Has your child ever been surrounded by toys, complaining that he is bored? Doesn’t it drive you crazy? But would you believe that toy rotation could change things?
Fewer toys out at once actually sets you both up for success! Your kids will engage in more independent play for longer periods of time, and you’ll be less stressed about clutter everywhere. Plus, you’ll get a little time to yourself, whether you want to clean, work from home, or even just read a book.
But it’s all in how you set it up.
Read on to learn toy rotation with fewer toys and more space can be a game changer for your family!
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Toy rotation actually encourages play
Believe it or not, too many toys actually get in the way of your child playing. Minimalist living isn’t just good for you, it’s good for your kids too!
I’m sure you already know how too many toys make it so much harder to keep things tidy. If you’re overwhelmed by a house that’s always dirty, decluttering your toy collection is a good first step to feeling better.
But let’s talk about how too many toys also keep your kids from playing.
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Imagine that you walked into your kitchen and all of your tools were sitting out on the counter. Your blender, your mixer, the Instant Pot and the Crock Pot. On top of that, imagine a bunch of utensils and pots and pans were sitting out everywhere.
You couldn’t cook like that. Not only is there not enough counter space, all the stuff you don’t need is just distracting!
Just like you only get out your kitchen tools when you need them, only have out a fraction of your toys at a time.
Not only that, but kids (and adults!) crave novelty. You know how you get excited about new makeup, or a new kitchen gadget, or whatever your thing is? Kids are like that too.
Everyone complains after Christmas that their child played with a new toy for about 2 weeks and now doesn’t care about it anymore. It has nothing to do with whether or not it’s a “good” toy, it’s all about whether the toy is fresh.
Toy rotation allows you to keep toys fresh. By putting up the toys that have gone stale and getting out a new set, you’ll set your kids up to be excited about playing again.
How to do toy rotation and toy minimalism
Does toy minimalism mean you should only own five toys? Probably not.
But you probably do have a lot of toys you could get rid of. And then you could better organize what’s left to encourage more in-depth independent play! Here’s the step-by-step to start your toy minimalism journey.
RELATED: How to get your kid to play independently
Step 1: Do a toy declutter
First, you’re probably going to need to get rid of a bunch of toys. This is probably the hardest step. But you can do get this declutter done!
Try to do your toy declutter without the kids around. I know, that might sound unfair. What if they get upset that a toy is gone?
But often, there are toys that they’ve simply forgotten about. They won’t miss these if you declutter when they don’t see.
First, gather up all the toys. That way, nothing escapes. Go through them and do a thorough job picking the toys that actually serve your child.
Pull out broken toys, puzzles with missing pieces, or other toys that have just outlived their usefulness. These can just be trashed.
(Feel bad about trashing this stuff? I get that. But it’s either trash in your home or trash somewhere else.)
Next, pull out toys that you just dislike. Perhaps you have toys that represent characters who teach values you don’t want in your home. If you have a toy of a character who doesn’t demonstrate kindness and respect, ditch it.
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Or maybe you have noisy toys that are just obnoxious. For whatever reason, if there’s a toy you don’t enjoy, get rid of it. Or if there are any that your kids just don’t play with and you don’t see them ever showing interest in them, let those go too. These all can be donated.
RELATED: Toys that encourage free play for kids
Finally, check for toys that are “too young” for your child. If you’re not sure that your family is complete, put them away in storage; otherwise, these can also be donated.
Step 2: Organize the remaining toys
With any luck, you’ve gotten rid of a lot of toys! Some people report donating nearly half of their toys (if you’ve gone through this process before, you’ll likely get rid of fewer toys).
But you still probably don’t need to have all the remaining toys out at once! Get a few big plastic storage bins, preferably clear ones, and sort toys into the bins.
Step 3: Pull out one set of toys from a storage tub for play!
You’ll only pull out a small fraction of your toys for play at one time. Arrange these remaining toys attractively. Check out all the open space left and be proud of yourself!
That’s not to say that you’ll never have a mess again (let’s be real); it just means that it’ll be a lot easier to clean up. Make sure to get your kids involved in the cleaning process.
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While it’s nice to have toys set up in a strew whenever possible (keep reading for more info), sometimes you just need to do a quick clean-up. Get a few nice baskets to hold toys so you and the kids can whisk them away really quickly when the need arises. I love these because they come in several simple, neutral colors and are really pretty!
Step 4: Set up the remaining toys
While you don’t want a lot of toy storage available in the play area (that’s how you start getting clutter), it is nice to have a simple shelf. You want something that is child-level, so your kids can use the top of the shelf for play while they’re standing up.
I really like this shelf for a few reasons. It’s the right height for little ones to set up play on the top, plus you can put a few bins in it (if you want to). So that way you have somewhere to put that basket after you do a quick toy sweep!
But you don’t want to keep toys perfectly clean on the shelf all the time! Toys strews make your kids’ toys much more attractive. Next, you can read below all about toy strews and how to create them.
Step 5: Set up a play strew!
After you’ve decluttered toys that no longer serve your family and you’ll probably have a lot more open space to play in! Just having all this clean space will already allow your children room to imagine and create.
To jump-start your child’s imaginative play even more (and get to do a little imaginative play yourself), try a few toy strews!
A toy strew is simply leaving some toys set-up, ready for play. The idea is that your children can walk into a play space and already see “invitations for play” set up.
Since kids are no longer overwhelmed by random toys scattered everywhere, they have a better place to start playing and will likely come up with something really fun! Plus, they are much less likely to come to you complaining that they’re bored.
The great thing is, play strews don’t have to be complicated! Check out my short video below:
Example toy strews
Making strews doesn’t have to be hard! In fact, making play strews really isn’t any more difficult than putting everything away for a clean, more sterile-looking space. Here’s a few pictures of strews I did today.
In this first one, I just arranged these little people (that I painted myself after ordering this set!) into groups. Aren’t you dying to know what these little guys are talking about? When your kids walk in to play, they can come up with a whole world for them!
Next, I simply set up one of our storage cubes and set a little stuffed doggie and doll (these dolls are my absolute favorites, and they make boy and girls) in there.
Is the boy visiting the dog? Are they about to share a tasty dog bone? Or are they putting together their plans to travel to outer space? Give your kids the opportunity to decide!
And finally, you can build little structures with blocks, or even only build them half way. Here, I’ve used a rainbow stacker (which I love!) to build my own version of Spaghetti Junction, but you can use Legos, Duplos, plain wooden blocks, or heck, food cans and cereal boxes to build whatever comes to mind.
Why should I make a play strew?
If I take the time to create a strew in the evening, the kids are much more likely to get engrossed in play when they wander into their play room the next morning than if everything was put away nice and neat (or worse, still a wreck from the day before).
Needless to say, Friday night is when I’m most motivated to make toy strews.
So while the kids are more excited to play when there are toy strews, I’m the real winner. I get to do what I want while they’re engaged in independent play. If I’m really lucky, they’ll let me sleep a little extra while they’re busy!
Which toys are best for these play strews?
As you can see, these arrangements work best for open-ended toys, rather than toys that have a specific function or toys that have a lot of bells and whistles. Want to know which toys are winners in our home? Check out this post for ideas!
RELATED: Toys that promote free play for kids