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Toy Rotation: The Ultimate Guide for Overwhelmed Moms

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Toy rotation is an essential part of reducing toy clutter, making happier kids and happier moms.

Rotating Toys is taking all of the toys in your house and putting most of them away for an amount of time, and reintroducing them. This process helps toys feel new to children, even if they’ve had them for years. It’s a great alternative to buying new toys.

I still remember the last time I had a meltdown over cleaning up toys.

My son dumped out all of his toys, and was happily sitting in the middle of all of his toys. There were small legos, stuffed animals, and puzzle pieces.

I felt the hot anger rise in my face and I screamed. Then I cried. I told them they have to clean up all these toys or I’m throwing them all away, because I can’t deal with this mess anymore.

This went over SO well. They cried, grabbing my legs, pleading with me to not throw their toys away. Please mommy!

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Why Toy Rotation Became a Must For This Mom

PUT THEM AWAY. I screamed. I screamed at them.

I’m so embarrassed of the person I am in this story.

I remember my son sinking down into his pile of toys and crying. He picked up a toy, looked around, and cried harder.

Then he brought it to me with his head hung low, and told me I could throw it away.

We live in a world where consumerism runs rampant, and we always need the next new thing. Or ALL of the collectibles. I’m looking at you, blind bags!

thousands of legos

If all these things brought happiness, there would be no problem, right? But do they play with these toys much after the initial opening? . . . and does it really bring joy?

With all that stuff . . . you need so much maintenance.

As an overwhelmed mom, the weight of all that clutter can sometimes be too much. This study says clutter has a clear effect on mental health. So it’s no wonder it makes you so stressed out.

All of this clutter was hurting my mental health, but it was also hurting his. That’s why he couldn’t function when I asked him to put toys away. And screaming at him was less than ineffective.

Remember the last time you asked your children to clean up?

You can probably hear the crying and sniffling, see the red faces and hot, wet cheeks, and feel the feet stomping (be careful not to stomp on the legos!)

And then there is the cleanup song.

You can sing until you’re blue in the face, but the fits still come, don’t they?

How Can I Stop The Toy Clean Up Fits?

You have to get down in the trenches with them. Standing over them and telling them what to do will not help your situation.

They’re just as overwhelmed as you are.

Stop taking it personally.

Your child is not defying you because they’re a bad kid, or to make you angry, their brain is still developing.

When they’re under five, their brain just doesn’t have the links necessary to follow your requests, even if they want to.

Avoid the power struggle, and choose your battles.

Most importantly

Help them clean — for YOUR sanity

Help them clean up. If they’re doing it all by themselves, they’re going to get overwhelmed and stop.

Then we are back at square one.

When it gets to be too many toys all the time, reduce the amount of toys out in the playroom or bedroom, and put half (or more!) away in totes or WHATEVER YOU HAVE up in closets.

Why Do You Need to Rotate Toys?

Studies like this one show that kids do better with less toys. They are able to focus better and play more creatively.

In fact, what they really need is paper and drawing utensils. I have a great post about the best gifts to buy kids who love drawing, check it out here.

With less toys out, you and your child will both be able to clean up with no fuss.

How Do You Know You Need to Rotate Toys?

I have a few guidelines for you, but I think since you’re here you are here, and ready to rotate toys.

  1. When the kids are constantly bored, even with toys all around them.
  2. When kids get toys out but don’t play with them.
  3. When clean up time is a NIGHTMARE

How To Do Toddler Toy Rotation Effectively

These are my best practices for you.

Get organized

I’ve seen a lot of people recommend taking all of the toys and everything out into the middle of your floor and organizing them that way.

Thinking about that stresses me out. I can’t do it all in one day. Maybe you can.

I’m more of a list maker, click here to see my post about lists.

So naturally, I’m going to have a list for this.

Write down all the places where toys, books, and anything my kids play with are currently located. Bedrooms, garage, living room, busy boxes, etc. be as specific as possible.

With that list, start with the first location, and begin decluttering.

This is easiest to do when the children aren’t home, or are sleeping, or otherwise completely distracted.

They’ll convince you they need to keep all of the broken toys.

There are a few different piles or boxes you’ll need each time you begin decluttering:

  • garbage
  • recycle
  • donate

The easiest will be your garbage pile and recycling pile. This will be anything broken, ripped, or beyond repair. Ripped books, mismatched toys, markers with the tip pushed in, etc.

Next is donating. Here you’ll add things that are still in working condition or otherwise usable, but your children no longer play with them.

Recycle or TrashDonation
broken toysanything in good condition
ripped toys or bookstoys your children don’t play with anymore
anything beyond repairbooks they’ve outgrown
broken arts and crafts you can’t fixduplicates, you don’t need 4 Catboys
mismatched toys
puzzles with missing pieces

Find Bins

This is a fun part for me. Go around your house or in these toys, and find baskets, totes, anything to hold toys. It doesn’t really matter what holds the toys as long as they’re away.

You can go out and buy lots of clear bins with lids if you want something more uniform. Check the price on Amazon, here. Or check out your local WalMart.

For stuffed animals, I love these canvas bags you can use as chairs. Check the price for the canvas bags for stuffed animals here.

Put Toys Away

You can involve your children, or not.

I personally loved involving them, they could see the toys getting put away because they were doing it. Then they see the toys getting put up.

We have several empty boxes so we can spread out the toys, but most importantly, so we don’t have to stop once we start putting them away.

Here are a few tips for how to put toys away, because you might be thinking “how do I know what to put away and what to keep out?”

Tips for Putting Toys Up

An easy first choice for me is the toys I’m sick of. That drum my friends bought my crazy son. EASY PEASY.

Toys that are very very similar. My son has about three billion Catboy toys. He doesn’t use them all at the same time. Take a collection of the three that go together and put them in each box.

Stuffed animals. No need for all of them. Let them pick five to have in their bed and put the rest up.

Puzzles. Put them into a zip lock bag when you have all the pieces, and then stack them.

How Often Should You Rotate Toys?

Alright, so the work is done. You’ve taken toys and put them up, and you only have a small, more manageable collection down for them to play with each day.

Now what?

This is up to you.

We rotate toys when the kids start getting overwhelmed. Some people do it every day. This is up to you.

One of my favorite things to do for my children is rotate their toys when they’re at school. When they come home they’re surprised and excited to play with all their “new” toys.

How Do You Know It’s Time to Rotate?

Are they getting bored with their toys? Get some “new” ones.

Where Do You Store The Extras?

Every. Where.

Where do you have room? We had them in my office for awhile, then we moved them into their closets. For awhile we kept them in the garage.

Use those closets, do they have room up on shelves in closets? Do you have a room they don’t have access to? How about an attic, basement, or garage?

My Number One Tip

The best thing you can do is start. It’s okay if you don’t do it all right. It’s okay if you don’t do it the way I do, what’s important is you try.

Just Start.

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