Child’s Play: The Art of Toy Rotation

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Child's Play: The Art of Toy Rotation

Adrienn is with us today with some great tips on the ever-important skill of toy rotation…

An avalanche of toys invites emotional disconnect and a sense of overwhelm.
- Dr. Kim John Payne

To rotate: to replace, usually according to a schedule or plan.

Rotating is one of the easiest ways to deal with toy overload and is hands down my favorite. In my previous posts I mentioned it already, but today let’s take a closer look. You will see it’s no rocket science as we go through 8 easy steps.

Foremost, let me give you a list of the main reasons you will love it:

  1. Inventiveness and fantasy blooms
  2. Clean up time becomes a breeze
  3. Less toys out equals more and deeper engagement
  4. Siblings fight less
  5. Everyday objects are reinvented and turned into toys
  6. Overstimulation is easier to avoid
  7. Children learn to play on their own
  8. Toys are used in new ways
  9. Teaches independence
  10. You are better prepared for birthdays and holidays
Child's Play: The Art of Toy Rotation

One evening after my son’s second birthday I looked around the living room and felt slightly uncomfortable. The room is our main play area where he has a long shelf and two drawers for his toys. Nonetheless, trucks and trains were scattered everywhere, taking up more and more floor space. On opening a drawer, heaps of toys, untouched for weeks jumped up at me. I took a deep breath and instead of some well deserved “me time,” I immediately transported some of it to the basement.

Months passed and although we were still happy with this basic approach I realized that in order to fully enjoy all the amazing benefits I could take this to the next level.

Let me explain how it is both simple and effective:

To make it easier to understand, we will prepare 4 boxes of toys which you can rotate every 2 weeks. I encourage you to customize this method until it suits you and your family’s lifestyle. You can try with only 3 boxes, or you can rotate more frequently. If you have more children you can do mixed or different boxes per child.

Child's Play: The Art of Toy Rotation


The steps are as follows:


Step 1: Corral

Put all of the toys in one room If this sounds too overwhelming, go room by room through all the steps


Step 2: Decide

Decide what to keep and what to get rid of? No need to rotate that 3 legged horse or incomplete puzzle

What can be left out permanently (Lego, certain fave toys)?


Step 3: Divide

Divide all the “rotating” toys into 3 main categories:

  1. Thinking toys: they target cognitive development and fine motor development (puzzles, board games)
  2. Moving toys: they target gross motor movements (balls, cars)
  3. Pretending toys: they target social/emotional development and language development (dolls, Lego)

*You can find more great info on these categories here.


Step 4: Record

Record the name of each toy/or set by category. Preferably each category on a different piece of paper, leaving plenty of space for notes and ideas. As you wrap up a 2 week period you can jot down your remarks, which toys they played with and what they are into at the moment. Taking stock will not only provide you with valuable information for when you go shopping for presents, you will also have a wonderful notebook full of memories at the end of the year.


Step 5: Form

Form four groups in each category. Try to make each group equally engaging. This step will show you were there is lack or excess so don’t forget to jot down your insights.

Hint: you can even show it to grandparents/aunts to help them decide what is needed and what not. Xmas is not that far away…


Step 6: Prepare

Prepare four boxes and put one group of every category in them. This way you will have in each rotation some thinking toys, some moving toys and some pretending toys.


Step 7: Store

Store the three out of sight boxes. Be aware that easy access is key if you want to keep up the good habit—garage, playroom or under your bed doesn’t really matter as long as your little ones can’t reach them.


Step 7: Display

Display the toys from the left out box as welcoming and exciting as you can in baskets and on their shelves. Spice it up with their artwork and books and tad-ah(!) you are set for 2 weeks!


Step 8: Rotate

Change out toys every two weeks.

Child's Play: The Art of Toy Organization


If you’d like you can write down 5 toys that you noticed your children haven’t played with for a while in the comments below. Promise me, this evening when you clear away the toys, to put those five toys neatly out of reach. Remember this is exactly how I started!

Also, here are a few helpful links about toy rotation from around the web:


If you are interested in discovering more practical tips for creating inviting spaces for the children in your life, check out our Playful Learning Spaces online class…



Adrienn Csoknyay’s passion for interior design and stylish spaces guided her to figure out how to keep them clutter free and above all easy to maintain. Now she is on a mission to find out whether it’s possible to live in an organized and creative space with kids, keeping sustainability and green living a priority.


  1. Toy Rotation | Adrienn Csoknyay Organizing said on September 16, 2013 #

    [...] If you want to know 7 more reasons and the simple steps, I encourage you to read my post over at Playful Learning! [...]

  2. Maria said on September 16, 2013 #

    Thanks for this reminder and the helpful ideas for implementing it! I usually do rotate things around but I have gotten lazy and it seems a bit overwhelming to get back into it. Your post encouraged me to get on it!

    • Adrienn said on September 16, 2013 #

      Yes, it can feel so overwhelming! But don’t worry, you can do it step by step, just work on it for 5 or 10 minutes each day and sooner or later you will have some boxes ready to rotate. Good luck! :)

  3. Krissy said on September 16, 2013 #

    All I can say is Yeah! Thank you for this post. Our house has been overwhelmed with toys from generous well-meaning family members. I’ve tried rotating the toys before but I never had much success. This post gave me the insight to what I was missing. I can’t wait to try it!

    • Adrienn said on September 16, 2013 #

      You are welcome Krissy! Do keep us updated on how it goes! ;)

  4. Ellen said on September 16, 2013 #

    I love this idea and did it for a while, but found that it devolved into something even simpler: fewer toys. We are down to a few basic categories and I have noticed that the girls are much more deeply involved in their play and there are fewer arguments over random toys.

    Our favourites are: Playmobil with a wooden dollhouse, wood blocks, a basket of colourful silks, dolls, a well-equipped play kitchen. For the basement: a trunk of Thomas trains. For the bedroom: dress up, puzzles, and paper dolls.

    Along with the outdoors (with few toys, but lots of nature bits!), a well-stocked art table (that is key!), a good bookshelf selection, and a ‘personal treasure bin’ for each child’s more random items, this serves us so well.

    A benefit I love is that my five and three year old girls can clean up any given room on their own because there are few categories of items and it is obvious where things go. I don’t plan to ever go back… when one category becomes obsolete for their ages, I will replace it with another. For gifts, our family often expands categories (Playmobil, dress up, etc) or gives experiences.

    • Adrienn said on September 16, 2013 #

      Ellen, I truly love your approach!
      Especially the “personal treasure bin”. I think my 3 year old son needs one asap, the things he can collect from our walks…unbelievable! :)

  5. Anna said on September 18, 2013 #

    ::)) 3-legged horse:) we do have a lot of them:) and broken cars.. :)

    • Adrienn said on September 18, 2013 #

      Well, unless you want them to play animal vet clinic… ;)

  6. Kelly @ said on September 18, 2013 #

    This is such a great idea. I think my 5-year-old girl gets overwhelmed with everything she has to choose from! Decision overload on toys. I think it would also be cool to swap these smaller boxes with other families so not only does your child have fewer toys at any one time, but they also have a rotation of a variety of toys AND nothing’s sitting in a closet not being played with in the meantime.

    • Adrienn said on September 18, 2013 #

      Thank you Kelly! Yes, swapping with other families is such a great idea! We swap regularly with my sister and our boys love it!

  7. Jen said on October 5, 2013 #

    Thank you, I so need to do this for my 2 year old. Which category would you put musical instruments in? My son is into anything musical and we have quite a few instruments.

    • Adrienn said on October 11, 2013 #

      Great question Jen! I would put it in the pretending category. You can of course take all the musical instruments out of rotation for a couple of days if your son is really into them at the moment and observe which ones are his faves. Leave those out to play with and store the others for the next round. As we don’t have such a huge collection and they all fit in one medium size sea grass bowl they are out at all times.
      Hmm, maybe time to expand my munchkin’s collection… ;)

      • Jen said on October 14, 2013 #

        Great thanks, so far I’ve made my lists and done a lot of culling and already I have noticed that Mr 2 is playing better and longer with what’s there. Now I just need to sort into batches and we’ll all be a lot happier (I hope)

  8. Bonnie Ferguson said on October 11, 2013 #

    Thank you for the wonderful ideas on toy rotation! Love the collective ideas and am planning to implement immediately with my 2 1/2 and 5 yr old boys. Looking forward to less clutter and less emotional stress!

  9. Adrienn said on October 11, 2013 #

    You are welcome Bonnie! Do tell us how it went! I love hearing your real life experiences, what worked and what not so much. And how you tailored it to your children’s style! :)

  10. [...] Child’s Play: The Art of Toy Rotation by Playful Learning [...]

  11. shannon said on November 20, 2013 #

    Thank you for the wonderful tips and inspiration! I now have an action plan, jotted notes and will be implementing this today! It’s going to be fabulous to pull out a box of goodies every couple of weeks and know miss 1 will be excited to see it – Just like new toys! thank you for making this so simple and educational at the same time

    • Adrienn said on December 5, 2013 #

      You are welcome Shannon! Congratulations on taking action right away! :) The joy on their little faces is priceless when they see what’s all in there! Thank you for your kind words, I try to make it as simple as possible otherwise I just procrastinate forever! ;)

  12. Tara Kidd said on December 12, 2013 #

    I’ve been wanting to rotate out my daughter’s toys for awhile, but kept putting it off. Your post inspired me to just do it! What a difference! My daughter played with all her toys in her playroom today like they were brand new (I think she forgot she had a lot of them.) And it was easier to clean up. Thanks for the inspiration.

    • Adrienn said on December 29, 2013 #

      You are so welcome Tara! :) Rotating seems like a big effort but it is oh so worth it. My mantra is “keep it simple”. Even taking some toys off the shelves can make a huge difference!

  13. [...] Before I embarked on this task, however, I knew that I had to have a heart-to-heart chat with myself.  I sensed that this was going to be an emotional project, with moments of remembering my children playing with these cherished toys and now feeling like I was saying goodbye to their childhood.  I reminded myself that their childhood was not in the toys themselves, but in my memories and there were other ways of preserving those memories.  Once I felt that I was emotionally ready to proceed, I was far more successful with the purge.  Certainly I had no trouble tossing the annoying, loud, poor quality toys… but the timeless, high quality items… were a little more difficult to sort through!  I included the kids in most of the decisions of what to pass along and what to keep and we decided to put a few items into storage for “rotation“. [...]

  14. Auntie Angela said on February 16, 2014 #

    Great post! I do this (in a less formal way) for my daycare. Rather than changing things out on a schedule, I watch for when certain toys begin to be ignored. That is a cue to me that it’s time for a change! I find it really helps keep kids interested and engaged. It also keeps clutter down, leaving more space for play and creativity.

    • Adrienn said on March 17, 2014 #

      Thank you Angela! I love your relaxed and professional approach! Space for play and creativity is what children need the most.

  15. [...] Child’s Play: The Art of Toy Rotation [Playful Learning] [...]

  16. [...] Child’s Play: The Art of Toy Rotation | Playful Learning [...]

  17. M. Marold said on March 18, 2014 #

    My four-year old has more trucks than our town owns. But, he does not use them. Every time I try to rotate them or suggest they move along, he freaks out. But, these are BIG Bruder trucks. I can’t seem to get him to let them be out of sight, yet they take up a lot of room. Any ideas for a kid old enough to remember the toys and fights change?

    • Adrienn said on April 14, 2014 #

      Thank you for sharing your story M. Marold!
      Let me give you a couple of suggestions to make it easier:

      -Try to schedule it before his birthday or any other present giving date. Suggest that you will need the storage space to accommodate the new toys he will get.
      -You can do it when he is not around and when he asks for a certain truck you can just it give back to him.
      – If you already tried before and it didn’t work why not involve him in the whole process. Pick a time when he is calm and joyful and suggest that you will make a garage for some of his cars in the basement or closet or wherever you can store them. You can tell a story about cars needing regularly check-ups and his cars are no exception. Explain to him that monthly maintenance is critical to ensure the safety, reliability, comfort and longevity of a car. Try to tape some signs on the shelves indicating that this is a car repair shop.
      Then ask him which cars are due for their monthly repair. You can even tell him to pick an exact number.
      -Take some of his cars to grandparents if it’s possible so he can play with them there
      -Under bed storage solutions are also an option, he can keep everything in his room, but it won’t take up valuable space + it’s out of sight.

      Good luck! :)

  18. Anna Hindocha said on March 27, 2014 #

    Thanks for this. We do this very haphazardly, good to be offered a bit more of a structured approach. We do notice that just after birthdays and Xmas when there are lots of new toys our son struggles to concentrate on any of them. I’d say the main things he doesn’t play with are:
    1)Some cuddly toys
    2)Wooden tool box
    3) Wooden puzzles that are too young for him now
    4) Xylophone
    5) Dressing up clothes.

    Will try and sort these out later.

    • Adrienn said on April 14, 2014 #

      You are welcome Anna! :)
      Happy to hear that you have a system! Don’t worry about whether it’s haphazard or not as long as it works just fine for your family!
      Maybe you can set up a music box with other instruments so the xylophone can be used more often?

  19. [...] But if that is not something that you want to do, there are still options available to keep the closets uncluttered by doing your own toy rotations. More information on toy rotation can be found at : and… [...]

  20. […] each. For below 2yrs, a high chair or own playpen/cot will ensure safe playing. During such times, Toy Rotation  (Playful Learning has a good system but you get the idea. Just categorise them simply if her […]

  21. Kids Toys said on July 2, 2014 #

    That’s a lovely idea Adrienn. I think my kid’s toys are my biggest concern and I never thought about rotating things. Your post is lovely. Thanks a ton for sharing.

  22. Play Space Inspiration | Janet Lansbury said on August 14, 2014 #

    […] his box of blocks, a dump truck, a silver bowl and wooden spoon, and a push “mower.” I try to rotate every few weeks, bringing in some new things and taking the items out that he’s shown less […]

  23. […] a blogger who is experimenting with a minimalist lifestyle with a family. I find the whole idea of toy rotation […]

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