November 7, 2011

Toy Rotation Bins


A few months ago I read the book Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne and quickly became convinced that my kids had too many toys.  Not only that, but they had the wrong types of toys,and too many options at any given time.  Instead of playing with the toys, my kids were dumping them out on the floor, fighting over them, or hiding them in unusual places.

Too many options were causing my children to become frustrated and overwhelmed.

Toys that required many pieces weren't getting used at all.  The shape sorter was useless because the small shapes were always lost amidst all the other toys.


So I instituted a rotation system. I bought four bins that fit in the toy cabinet, labelled the bins with numbers 1 to 4, and pared down the toys until all of them would fit in those four bins.

Toys I Kept:
  • wooden toys
  • toys that are pleasant to touch and look at
  • toys that encourage creativity and imagination
  • toys that build motor skills
  • favorite toys

Toys I Tossed:
  • toys that were broken or missing parts
  • toys that do the playing for the child.  Most toys that talk or move on their own were given away.
  • Toys that tend to be the center of a lot of arguments.

Each morning we pull a bin of toys out of the cabinet. The children only play with the toys in that bin for that day.  At the end of the day we pick up all the toys and put them back in the right bin.  Tomorrow, we'll play with the next bin.

The kids don't mind this system because they get to play with all of their toys over the course of four days and because it has made it possible to keep all the little parts of toys together.  The shape sorter is useful again!

The kids fight less too.  That alone makes this system golden in my eyes!


Do you use a toy rotation system? What works well for your family?

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60 comments:

  1. That's a great idea. I've heard of rotating toys by the month.. but each day - very smart. And it makes clean up / organization at the end of the day easy. I love it. I think I'll be on the hunt for some smaller totes to start my own system.

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  3. I should definitely do this. My daughter has so many toys! and although a lot of them are in the basement so she doesn't play with them everyday there are still a lot of toys upstairs and by the end of most days she can barely walk in the living room!

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  4. We have a similar system, just my kids are a bit older and we group by type of toy, as in tools, blocks, babies stuff, farm/aniamals and dinosaurs. we swap them daily or as requested but only one is out at a time. They all get packed up before the next one comes out. It works pretty well, they have a few toys out all the time in thier room and thats what causes the problems. I think i might have to use the system for all the toys.

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  5. Oh my gosh! I'd never heard of this system! My son has a GAZILLION toys and they stay so messed up in his floor. Every other day we're in there cleaning them up. And within an hour they're all in the floor again. With Christmas coming, we're going to have to do a clear out of his toys, I think this will be something we'll implement. This is an amazing idea!

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  6. I'm a new reader as well...I really enjoy your blog! :) I like this idea...we have a system that implements the grouped toy storage, but not rotation. Interesting!

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  7. I'm also a new reader, and I enjoy that you're Canadian (like me :) It's fun to see other PC things in people's homes, or relate to ikea being far away (for me it's 12 hours, any direction).
    Anyway, I think your ability to have a one day rotation system is bold and inspiring. Like other commenters I have some toys in our living room and others organized in the basement. We swap at request. I still think we have too many things accessible, so I might ponder something akin to your idea awhile! Thanks for sharing all your organizing ins and outs :) Janie

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  8. This is an awesome idea. My little guy is only 9 months but soon enough, I'm going to need to try this one out. One year for Christmas, my sister and her husband got a huge pack of new batteries for all of the toys that had died and gave them to their 3 girls. All of them felt like they had new toys that year.

    Bekah
    If Work Permits

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  9. I think that's a wonderful idea. Kids really don't need too many toys and having such a choice is probably not a good thing for them either.

    I love that you can just pack it all up in the box at the end of the day too.

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  10. My sister (runs a daycare and had my son with her for several months) does the same thing, grouping like toys in each box. I've always thought it's a fantastic idea, but with just one little boy, I've never felt like I have enough toys to do this. Though I do keep a box of toys in his closet that gets swapped with the toys in our living area every couple months.

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  11. I love this idea. We have just recently moved so I kept most of the toys in the garage and only a few out. I am really liking less toys, I am going to start your rotation plan as well! Love your blog! I am also a fellow canadian :)

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  12. I haven't yet started rotating the toys, I should. I did start rotating our kids' books. They have a lot of books, but I found they were always picking the same ones to read every night. My husband and I were going crazy reading the same stories night after night. So one day I laid out all the book in pairs (books that were similar or had same character). Then took ones on top of each pile and put them in baskets high on a closet shelf. Every month or so I pull them out and put the ones on the shelf in. Our bookcase isn't nearly as crowded which I think helps them see all the options better, and we read more of variety. I know when to switch them when I've heard a story one to many times.

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  13. Don't you just love Kim John Payne? I saw him speak and bought the book on the spot even though I know if I waited two days I could get it in the mail for half what I paid. It was that good. I really need to read it again. I have to at least flip through every few months because we get all off track. My kids are old enough now that they don't need toys that do stuff. Like sorters. I've got it to where they finally just have open ended toys. One of their favorites? Plastic chains that I think were meant for math. But they use those chains for everything. And if they tug *too* hard, a link will break before it hurts the kiddos. All those type of toys we keep out all the time. Everything else goes in the closet. They can take it out, but it goes right back again when they're done.

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  14. I am so attached to my kid's toys, this would be hard for me...do your kids have other toys in their rooms or is that all of them?

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  15. Hi Maggie! We have some educational toys and lots of books on our "school shelf" and some dress-up princess clothes in the bedroom...but other than that, those are all of the toys. We are a keep it simple, less is more sort of family. If this wouldn't work for you, that's fine. These are just suggestions based on what works for us. Thanks for commenting :)

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  16. I started reading lately and I really love this site. I recently was inspired to clean out my coat closet by the 31 day to an organized home :0) I do use a system close to this but I have baskets on an IKEA open concept storage unit. My little one is 7 months and has loved being able to safely crawl to get her toys!

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  17. Can you tell me the dimensions of these bins? I'm trying to order them online and I have similar toys as you (shape sorter, phone....) and its hard to imagine the size of containers online :)

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  18. I love this idea. I've never really rotated toys for my almost 2yr old. I picked up two bins at home depot today for $5.88 each. I'm going to try this system and see if it works. I feel like our house is over flowing with toys. Thanks for the idea! Btw, i LOVE your curtains! :)

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  19. Hi! This is great! We don't quite do a toy rotation with my youngest (4 years old). But instead, I tell her that each toy has a 'home.' When a new toy comes in the house, she must find a 'home' for that toy. And when she's not playing with it, it needs to go back to it's 'home.'

    We also use bins to separate different types of toys (one bin for barbies, polly pocket, lalaloopsy, etc.). So she's only allowed to open one bin at a time. This avois the massive confusion of mixing up tons of different pieces.

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  20. Hi Kelly!

    I'm a new reader and just wanted to say that I'm loving your writing! You are cracking me up over here in Burbank, CA! Last night I was reading several of your posts and would have to stop my husband to read him a couple lines or two! Thanks for the laughter! I love this toy rotation idea- I'll have to think through that and see if there's a way I can make something like this work for us. I'm a mom of 3 living in a 2bdrm apt. and we've just started homeschooling. Good times, good times! ;)

    Keep up the great work girl!
    :) Autumn

    p.s. I'm also curious what size containers you are using- love the beautiful hutch that you store them in!

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  21. Hi!! I just have to say, first of all, that I am a new reader but have already ready almost all of your posts. Your ideas are so fresh and ingenuitive that it makes me remember how exciting being a SAHM mom can be! But this toy organizing idea is brilliant! I have a 4 year old who has autism and I already know this system would work brilliantly with him and little bro, especially with the numbered bins and the allowance of kids' choice. Kudos to you for sharing your tips with the world!! :)

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  22. Hi Kelly,
    I'm new to your blog and have loved every idea thus far! We have used a toy rotation system, but really, the sorting was my preference (all trains, all wooden blocks, all dolls, etc). Your idea to sort the bins with variety and rotate by day is brilliant - so much more stimulating for the kids!
    "Paring down" the toys to keep everyone sane has some useful guidelines, too. Thank you!
    Sherry

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  23. I love this! I have a very tiny apartment and having all the toys out at one time is just NUTS; this would be such a time/life/organization saver!!! Love this blog!

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  24. We are currently doing a ring the bell for service, check in and check out system for our toy closet, it is working great. HOWEVER, I absolutely love this in that there are a variety of toys in each bin, not just sorted by "theme" as I have done in our play closet. Especially for those who don't have an actual closet for toys. This is super smart! I love how you have your living room pretty but functional like storing toys inside your hutch.

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  25. A friend linked a blog post of yours on fb... And I have no idea who you are, but the fact that you have Salad Bar Beef in the same cabinet as your pretty china... I love you. :)

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  26. I really need to do this. Running a daycare while homeschooling necessitates better organization than I currently have!

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  27. This is a fabulous idea! What a great way to decrease toy mess, and a really let the kids get more out of playtime. Thank you!

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  28. Just did this today, after wanting to for a long time. Thanks so much for the inspiration!

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  29. Is that all the toys in you house?

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  30. Today I went and purchased two bins to add to the two I already had and started organizing toys. I put like items together and then added them to the bins using variety as my main goal.

    After about 2 minutes of putting items in bins, I realized this will not work until I get rid of A LOT of toys. How do I part with toys I love or my kids love or my mom loved enough to buy for them? It's silly really. My children hardly ever play with the ones I have the hardest time parting with. I really need to spend some time in prayer about our toy selection!

    My plan for now is to fill the bins and whatever doesn't fit will be stored unless my kids ask for it. Who knows, they may not ever notice!

    Thank you so much for sharing your life with us!

    Jenni

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  31. Just wanted to say thank you! Our system is a little different, bigger boxes and they get the same box for a week. We are home 4 out of 7 days and they seem to be playing so much better than before. I also don't feel overwhelmed with the clean up everyday! I did keep big items out (play kitchen, train table)but am rotating the rest. Thank you for helping our family!

    Melissa

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  32. Anyohne have any ideas on how to ask the in laws to stop buying your kids so many toys? Since they aren't my parents, even though we've been married for ten years, they bristle at suggestions like this. Anyone have a creative idea or way to phrase it? Cause what happens is they buy the kids a toy, the kids (being 2.5 and 16 mos) see it, eyes light up, they want to play with it right away, we open it and throw the box away and then it's ours with no hope of returning. I hate to trash or donate all these brand new things. It is so frustrating!

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    1. We have the same type of situation with our family. We have asked them repeatedly to only buy one toy or give money for their savings account or for museum or park memberships. They don't listen. After christmas we take the toys that they got from relatives and hide them. We wait about a week and whatever toys they bring up ("mom, where is that horse grandma got for me?")are the ones we keep. The rest we give away or regift. They usually don't remember everything they got because our family blindsides them with toys. I have told my family that we do this because we have too much and to try to dissuade them from buying so much. So far they keep buying knowing that we don't keep it. It's very strange. It's like they can't control themselves.

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    2. I am setting up a system for my disorganized 8 year old who HATES to clean up. All her toys are in buckets with lids by type and stored in the garage. She may choose four buckets for the week. Tossing toys into four categories should be easier to clean and she doesn't have so many toys available to get out all over the room. I too think she was overwhelmed by the overabundance of toys. I'm sorting clothes the same way in three or four sets to make getting dressed and putting away laundry easier for now too.

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    3. It is a tricky thing for sure. I'm lucky that I get to buy the presents with cash for them but I quickly learned they want to watch my little ones open and be excited. So, maybe you could suggest one small $15-20 toy for the big reaction and then the rest can be put towards a membership or lessons? We most recently put ours towards private swimming lessons and about 3 times throughout the series of lessons I would send a quick text update to my MIL saying what new thing they did because of her lessons, or when it came up in conversation anytime, and I also had my girls at the end tell her all about them so she got to see the happy/excited reaction just the same.

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    4. My Mother in law just loves to buy toys anytime of year for our 4 kids, it drives us insane because we have WAY too many already. I didn't want to offend her so I had my husband talk to his mother and tell her that we don't have room for more toys in our house but that she is welcome to buy our kids more toys and keep them at her house for when they are visiting. Her toy bin filled up and she quickly quit buying so many toys. For birthdays and Christmas we asked all our family to contribute to lessons (dance, swimming etc) instead of gifts, they usually get a couple small things anyway though.

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  33. We have so many toys it is difficult for me to clean floors in a tiny little cottage that hasn't much room. I, too, find that I must tape up the boxes! I also rotate as much as possible. My children pretty much settle on certain toys as their favorites: legos for my son and teapots and a few stuffed animals for my daughter. All the rest are put away. Unfortunately, I must tape them up to keep them out. Then, when they insist on playing with them I allow it only if the time is appropriate. They can have them on the condition that 1) There is ample to to play amidst school work and chores and 2) They are immediately able to remove them from the play area and put them away. They even have toys in the attic which are rotated every few months. If I had a choice most all of them would be in the trash but their father thinks otherwise so I am forced to compromise. Every now and then I give myself a break from being forced to walk over or clean around toys and put them all away for a few days time. Eventually, my children understand the peace of mind they gain by keeping things simple without the clutter but they do miss their toys and when I'm working the toys are invaluable distractions and learning tools.

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  34. I just found your blog today via pinterest. I too, use the toy rotating system. My boys (4 & 6) have lots of toys they enjoy but get lost in all the clutter. We are also living in a smaller house right now while we save up to build our own house, so space is an issue.

    I keep their extra toys in bins on the floor of my bedroom closet. There are only a certain amount of toys allowed out at a time. How we work our system is I will change the bin that is out usually about once a week or so. If there is a toy that they ask about, they are allowed to go get it from the stored bins as long as they replace it with a toy already out. This way, they still have the opportunity to play with all their toys, the toys get used much more frequently and I don't have to deal with clutter!

    I was worried at first that this wasn't going to work, but recently my 6 yr old came to me and said, "Mom, I like our house now. It's so clean and I don't step on stuff anymore." The 4 yr old declared, "Its like having Christmas all the time now!"

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  35. We do this!! It's been great. We get hand me downs every now and then and they get sorted then go right in the closet for toy rotation. Somtimes it all gets taken out and the place is a mess and I wonder hwo I would cope without my box/bin rotation system. It's amazing how the toys become like white noise when there are too many of them. I love your blog!!

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  36. I read this post and commented almost a year ago and am amazed to come across it again through pinterest...this still would be hard and with 4 boys in ages from 8 months to 10 years, I would probably need more bins, but I do agree that my kids have way too many toys...now how would you sort those bins...should I put all age groups in a bin, or have two bins be pulled out?

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  37. I just found your blog via pinterest and you just solved all my toy troubles. They are always all over the place and the closet was just stuffed with toys and no organization at all so most of the toys just left a mess and didn't get played with at all. I AM FOREVER GRATEFUL for finding you! What a blessing! Thanks so much...I plan to continue to read more.

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  38. Just wondering did you let your kids help in the purging or do it on your own ? Either way how did they take it ?
    We have way too many toys and my kids ,age 5,6&2 agree but yet don't want to part with items even though they don't play with them. I myself have a hard time making them get rid of toys cause my own mom was very mean about it when I was small. But I know they wouldn't miss half of it if it was gone .....lately I find they don't play with much of anything and I think it is because they are overwhelmed by the amount of toys and the mess there is no matter how much we clean up.

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  41. Make sure toy boxes have safety hinges that keep fingers from being pinched.

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