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How to Start a Toy Rotation System

How to Start a Toy Rotation System

If your house is anything like ours, there are toys everywhere, yet your kids have little to no interest in any one toy.  There are a million distractions, but you still can’t seem to make a phone call without them interrupting you.  Sound familiar?  All of that changed when I learned how to start a toy rotation system.

Our house being absolutely covered in toys and tripping hazards was a huge source of stress for my husband and ended up being a battle I just couldn’t win.

Our boys just love all of their old toys, especially when I’m about to donate them, yet they hardly ever sit down to actually play with a single toy for any length of time.

Related:  I Hate my Toddler:  Strategies for Overwhelmed Parents

Related:  How to Get a Disgusting House Under Control

Instead, our massive amount of toys just added up to a ton of confusion for our kids when picking a toy to play with and a TON of stress for us as we purchased more and more organizing things to try to corral all of those toys.

The answer to our problem was so painfully obvious.

I’d read about toy rotation systems before, but it seemed stupid to me.  Why not just get rid of the toys if they’re not going to play with them?

Why did we pay good money for all of these toys (or accept them as gifts) if we were just going to put them away and not play with them?

Scandinavian children's room, storage of children's toys.

Let me tell you why…

Because it’s an absolute game changer and if you still don’t think it will work for you, humor me and try it for just a day or two and you’ll be on my team.

I promise.

…And…we’re gonna maintain it in 10 minutes or less.

Ready?  Let’s get started…

Related:  Toy Rotation Categories

Here’s exactly what I did.

I bought these exact same clear totes that would stack nearly on top of each other in our play room (we have a toy rotation closet in there now, but a garage or even a corner of the room works too.

Having clear plastic bins let you see what’s inside so you can rummage around for that prized toy when your toddler throws a fit looking for it.  Trust me.  Clear is best.

Need to Implement Toy Rotation on a Budget?

Don’t let expensive bins stand in your way of learning how to start a toy rotation system in your home.

Either buy the solid color plastic totes and label them or get some cardboard boxes.

A diaper box is also a great storage solution for your toy collection.


Anything is a step in the right direction from a home with no toy rotation system so just start now and upgrade later if you love it.


Look at everything in one place.  I risked giving my husband a heart attack by bringing every single solitary toy into our living room and dumping them all into a huge heap.

This allowed me to see the sad truth about just how many toys had taken up residence in our home.

Take this time to get rid of anything missing pieces (if they’re not in your sad pile, let just assume you’re never going to find them) and anything that’s clearly junk.

​Also get rid of duplicate toys that they don’t play with and combine items into a set of toys that make sense together.

For example, we had a dinosaur set with little mountains that our boys loved to play with, but they could never find all the pieces when they wanted to.

I gathered these all into a small mesh laundry bag to keep them together in our toy rotation bin.

Now, they get the entire set at once when we rotate toys.

Decide How Much Time You’re Going to Put Into This

For me, this meant getting everything set up and then committing to maintaining it.

I understood we had way too many toys so it was going to take a few hours to set up, but then I NEEDED this to be manageable going forward.

I wanted to spend only 5 minutes a night cleaning up toys and I didn’t want it to be a fiasco when we decided to switch out toy bins.

5 minutes on the actual rotation sounded too good to be true, but it was my goal and I stuck with it.

My first secret:

Do NOT aim for perfection

I (narrowly) avoided the urge to be too organized about this and pick out puzzles, STEM toys, etc and just started organizing toys into bins.

The only way I decided what went in each bin was by putting a Little People toy or two in each one and then fitting as many toys around it as would fit neatly in each bin.

I kept out the toys that are played with on an almost daily basis, including all of the Little People people because…Little People toy in each bin meant either dividing up the little people and giving myself a migraine, or just keeping them all accessible every day.

The toys that our kids play with every day are their magnet tiles and the Little People farm.

I wanted to encourage them to keep playing with these, so it was an easy choice to leave these two toys out all the time.

Side note:  Our magnet tiles have been a hit for months and we play with them every single day – our 2 year old and 3.5 year old still aren’t bored with them.  I couldn’t justify the crazy expensive name brand ones, so I ordered this knockoff brand from Amazon and we absolutely LOVE them.

Every other toy became part of our toy rotation system.

We also keep our play kitchen out all the time, but rotate out the toy food.

You can make toy rotation work whether you’re super organized with large totes that are neatly labeled or a fly by the seat of your pants, rotate random boxes every couple weeks kind of mom.

A good toy rotation strategy is one you can stick with that you tweak as necessary.

Don’t overthink it!

How Often Do You Switch Out the Toys?

I get this question a lot and I’ve read varying answers from people online.  Some people switch theirs out only once every 6 months, but that seems crazy to me.

Kids grow so fast and change so quickly that I feel like they’d play with each toy maybe twice before they outgrow it.

In our house, we try to switch our toy bins every single week.

When we’re super busy, we may go a couple months before I remember to rotate toys.

I think a good time to switch toys out is when your kids start to seem bored with the available toys.

You don’t have to do this on a regular basis or follow a calendar.

Some seasons will be super busy with school and sports while during the summer you may rotate more often.


Wait, but isn’t toy rotation a ton of work?

No. It’s actually incredibly easy the way we do it and takes just 10 minutes each time we switch.

When we open a toy bin, we put a few toys in our living room, the rest in our play room and that’s that.

We don’t go crazy organizing them.

We put the big bulky ones into our toy box (this is the one we use and love) in our living room and move on.

It takes literally 5 minutes.

Yes, I timed it.

Each time you switch out the toys, it should take you 5 minutes (set a timer!) to gather all of the toys back into your clear bin.

If it takes longer than 5 minutes, you have too many toys out!

You’d think cleaning them up to switch to a new bin would take forever but I promise you, it takes us just 5 minutes.

Do you know what this means?

You can clean up all of the toys at the end of the day in literally 5 minutes.


Don’t Kids Get Bored with Toy Rotation?


In fact, something that absolutely blew my mind about this new toy rotation system is that our boys were so excited about the “new” toys making a reappearance that they didn’t care about the ones we’d put away.

How I use toy rotation to get rid of toy clutter

Toy rotation had an unexpected benefit in helping me decide which toys to get rid of.

With so many fewer toys out every day, it becomes really obvious which toys are favorites and which aren’t getting played with anymore.

If I think about it, I make a quick note in my phone or planner which toy hasn’t been played with at all during the whole week it was available to the kids.

If the toy makes it through the next rotation without being touched, it’s getting a new home.

How I decide which toys to keep and which to get rid of

Sometimes, I’ll put a toy away for our younger babies to grow into, but this is rarely the case.

If it’s a wooden toy or if I bought it brand new, I’ll probably keep it.

If it’s a toy I already bought second hand or if it’s been really well-loved by the kids, I’ll put it on Facebook for extremely cheap or free and let it get a new life at a new home.

How to do toy rotation when your kids are different ages

This is a question I think almost all parents with more than one kid ask when they’re contemplating a toy rotation system.

Is it possible when your kids are different ages?

Especially if there is a significant age gap?


Like anything, the key is to have a system that works for you.

But even with our kids who are close in age, we have one kid who is playing with a toy and mastering all that it can do while our younger two show no interest.

You have to remember that the point of a toy rotation system is to save your sanity AND keep our kids interested in their toys.

If your kids are different ages, simply decide how many toys you are comfortable having throughout your house and pick containers to suit your choice.

It’s also important to remember that you can change out your toys as often as you want.

Are you comfortable having less toys out at a time?

Simply rotate your toys more often.

Don’t mind a little toy mess and don’t want a ton of bins sitting around all the time?

Just rotate your toys less often but allow for more toys to be out.

There is no wrong way to do this.

You customize it to your family and your wants and needs.

Can Your Kids Help with Toy Rotation?

Yes, and they absolutely should.

When you are cleaning up the toys at the end of the day, make it part of the nighttime routine to “speed clean” your toys.

My 3 year old is a pro at this.  I don’t mean in the “oh how cute, he’s trying to help” way.  No, I mean he actually cleans up the toys and the living room is spotless before bed each night.

These are amazing life skills to teach your kids early that will help save your sanity in the long run.

When you drastically reduce the number of toys, little kids are able to process where a toy actually belongs.

It’s easy for young children to put their blocks in one of the 5 small baskets that house their toys.

It’s not easy for them to organize 50 different categories of toys by themselves.

Benefits of Toy Rotation

I’m a huge proponent of simple living and even practicing minimalism.

Any parent who has ever given their child a toy knows that your toddler is happiest when playing with the box the expensive toy came in.

I firmly believe that you can implement a toy rotation system even if your kids don’t own a ton of toys.

Even if they only play with the kitchen utensils and various other household items, as long as you’re rotating the items that hold your kids attention on a daily basis, you’re reigniting their interest in the item and doing your kids a HUGE favor.

Listen, a ton of toys is incredibly overwhelming.

A child with tons of toys isn’t a spoiled child.

They’e a confused child with too many options.

Don’t believe me?

Just give your kid a lot of toys at once and watch what they do.

Do they ignore the clutter and focus on one you and play with it at length?

Probably not.

More than likely, they dump all of the toys out of one bin and then move onto another toy and then another. 

Clearly overwhelmed with too many options and no real desire to focus on any one toy.

When your kids have less toys, they’re more likely to enjoy independent play for way longer.

Plus, there’s nothing like taking away all of the toys to boost your child’s creativity.

When you give this a try, you’ll notice that the quality of play is different.

Your kids are more invested in whatever toy they’re playing with and they aren’t so distracted.

They don’t feel the need to go from one toy to the next in rapid fire, destroying the entire playroom around them.

This took our home from looking like Christmas morning every day to having a play area that is lived in, but organized.

What do you have to lose?

If you’re happiest with a room full of toys that looks like a toy store, by all means, don’t let me sway you.

I’m willing to bet you made your way to this post because you’re just a little overwhelmed (or if you’re like me, your spouse is) and you’re looking for a change.

Give toy rotation a try and let me know how it goes!

Have you ever tried toy rotation in your home?  What worked?  What didn’t?  Let me know in the comments!

Scandinavian children's room, storage of children's toys. Text overlay reads "easy playroom toy rotation so easy, kids can maintain it"