Looking for a way to organize and purge toys once & for all? Annoyed by the constant mess in the playroom? Wondering why in spite of the piles of toys you still get frustrated kids who say “I’m bored!?”
For anyone who has kids, the playroom (and/or the various play spaces within other rooms) are consistently hot spots of disarray and often kids struggle to stay engaged while playing. I’ll make you a promise: if you follow the 7 Steps in the NQM straight forward system, you can finally solve these issues. Really. Truly. And it’s not hard to do!
While taming the mess monster, a rotation system of toys can aid your child’s developmental skills and attention span which is an even better result—don’t you think?!? I know it’s hard to believe right?!?
Balancing Reina’s toys has definitely lengthened her attention span as well as improved basic skills like her pencil grip and math concepts. Plus, I can’t remember the last time I heard her say “I’m bored!”
Do be aware though that (1) this post is longer than usual NQM posts because although simple, there are a fair amount of details you need to know, and (2) depending on how many toys/kids you have, this process can consume the good part of a day so allow yourself time.
Follow these 7 Steps for a system that will be easy to maintain long term and finally conquer the toy overload beast:
- Choose a space where you can spread out—ideally where you could leave things out in the event you can’t finish in one sitting. I used my dining table plus two folding tables so I didn’t have to bend/reach over a lot.
- Gather all toys; dig deep finding random puzzle pieces, game pieces from under the couch, items migrated to car, etc.
- Do a quick sort—do not take time to decide/purge (that’s later); when sorting, divide into child development recommendations:
- Building: blocks, Magnatiles, Legos, Lincoln logs, trains (track building)
- Literacy: letter games (like leapfrog), flashcards, foreign language games/toys/books
- Science/Engineering: experiment kits, Rain Sticks, cause & effect toys, mechanical, wind up robots, marble runs, vehicles
- Manipulatives: beads, pop beads + connection toys, sorters, Lite Bright, melting beads
- Dramatic/Imaginative: dress up clothes, superhero, Grocery Store, Kitchen, dolls and action figures, magic, puppets
- Math: Counting, Shapes, Abacus, Nesting Dolls, stackers, puzzles
- Art: crayons, paint, play doh, markers, stickers
- Sort any “other” groups of toys that either fall into multiple categories or that stand alone for some reason:
- stuffed animals (we have TONS of them so while Imaginative, I judge them separately)
- bath toys (often fall into multiple categories like science & math)
- balls & other outdoor toys
- games (another that can fall into other categories)
- seasonal items (to be stored separately in labeled bin if good quality)
- Reunite any stray items (see #1) back with correct set/game.
- broken & incomplete things
- ‘junk’ promotion & goodie bag stuff
- developmentally off items (if too advanced/old yet nice, set aside for labeling/storage)
- things you hate and things they hate (that scary clown doll Aunt Gertie gave)
- Make Toy Rotation Sets out of what is left.
- Most people opt for 3 sets but you can have more if you’d like; unless you are Queen of the Minimalists, 2 sets won’t be enough.
- Decide if you want to keep any key items out all the time and if so, make a list of what these items are and/or take a pic and print it out for reference during rotations. When Reina was 2–3, she was obsessed with ‘fancy’ dress up so this stayed out all the time. Also, we had many play dates before she started pre-school and her Grocery Store area, which remained out constantly, was by far was the most popular thing.
- Check for any main themes running through all the toys. For example, we found that things tended to fall into farm, woodland animals, jungle and pets with some smaller sets like marine life and space/robots. In toddler days, the sets queued off her Little People sets info: Farm/Woodland, Space/Adventure/Jungle and ‘Everyday’ Life. Now at 5, it’s (1) Wild Animals including marine life, (2) Everyday Life including pets and farm and (3) Fantasy including princess, space, pirates, dinosaurs.
- Use your themes to start grouping your Rotation by pulling 2–3 items only from each of the 7 key categories that fit within each theme (starting with Building and work your way down to Art) pulling the nicest and most favored by you/your child. Following my example, the tractor & gardening kit (both from Science/Engineering) go into the Everyday Life set. On the off chance you do not have themes, just divide as you like—by color, balancing sizes, or randomly.
- Make note of any gaps in your assortment to buy additions or put them on an Amazon Wish List for G’ma to get or have a themed birthday party noting that ‘Susie is obsessed with fish & whales.’ Amazon age appropriate lists are a great way to check for what items are best in each category —just use the search for say manipulatives, then narrow by age range, sort by reviews, and you’ll know exactly what’s best to get.
- Within each rotation, check to see if any categories have too many items. If so, prioritize toys that can be used in multiple ways which will last (high quality), and are favorites. Note that things like wooden train sets or Legos are 1 item (or if a set is huge, divide into 2 sets).
- Choose which group is your #1 Rotation and it stays out, then assign numbers to the remaining groups. Put each group separately into a labeled clear bin. Important note: just slide in the number labels so that there’s never an issue with an empty bin labeled for your in-use rotation set bins sitting around. No need to be fancy—just make your own.
- Next, decide what time period works best for your children. Weekly or every other week are most common. Use your iCal or Google calendar to automate reminders and be sure to include what number rotation it should be. Consider if you want shorter rotation periods during late Fall to mid-Spring while the weather is cooler/rainy/snowy since they’ll play inside more than during warm weather, and thus get bored of the rotation sets. Or if you live in the SW, flip that for super-hot weather regions when they’ll need to be inside more keeping cool.
- Kids learn to LOVE rotation day and get ‘new’ toys. I usually pack up the outgoing toys during school or nap and leave the new stuff boxed for her to put away. Once your child is secure in having the toys rotate, you could also get them to help with the packing up but it took a while for this with Reina.
- At 2–3 years, we rotated every 3 weeks plus there were a number of things left out all the time. Now that she’s older, there are 5 ‘always out’ things and we’ve gone to smaller rotation sets with weekly or every other week rotations (depending on the season).
- Set your calendar reminder to do an edit session at least once a year but preferably twice. Reina has a summer birthday so we do just after her birthday and right after Christmas. Some folks prefer to do before holiday/bdays but I like doing things by theme so after the presents are opened works better for me.
Featured Photo by Nicole Vaughn