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  • Writer's pictureSharon Carter

Toy Rotation and The Container Method

Updated: Oct 18, 2021

Children's spaces can be a source of joy or stress in a home. Most children have an overabundance of toys...and twice a year, for Christmas and birthdays, they are given all new toys by well-meaning parents, grandparents, family and friends. The result can be overwhelming.

Research shows that "when given a larger number of toys to play with [children] find it hard to focus and engage in deep play." One study showed that while the children played with more toys when given more, "their engagement with the toys was of less substance. The depth and duration of the play was best with four toys." (Motherly: Could the Key to Better Play Be Providing Fewer Toys?)

While this may be easy to understand, it is not so easy to know which toys to part with and which ones to keep. We may be tempted to keep the newest toys because we don't want to waste money we just spent or hurt the feelings of the gift giver. So often, we let the stress of decision-making discourage us from making any headway at all and turn and leave the room for another day.

There are many solutions to this problem. Two of these are toy rotation and implementing the container method.

Toy Rotation

Toy rotation is a great solution if you want to keep a wider variety of toys, yet limit what children have access to at any given moment. You can divide toys into categories, leaving some toys out and others out of reach. For instance, if you have two bins of dress-up clothes, one bin could be stored within reach while the other bin is stored on the top shelf of a closet. Bins could be switched out monthly or seasonally.

Toy rotation is a great way for kids to have access to different toys on different days, especially those who are home all day. This helps with boredom and overwhelm caused by having too many choices. The toys in the picture below can be rotated daily or weekly by pulling certain bins to the front and placing others in the back.

Maximizing the space in these cabinets is a must for this preschooler who is learning from home. When she has free time, the open bins with labels make it easy for her to grab toys and put them away.

The Container Method

The container method works in just about any space in your home. You decide how much space you have to devote to a particular group of items and stick to that "container". It can be an actual container, basket or tote or it can be a drawer, a shelf, a cabinet, a bookcase, etc.

For toys, it is good to have baskets or bins with broad categories to make things easy to put away. You could have a doll bin, car bin, dinosaur bin, dress-up bin, and so on. The key to keeping bins organized is to have your kids make decisions regularly about what they'll keep in a particular bin and what they'll part with once it is too full. Clean-up will be much easier if everything fits in the bin and has a home.

Using the container method works well for this brother and sister. They each have labeled drawers for toys that are similar. Keeping the toys in each category limited to the space provided will make this easy for them to maintain. (They also have large toys and shared toys stored in another area of the room.).

Looking for ways to help your child part with some of their toys? Here are a few things to consider:

  • Put a positive spin on decluttering. 😀 Have them pick the 10 things they like most in a particular bin. (Number of items can change depending on size. Matchbox cars would be a much larger number while large dolls might be a smaller number.)

  • Pull out the toys that are broken or have missing pieces.

  • Donate toys they have outgrown. (Or put them in storage for a younger sibling.)

  • I'm not beyond bribing kids. 😅 Tell them you'll give them $5 or $10 for filling up a large trash bag with toys they no longer play with. Hopefully this will have them looking through multiple bins in the room.

  • Set a timer. You will be amazed at the difference just 15 minutes can make in a space. And racing against the clock can feel like a game for your kids as they declutter.

At the end of the day, we all want our kids to be heathy, happy, and let's face it...we want them to occupy their time doing things they enjoy so we can get a little done around the house! Making a play area or playroom a place our children want to be in will make a big difference. They get overwhelmed too and will not play independently for very long in a room with too many toys.

What is something you and your child can do today to improve their spaces? Set a timer for 15 minutes and let me know what you were able to accomplish!

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