How to Set Up a Montessori Toy Rotation System That Works

No, you don’t have to be a minimalist to enjoy the benefits of toy rotation. No, you don’t necessarily need a toy rotation app or an entire book on the topic. You can absolutely do this on your own, in collaboration with your kid. Your whole family will love it.

All you need is a designated storage place, some boxes, and a couple of serious conversations with your children. As a result – they will love and appreciate their toys much more, and with rekindled passion.

And you – let’s just say – your chances of stepping on another lost Lego piece will dramatically go down. Isn’t that something? You may even reclaim some of that living space for yourself, but no promises there.

This is not magic. This is just a clever way to help you raise more organized, focused, and satisfied children. Backed by science.

What Is the Toy Rotation Method?

The toy rotation method is a way to reduce clutter in both your child’s room and mind by lowering the number of available toys to your child at a time. In that way, your child can focus more on the toys they get to play with. On top of that, your home will stop looking like a toy store warehouse. Once your child gets bored of the current selection of toys, you switch them up for others waiting in the corner.

But why does this work? Too many choices are the problem both children and adults face. Just ask yourself how many nights you have spent sitting in front of the TV, browsing Netflix, and finding nothing exciting to watch. Having too many options makes us engage less with our choice.

It’s the same with too many toys available to children. If they have dozens of toys scattered around their rooms, they can’t focus properly on any one of them. This study showed that kids with fewer toy options spent more time playing with the ones they chose than did children with numerous toys.

What Are the Benefits of Toy Rotation?

Let’s see why toy rotation is such a good idea. Here are some benefits that both you and your child will reap from this philosophy:

Less Toy Clutter in Your Living Space

This is a godsend to every parent out there. Toys, and more likely, toy parts, are integral to every new family’s home interior. Taking action that will make your house look like a decent (-ish) living space once again is something every parent will welcome. If you are overwhelmed by your kid’s toys, so is your kid. They just won’t say it or even recognize it.

Father and son playing with wooden toys.

Increased Focus

Having fewer toys available makes your child focus more on the ones they have. They will engage in deeper play and look for new ways to have fun with the same toy. This type of play increases attention span and encourages children to create their own entertainment rather than waiting for others or new toys to do so.

Thinking Outside the Box and Creative Play

Now that your kid doesn’t have so many toys to play with, they need to think of new ways to use them. Maybe combine them into a single play session, bring them into the bath, try to draw them, or something similar. The point is your child’s brain is now cooking. They are coming up with new ways to have fun. That’s when cognitive development happens. Your child is taking an active role in their playtime. They’re not just watching what a toy can do.

Faster Clean-Up

This one really speaks for itself. However, there’s a twist. Some parents even said that having a lower number of toys around motivated their children to help them tidy up.

More Space for Playing

Once the extra toys are put away, you suddenly get a few more square feet of living, or rather, playing space. This is great news for your kid. A neatly organized playing environment has huge effects on their development, such as being able to focus on a task, organize their stuff, or at least find their socks.

Montessori inspired kitchen setup.

Easier on the Wallet

Apart from the apparent, there’s another thing. You can save the toys your kid got as a present for a later date. You always tell your friends and relatives there are already too many toys at your house, but that doesn’t stop them from buying even more. Now you can keep them somewhere until the rotation day comes.

Reduce Stress and Frustration

Less stress for you and less frustration for your kid. All those toys scattered around annoy every parent. Now you can finally relax. As for your child, fewer toys mean they won’t be overwhelmed by their number. They can engage random toys in more meaningful play rather than spending just a few minutes with each and ending up bored.

Each Toy Rotation Is Like Unwrapping Gifts

When the rotation day comes, it’s like Christmas morning. A new set of rotating toys awaits your child in their room. Excitement is through the roof. The best thing about it is that those are the same set of toys they used to have fun with. They just didn’t get to play with them for a while. It’s like catching a movie you loved as a kid on the TV. You remember it, but you’re excited anyway.

Opportunity to Throw/Gift Away Outgrown Toys

We all know how hard it is to part with our stuff. Some of us are even guilty of becoming real hoarders of useless things we always say have some sentimental value. With kids, it’s similar. They just love having all their toys with them. Parting with them can be difficult. However, kids also easily forget about toys they don’t play with. Therefore, once the toys your kid has outgrown are out of the toy rotation, you can say goodbye to them without witnessing another unnecessary tantrum.

Don't Forget to Rotate Books

Imagine the excitement of re-discovering a once-favorite story. That is why it's important to throw a few books into your toy rotations. Children's books are amazingly creative and fun. You can use books like Montessori Story Book to tell a different story every time you pick it up, so it is a great idea to keep it as one of the basics of your in-rotation toys. However, other books usually can wait for a bit in one of the storage containers until their toy rotation day.

Little girl reading a book.

What Is an Example of a Toy Rotation?

Now that you have a reason to try the toy rotation system, let’s see how to make it happen. Here is an example of a new toy rotation system that works. Remember, though, that you can make it more complex or simpler to your liking. The important is that it makes your life easier and your child’s playtime better.

1. Get all the toys in one place. The first thing you need to know is what you’re dealing with. Once you get through them and decide which ones are staying and which ones are going on a one-way trip out of your home, you’re ready for the next step.

2. Categorize all the toys. You can start by sorting Montessori toys by age. Once you see what’s usable and what’s not anymore, it’s time for another round. Think about the different skills your child gains while playing with a certain toy.

Those can be problem-solving skills, fine-motor skills, language skills, etc. They can also learn practical life skills. There are music and art supplies, building blocks toys, counting and spelling toys, puzzles, stuffed animals, and so much more. The point of these categories is to give your child a single toy from each category during each rotation.

3. Pick which toys go together. You can do this alone, or even better, get your kid to help you out. Ultimately, they know best what they like to play with the most. The point is to create a combination of toys from each category that goes well together.

4. Figure out practical toy rotation storage. Out-of-rotation toys need a place to rest until they’re called up to make an appearance. Toy storage can include clear plastic bins, boxes, containers, or even a locked closet with storage bins. The best advice would be to have as many boxes as there are categories. That way, you can label them and always find what you’re looking for quickly.

5. Set up a toy cycling schedule. This is the most crucial part. It needs to suit both you and your child. It can be once a week, once every two weeks, once a month, or simply when your child gets bored with the current rotation. If it’s too much struggle, or your kid dislikes it, don’t do it. It works for many people, but not for everyone.

Toddler moving a bag filled with toys across the room.

What Age Is Toy Rotation For?

Any age works just fine. You can start doing it as soon as you find yourself knee-deep in baby toys. If you start early, they’ll get used to it easily. If your child is a bit older, try implementing it with a few toys and see how it goes. Every change requires time, and so does this one. See how your child likes it and move on from there. Always keep in mind that this needs to work for the whole family.

How Many Toys in a Toy Rotation?

8-12 rotating toys are optimal. The study by Michal Maimaran tested the 4 vs. 16 toys approach. Some may feel that four toys are too few at a time, though. The number really depends on what type of toys you have.

Try to limit the toy rotation categories to one toy per category. If you have too many toys of a certain type, maybe try to give away some of those. Take a look at your toy selection and ask yourself if there are enough fine motor skills toys. How about problem-solving puzzles? Dig into your toy rotation storage and make sure all the favorites are there.

Finally, the whole point of this process is to make it as achievable as possible. If you can’t switch, pack, label, keep tabs on the categories, and so on, then don’t. Try to take each suggestion and implement it one at a time. Find the perfect balance between what works for you and what you can actually do.

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