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Rotation Toy System: What Is It and How Does It Work?

Rotation Toy System: What Is It and How Does It Work

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “I’m bored!” many times from your children. They could also feel overwhelmed or frustrated with the different toys they currently have.

So then you get to thinking, should I buy them more toys? NO! You don’t have to.

The solution? Toy rotation. 

It’s a great system that helps your child MAXIMIZE the potential of a toy and let their imaginations go wild!

Ever since I practiced toy rotation with my child’s toys, playtime has never been better, and tidying up has been a breeze too!

To learn more about the hows and the benefits of toy rotation, check out my article below.

Table of Contents
Table of Contents

What is Toy Rotation?

Child's playhouse

Toy rotations involve keeping only a few toys out for kids to play with for a certain duration. 

This could be a day, a few days, or even weeks.

After that period, you then rotate other toys in a different set, minimizing the number of toys your kids have access to at any given moment in their playtime.

Toy rotation helps keep what is necessary and not overwhelm kids with more toys they can hardly play with or maintain.

Benefits of a Toy Rotation System

Little girls playing with blocks

Good news, mommies and daddies! 

You DON’T need to buy new toys. Toy rotation will get your kids playing on a toy up to its full potential.

Aside from that, I’m happy to share with you all these amazing benefits of toy rotation in this list:

  • Less toy clutter – The lesser toys that are out, the fewer toys you have to tidy up. That’s less stress and more time to rest!
  • More play time on fewer toys – When my kids are not overwhelmed with the number of toys they can play with, I often see them make the most out of what is available and find enjoyment.
  • More independent play – When my kids are focused on their playtime, they don’t end up getting too clingy.
  • More creative play – Kids will come up with new ways to play with the same toys every time. It often surprises me!
  • Increased focus – Instead of pulling new toys out of a huge display shelf of choices, I now find my kids focusing and enjoying deep play on a certain toy. It’s a miracle to see them not lose interest in a toy within just a few hours nowadays!
  • Kids will help tidy up – Informing your kids about the system of rotating toys will help them realize their responsibility for their toys too.
  • Get to observe which toys interest them or not – It’s so much easier to weed out toys since you are well aware of which same toys kids play with and which ones they don’t.
  • More space to play – With fewer toys to play with at a given time, you get more physical space to play. Kids can even get to play with more friends and siblings!
  • Rotating toys on a schedule is exciting – Kids will look forward to a toy rotation day like it’s Christmas morning! My kids sure do get excited about which toys they get to play with next.

Why is Having Too Many Toys Bad for Kids?

Having too many toys and seeing toy clutter can increase levels of cortisol, a stress hormone.

You’ll often feel confused and overwhelmed, not knowing where to start. This applies to both parents and kids.

You will often see kids jumping around from toy to toy without fully getting involved or interested in just one specific thing.

You must be wondering what’s too bad about it. 

Well, this tendency to not focus will hurt your child’s cognitive growth and development. Think about reading 10 different books all at once, reading a couple of pages from each one.

Trust me; you will never get to fully understand any of the 10 books or remember any significant details from reading them.

With a toy rotation system, kids get to focus on playing with just enough toys. That’s the best way to go!

How to Decide Which Toys to Rotate

Kid playing with toys

Toy rotating is nothing rigid, nor is it a science.

A good tip is to categorize different types of toys and ensure that each toy rotation box will have at least one toy from each group, so kids have a variety to choose from.

Here are some toy category suggestions you can refer to.

Moving Toys

These toys help kids develop their big muscle groups.

Examples include balls, swings, ride-on toys, tricycles, climbing toys, push toys, jump ropes, play tunnels, balance stepping stones, and sports equipment.

Pretending Toys

These “pretend-play” toys allow kids to develop social, emotional, and language skills. Pretending toys help kids imagine and act out stories from their minds.

Examples include kitchen sets, toy cars, stuffed animals, dolls and dollhouses, dress-up clothes, animal figurines, tea sets, play silks, action figures, and puppets.)

Thinking Toys

These toys involve cognitive development through problem-solving, cause-and-effect reasoning, math skills, counting, and pattern recognition.

These also involve a lot of hand-eye coordination which supports fine motor development too.

Examples include puzzles, board games, brainteasers, and shape sorters.

Building Toys

These toys also involve a lot of thinking and muscular coordination.

These include LEGOs, Magna-Tiles, bristle blocks, Lincoln Logs, nesting cups, stacking blocks, and pattern blocks.

Musical Toys

These toys encourage children’s music appreciation, rhythm, and coordination, such as small pianos, shakers, wind instruments, drums, rain sticks, tambourines, and other musical instruments.

Art and Creating Toys

These open-ended creative toys allow your child to feel relaxed, focused, and successful at expressing their emotions.

They also get to develop their social, emotional, and fine motor skills.

Examples include art supplies, play dough, craft sticks, paper and crayons, coloring books, paint, clay, and other art supplies.

Seasonal Toys

You can also keep specific boxes for every season.

For example, a summer box can contain water toys, exploring toys, and sandbox supplies. A winter box can have snow toys and snowman-making toys.

Holiday Toys

When your family enjoys certain holidays and traditions, keeping holiday boxes is a great idea too. Common holidays with toys are:

  • For Halloween, costumes, scary toys, and play pumpkins.
  • Winter and Christmas holiday boxes, which can include nativity toys, advent calendar kits, mini Christmas trees, dreidels, or holiday-themed crafts.
  • Easter boxes, which can include toy bunnies, egg-dying supplies, and Easter egg hunt supplies.

Other Toys/Miscellaneous

There may be times when a toy doesn’t exactly fit in just one category. That’s fine!

Keep them in a separate box.

Examples: include magic sets can fall under pretend or thinking toys, and Nerf guns and water guns can be moving or pretend toys.

How to Create a Toy Rotation System

You don’t need to buy extra special materials to rotate toys. That should be alright if you already have bins and boxes around the house.

But it also wouldn’t hurt to spend a little money on new matching set boxes.

With the following steps, creating a toy rotation system should be easy.

However, the ease will greatly depend on how many toys your kids currently have and the state of these toys.

Step 1: Prepare Supplies

Kid inside box

Before getting knee-deep into your toy rotation system, make sure to gather up a few supplies.

The most important items you need to have are about 8 to 10 empty containers. Sure, you can buy new matching ones. But these can work too:

  • Cardboard boxes
  • Plastic tubs or clear stackable bins
  • Large baskets
  • Storage containers

Along with the containers, make sure to designate an empty closet, shelf, or corner of the basement as your toy storage space. 

Prepare some labeling materials, too, like paper and tape.

Step 2: Talk to Your Kids

Father and kid playing with toys

When your child is older than a toddler, you will likely want to involve them in the toy rotation idea.

One of my fellow mothers at my kid’s preschool just tried hiding the toys away and leaving a few in their play area while her kids were asleep.

“Mommy, where is my bunny? Where did my firefighter costume go? I can’t find my play money!” 

Mind you, these little rascals WILL notice and bug you if they don’t get what they want. One way to discuss this with your kids is to calmly discuss the importance of rotation.

Step 3: Gather, Sort, and Purge

Toy dontaion box

After explaining the toy rotation system to the kids, you will need to gather up all the toys in one place. 

This should be the last time you’ll have to deal with too many toys in one big mess anyway!

At this step, I like to involve my kids!

It may take ages for us to finish the whole process, but it should teach them how to declutter and let go of an old toy or two.

After gathering all the toys in one pile, pick a toy one at a time and ask your kids whether they still want to play with the toy or not.

If they snatch the toy out of your hands and instantly start playing with it, it is a sign you should still keep it in the toy rotation.

If your judgment tells you it is time to let go, help them swallow the pill of donating them to those who have lesser toys.

Purging Suggestions

  • Trash – This is where unrepairable broken toys need to go.
  • Donate – This is for all the toys your child has outgrown or has no interest in playing with anymore. These toys should still be in good condition to be worth giving a second life.
  • Save for later – In case you plan on having another baby and wish to recycle old baby toys, you should put them under this category.

Don’t stress if your child has difficulty letting go!

Once you’ve implemented the toy rotation system, you will be able to observe more closely which toys they don’t pay much attention to.

For the toys that make it through the purge, it is time to sort them out into the detailed toy categories mentioned above.

Step 4: Prep and Label the Boxes

Sticky notes on wall

The next step in your toy rotation system is to set out all your boxes and label them accordingly.

You can label the containers with words or pictures.

Show these to your kids so when you ask them to clean up, they’ll know where to put each toy in its category’s container.

Your first set of containers should be based on category. Another set is for your mini-collections of toys for every rotation.

You should sort these toys based on how you want to support your child’s growth and development.

Step 5: Mix and Match

Two kids playing with blocks

After categorizing all the toys in boxes, start creating a mixed box of toys of no more than 2-4 toys per category. 

You might want to mix and match toys in up to four rotation boxes. Make sure each box contains enough variety for your kids’ maximum fun and learning.

I like to number my kids’ rotation boxes for an easy rotation. I label the box with a quick description or keep an inventory cheat sheet for future reference.

If my kids find certain boxes predictable, I swap the toys from different rotation schedules. They’ll solve the problem without having to buy new toys!

Additional Tips

  1. Be wary when you have a lot of toys to start with! You might end up adding too many toys from a toy category, which does not solve the problem of toy clutter either.
  2. If you find more than 10-12 toys in each toy collection, split up some of these for another curated collection.
    • Do not overwhelm your kids with way too many toys. Don’t limit them to a single toy in a category, either.
  3. If your child freaks out when their new toy or favorite toys are not in the toy rotation schedule, don’t be too rigid on them!
    • Calmly explain the rules but do not cause emotional trauma. It is acceptable to make an exception on one or a few toys.
  4. Keeping toys that fall under the same theme but in different categories may be helpful and fun.
    • For example, if your kid happens to have a train set and a train puzzle, pairing these up in one toy box should engage their imagination and creativity on a much deeper level.
    • Plus, it saves you the hassle of swapping one toy over the other in case your kid asks for the toy’s complementing pair.

Step 6: Display In-Rotation Toys and Hide the Rest

Two kids lying on rug

To kick start our toy rotation, I pick out one of the in-rotation toy collections and display them in my children’s play area, so they get to immerse in deep play right away.

Make sure to hide the rest where it is difficult for your kids to access.

If you put the rest of the boxes that are not in the rotation in a place where your kids can easily see them, they will incessantly bug you to take them out for them to play with!

That defeats the whole process!

If it fits, I suggest hiding the toy collections in a closet, garage, basement, attic, or even under the bed. 

Step 7: Rotate or Swap

Kid playing with mom

When boredom starts sinking in, it doesn’t mean your kid needs more toys.

If they have not maximized the whole collection, maybe a toy swap will make them feel better! Otherwise, you can rotate and swap a WHOLE curated toy collection entirely.

To rotate, you’ll need to collect all the current toys and put them back in their designated container.

Next, go to where you keep your toy collections, hide the one you just used, and display a new set.

When your toddlers start asking for their old toys, explain the idea of their toys going on a quick vacation.

Let them know that they will still be able to play with these old toys soon.

This way, they get to understand the toy rotation process, look forward to the next rotation day, and exercise their patience.

Step 8: Create a Toy Rotation Schedule

Three kids playing

It might be helpful for you to create a schedule for rotating your children’s toys. I like to keep a reminder on my phone, so it can alert me when it’s toy rotation day!

This can be done daily, once a week, every other week, or even once a month. It’s up to you if you want it routinely or not.

If a schedule feels too restrictive, you can rotate toys randomly by simply paying attention to how your children play.

You will know when to rotate a toy collection when the kids start fighting over toys, not tidying up when asked, or regularly expressing their boredom.

Toy Rotation Frequency

  • Random – A random toy rotation involves A LOT of observation. You will know when to rotate a toy box when kids have trouble entertaining themselves independently.
    • They will often ask for a new toy, but it doesn’t mean you have to buy one to satisfy them. Simply give them a newly curated set of their existing toys.
  • Weekly – If you wish to rotate toys every week, pick a day of the week and note it in your schedule. Having at least 4 containers to rotate toys weekly should be enough.
  • Daily – This is a lot of work and typically will work for stay-at-home parents. Giving your kids new toys every day allows you to do other stuff at home.
    • If you opt for a daily toy rotation, make sure to prepare at least 7 containers. That’s one for each day of the week.

Where to Put the Toys You Are Taking Away

Two kids and mother playing

Your child mustn’t have easy access to the toys that are taking a break.

It would completely defeat the purpose of a rotation if they could just pick out any toy at any time!

Keep them out of sight and out of mind, for the toys not on schedule. Find a good spot where you can keep the toys away.

A bedroom wardrobe or cupboard or should do the trick. Don’t let your kids know where you hide them too!

Storage Tips

No one solution fits all.

Toy rotation storage will depend on your family’s arrangement, available play space, and materials on hand.

But here are some storage tips when rotating toys:

  • Size – don’t use too big of a box for storage that you can’t carry or fit them where they need to be.
  • Clear and Solid Bins – I like using these clear and durable bins so I can see what’s in each box. They’re tidy and last you ages too.
  • Repurpose Luggage – Anything that allows me to save up money, I’m in! Using what you already have lying around the house to store toys like old luggage is a cost-saver. Plus, they’re easy to move around since they have wheels!

Frequently Asked Questions

Kid holding toy

What Age Should You Start Toy Rotation?

There is no definite period when a rotating toy system should start in a child’s life.

But naturally, I started rotating my kids’ toys as soon as they paid more attention to deep play. That was when they were about 6 months old.

Rotating between one or two toys at a time is a good start.

Watch for signs of interest in certain toys as your kids get older. This should help you avoid buying toys they might not find interesting at all.

Should I Discuss Toy Rotation With My Child?

A lot of parents face the dilemma of whether or not they should discuss toy rotation with their child or just swap the boxes when they are asleep or at the nursery.

The answer will depend on their age and their capacity to emotionally process the idea of their toys being taken away and replaced.

If your child CAN comprehend the idea, explain it to them while avoiding getting into a debate and causing emotional trauma.

Ideally, it is best to start them on a toy rotation early on, so they get used to it.

Besides, it is quite an exciting experience for children to get “new” toys to play with.

How Often Should You Do Toy Rotation?

There is no strict rule regarding how often you rotate varying toys. It can be done daily, weekly, or fortnightly.

When I see my kid enjoying more play on one toy, I might even rotate it only after a few weeks. And that’s alright!

The key to determining the toy rotation frequency is to leave the toys out long enough for your child to explore them until boredom sets in.

Then observe how they play. Use your judgment to decide how often a toy gets its playtime or needs to sit out.

In my experience, here are a few instances that tell me it’s about time to rotate a toy:

  • Hearing “I’m bored” announced more often.
  • When kids ask for more screen time.
  • Kids play with stuff they ought not to play with and may not necessarily even be toys.
  • Kids get clingy and follow you all day without being sick or emotionally upset.

How Many Toys Do You Need for Toy Rotation?

In general, having 10-12 toys per toy rotation box is a sufficient amount of variety for play. This number should still enrich your children’s play experience to its maximum.

But only you can determine how many toys are enough to satisfy your child’s energy and imagination.

These factors include:

  • Your play area
  • How often you plan to rotate toys
  • How many toys your kids have
  • Whether your kids have specific toys they play with on a regular without falter.

What Counts as “One” Toy?

A set of LEGOs or a set of animal figures for pretend play can be considered as just one count.

The same goes for a couple of coloring books matched with a box of coloring pens.

However, if your kid happens to have a ton of LEGO sets, for example, you can divide them up into a couple of rotation boxes.

These give your kids a chance to play and build with them in every playtime.

What Should I Do With Old Toys My Kids Don’t Play With Anymore?

If they are still in good condition, here are a few ideas to give your news some new homes:

  • Donate old toys to a charity thrift store.
  • Check with a local nonprofit organization about whether they accept toy donations. These can often be children’s shelters.
  • Swap toys with other kids in your neighborhood.
  • Sell a bunch of the toys online or hold a garage sale.

Also, remember that if you cannot repair a toy, it is ideal to dispose of or recycle them.

What Do I Do When My Kids Get an Influx of New Toys From Christmas or Birthdays?

This is where your inventory description on each toy rotation box comes in handy!

At a glance, you will be able to determine what is in the box, so it becomes easier to add new ones to the set.

But in any case, if a curated box becomes too overwhelming already, I would encourage another round of purging.

Go through the toy rotation boxes with your kids and let them decide which ones they are willing to let go of to compensate for space for new ones.

What If My Child Asks for a Specific Toy That’s Not in Rotation?

My kids always have their favorite stuffed animals that they play pretend with. I make an exception for this since it is their favorite.

But if you think your child is just anxious to play with a toy not currently in rotation, you can either swap it with a similar toy or swap the whole toy rotation box.

You can also inform your kids of their toy rotation schedule.

Letting them know which specific days they can play a certain toy with should teach them patience and prevent bursts of tantrums.

What If I Have More Than One Child?

If you have older kids and younger kids at different developmental stages sharing a play space, consider having more rotation toys in a toy collection to add variety.

Instead of just having 10-12 toys in a box, consider having 14-16 mixed toys belonging to different categories.

What To Do About Big Toys?

Bigger toys like doll houses and play kitchens will be hard to hide when you decide not to keep them in a rotation.

In this case, you can leave the big toys out all the time but rotate the toys that go with them.

For example, you can put one set of play food in one rotation box and another set with play kitchen equipment and wooden blocks in another.

You’ll be surprised by how creative your children can be to be able to play with these toys!


Little girl playing outside

I’m sure you can find a free cheat sheet as to how to mix and match your child’s toys for a toy rotation schedule.

With so many benefits rotation toys can add to a child’s well-being and a parent’s peace of mind, it’s a no-brainer you should give this a shot!

Good luck!

FINAL TIP: When you give new toys or gifts to your or someone else’s kid, always go for ones made from organic materials to ensure safety!

About the author

Angelica Graham

A few years ago, Angelica found out about all the plastic and toxic ingredients that got into most children’s products. And this worried her to no end. Because of this, she began to research what the best ingredients and materials were for children and made it her mission to share this information with other mothers.