the same spaces that the adults play and work. It means that someone is always close by to help when needed, and it also means that we spend more time together, sharing and doing the things we love. To me, this is what family is all about.

When the renovations are done (how many times have I said that phrase??) we’ll have both more storage and more space, but I still plan to manage our play spaces in a similar way. Though by then Noey should be almost old enough to not destroy a permanent writing/drawing area!

How do you manage the toy chaos in your house?

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Read the comments or scroll down to add your own:

  1. says

    I think this is such a great idea. Our girls share a room so we have a toy room (with no door lol) but it really is full of toys that get pulled out but not played with. I think i might try this and see how it works for us :)

  2. says

    Although we’ve got a little bit more space and a lot fewer kids :-) I pretty much do a similar thing so the small boy can find something to play with wherever I need to be (except for my study because no matter what I put there all he wants to do there is be on my lap and “type” in a very unhelpful manner!). I also rotate the toys every few weeks because he is definitely more interested in them that way than if they’re all available. The bonus is then I always have something I can pull out as a “surprise” if I really need him to be occupied for a little while!

    • katef says

      Have you tried giving him an old keyboard to play with? Probably won’t stop him wanting to have a go at the real deal but my kids all loved bashing about on an old keyboard when they were little…

      • says

        Actually yes it is one of his favourite toys – one that doesn’t go into rotation, it is always out! He will often sit at his table with his keyboard and “type”, it’s lovely. But you’re right it doesn’t stop him wanting a go at the real deal especially because the real deal has pictures. But it can keep him amused at other times just the same!

  3. says

    We also rotate toys. We don’t have heaps of toys but I find that the rotating is a good idea. I too like the idea that the kids play and work in the same areas that we play and work. Unfortunately when we move to the country we will not have the open plan living, so we are planning on having a play room, where we can at least keep the toys and they can leave their games set up. Hopefully Toby will be big enough to not destroy the bigger girls games too!

    • katef says

      It’s hard when the your home’s spaces work against you isn’t it. We currently have a kitchen cut off from the rest of the house, and it’s a pain in the bum when I am shut in there cooking and the kids are in the other rooms getting into mischief!

  4. says

    Not managing the toy chaos so well at the moment. Even with huge playroom and lots of storage areas.

    My girls don’t seem to play with the toys so much during school term but love to pull all their toys out and revist them during school holidays.

  5. says

    I love the idea of toy rotation but never seem to get it to work successfully.I think it’s a area which I need to sort but never seem to have the time to sort because I’m too busy doing all the daily jobs ::sigh::

    • katef says

      Oh I know that feeling… you know that getting on top of something would probably make life a little easier, but finding the actual time to do it is next to impossible!

  6. says

    I try to rotate the kids toys as well. I have lots of boxes to store things in but not really very much space to put it away so it ends up stacked up in a corner of the kids (tiny) playroom and invariably they see something they want to play with which is in the box right at the bottom of the stack! I think I need to find a better place to store the toys which are put away! We do have a nice outdoor area though so that gets used as much as possible by my three boys.

    • katef says

      Oh I can’t wait till we have a nice, kid friendly, outdoor area!
      For us, we have no choice but to store about half the toys in the shed… which is good in that it cuts down on clutter, but I’ve also been known to be too lazy to go out and bring in a toy when requested….
      I guess there is never one perfect answer for anything!

  7. says

    Toys are really a daunting matter to deal with. When we chose a house, I really set out to make sure we got a play room. I rarely clean up now, I just close the door and forget whats inside.

    • katef says

      Now this is what really appeals to me about having a separate play room! Alas that isn’t going to happen any time soon for us… :)

  8. says

    Love your categories of something to build and create with, something to pretend with, and something to read that will really help me think about what toys to choose.

  9. says

    We use boxes too. Most of them live under the TV in the living room, but some are in the kids rooms – under the bed and in the cupboard. What I love best about the boxes is the easy clean up. Even if a few boxes have been emptied onto the rug, it is fairly quick to put things back in their box and away, and they could do that without much help from a very young age.

  10. says

    I rotate toys too, keeping only a basket or two out at a time. It works well for the most part, but sometimes I do wish I had all girls or all boys because I usually feel obligated to have two baskets out, when I’d really like just one. But what can I do when the girls want their barbies and my son would rather play…anything else, lol. So I have two out. Two doesn’t seem like a lot, but we’re in a 1100sq ft house, with four kids and two adults. Plus, there are always a few odds and ends hanging around, so two baskets seems like…a mess.

  11. says

    We rotate the same way, but I do every 4-6 months. I’m also really big on a few “great” toys rather than a bunch of little stupid toys. My husband and I were just saying the other day, “What did our house get messy with before we had kids?” As I looked around the livingroom, I was a little dumbfounded with how much of our space is filled with kid stuff, and it’s only going to get worse!! :)

  12. says

    I’ve been trying to work out how to organise our toys as we are absolutely over flowing after Possum’s birthday (in December) and Christmas. I also feel there is so much and she doesn’t play with any of it because it’s hard to really know what we have. I know I need to organise it better and it will be much more interesting to her. Thanks for this post Kate. I will absolutely be taking on your great tips.