Overview: Toys can literally take over your life and house if you let them. Kids don’t need so many choices crowding their little minds. This is why I set up a toy rotation for our learning/play area.
Welcome to the #ChildLedEnvironments Series where we are exploring how to set up and cultivate an environment conducive to child-led learning.
- How to Cultivate a Love of Learning
- Toy Rotation: Why It’s Beneficial for You and Your Child
- How to Incorporate an Encouraging Home Preschool Environment
- 9 Reasons Why Worksheets are Inappropriate for Young Children
- 4 Aspects of the Adult’s Role in a Child-Led Approach
Imagine walking into a play area where your child is totally engrossed in their play. They focus on one toy for longer than usual and their imagination begins to flourish. When it’s time to clean up, you work together to get everything put away within a few minutes. Your whole day is a lot more calmer and it’s all because of a simple toy rotation.
Why I Established a Toy Rotation
We have a ton of toys and books.We would literally be drowning in toys if I put them all out at once, but this isn’t the reason why I chose to set up a toy rotation. It goes much deeper then lack of space.
It’s true! Less toys really does mean more play. And I’m not talking about superficial play. I’m talking about more engaged, more meaningful, and more focused play.
Related: Play and Learn: Can You Do Them At The Same Time?
When a child has less to choose from, he is forced to use his imagination and problem solving skills. I mean you can only build towers a few times before it gets boring. A child has to use his imagination to come up with new ways to use the blocks. Maybe they become stampers for the paint or food in the kitchen.
2. Develop Focus and Longer Attention Spans
With less to choose from, a child is not over stimulated. He doesn’t have so many choices that he doesn’t know what to do, which again leads to more focused play for a longer period of time especially when the toys we put out relate to their interests or signs of readiness. When we give a child less choices, he now has the time to explore and focus on the task at hand without being distracted by the 20 other choices staring at him.
3. Less to Clean Up
A plus for the parents, right? With less toys to pull off the shelf, you have less toys to clean up and put away. Your room will be more organized because there will be a home for each toy you bring out.
4. Keep Boredom to a Minimum
I know this sounds counterproductive. You would think with more choices, a child would not have a chance to be bored. But in reality, quite the opposite happens.
See when a child has too many choices, their little brains get overstimulated, and they don’t know what to choose therefore becoming bored. With less toys, they won’t be as stimulated. This leads to freeing up the mind to focus, explore, and use their imagination.
5. Increase the Life of a Toy
Think about it.If your child plays with the toy half as much, then the toy will last longer.
How I Set Up a Toy Rotation
Rotating toys is pretty simple once you have a system in place. I like to rotate my toys and books about every two weeks, or when we switch themes/interests. But I don’t always rotate every toy I have out. I’ll explain why in a few minutes. First, lets talk about how to set up a toy rotation.
1. Get Organized
The first thing I did was got organized. I took all the toys we owned and dumped them on our basement floor. Then I got rid of any toy that didn’t match with our beliefs, like toys that talk or do the thinking for you. I like to have as many open ended toys as possible.
Once I got rid of those toys, I now had to sort. I started by sorting toys that go together. For example, in one tub I placed all the toys that could relate to a farm. In another tub, I placed all the puzzles and so forth.
Once everything was sorted by theme, I took what was left and sorted by things that go together. I put all the art materials together, all the fine motor toys together, and so on.
2. Think of Your Display
Now that everything was organized, I began thinking about how I wanted to display the toys. I have a large area for our learning/play space, so I decided to do small stations.
I purchased shelves for each station because shelves are easier for displaying toys. Shelves allow a child to see exactly what their options are, makes the room look cleaner, and gives each toy a specific home.
For small spaces, you could purchase one shelving unit and use one shelf per “station” by placing one toy that could fit into each station on each shelf.
The stations I chose to represent are:
-Literacy (3 toys/materials)
-Math (3 toys/materials)
-Dramatic Play (1 set up such as house, flower shop, airport, etc.)
-Art (9 art supplies including paper and playdough)
-Toys (8 toys)
-Construction (4 toys/loose parts)
Sometimes I don’t even bring out toys for the shelf. For example, in the literacy or math stations, I might just set up an invitation to explore a certain concept like the picture below.
3. Begin Your Toy Rotation
As I mentioned above, I rotate toys and books about every two weeks. If we are still exploring the same topic, I may switch out other toys and books that relate to that topic to help encourage Sicily to dig deeper into the topic.
I like to rotate toys when the kids are not around, so I can concentrate on what I’m bringing out. I always ask these three questions.
1. What is she still playing with?
If she still pulls out a toy on a daily or almost daily basis, it stays on the shelf.
2. What is her current interests?
I always plan our school days around her interests, so the toys I bring our will match what we are learning about for the most part. I make sure I pull out these toys first.
3. What skills is she ready to work on?
Once I fill the shelves with toys that relate to what we are learning about, then I pull toys that relate to the skills she is showing signs of readiness for.
The last step is filling the rest of the shelves with toys she hasn’t seen in a while. I always leave 2 shelves empty to put our Tot Trays on for each week.
I want to end with an important tip when it comes to rotating toys. Just because the toy is put away, doesn’t mean it’s off limits. Sicily will often ask for a toy that is put away, and I always pull it out. I never know what the girl is thinking or what type of breakthrough she might be working towards. If we hold back a material that they are requesting, we could just be holding them back from learning a new skill, so I always bring it out.
For more resources and tips on starting Tot School, download our Start Tot School Guide.
Print & Play Calendar
Simple, low prep activities that can be modified for toddlers and preschoolers on a simple calendar. No more worrying about how to keep the kids entertained. Just print and go!