Practice toy rotation for happier children, less frustration

I received a text along with a photo recently from a returning client. The text was exclaiming amazement at her toddler who was focused on playing contentedly with his toys after a recent toy rotation project by First Daze doula Kara Curtis. Kara helped the mom understand the importance of toy rotation and, as witnessed in the photo the mom sent, it works.

What is toy rotation?

Simply put, it’s removing toys and replacing them with other toys on a regular schedule. So rather than having all the toys out at one time, a smaller group is kept out while others are put away. And then you rotate them.


According to Dr. Kim John Payne, author of the book Simplicity Parenting, “An avalanche of toys invites emotional disconnect and a sense of overwhelm.”

May I just say I’ve experienced this firsthand. I traveled to a friend’s home out of state when my son was very young. She had two boys, one my son’s age and one a little older. Their living room was what some might consider a child’s dream. Toys of all shapes and sizes were EVERYWHERE, strewn from one end of the room to the other. This was not an adult’s living room but was purely for the children. But instead of being inviting, the room and toys were overwhelming and overstimulating. The younger boys didn’t know what to play with - there were too many choices - and crankiness and irritability ensued.

This is similar to what my client was experiencing after the birth of her second child. Hoping to keep her toddler happy with a mass of toys, instead she found him fussy and clingy. Until the toys were rotated, that is.

“Having less toys out at one time allows for more focused play, and when a child’s brain is focused the child can better master the learning task. The complexity of their play increases,” Kara explains. “In other words, instead of bouncing around from toy to toy interacting with them superficially with scattered play, rotation provides opportunities for them to engage fully and deeply and achieve mastery with one toy. This is a wonderful antidote to the short attention span concerns that our technology is spawning,” she says.

Rotating toys keeps learning interesting, and children learn best through new experiences. That doesn’t mean they need brand new toys each week. Far from it. Instead, bring out an old toy they haven’t seen in a while and it takes on a whole new interest.

My client shared the approach is still working well for her little one. “It has made a huge difference. He is down to 8-10 toys at a time and they’re all laid out so he can see what he wants to play with. It really decreases clinginess,” she says.

Another idea that works well is to have a few toys in each room, rather than all toys in one room (or playroom). The fact is, our little ones want to be with us. If we are in the kitchen prepping meals, that’s where they want to be. If we’re folding laundry in the bedroom, that’s where they’ll want to be, too. And, it’s easier to clean up a few toys in each room rather than trying to straighten a mass of toys in one room.

There is loads of information on the internet on how to rotate toys. Kara recorded an excellent podcast on the subject with Preschool and Beyond's host, Mike Dlott. You can listen to it here.  I like the Intelligent Nest’s online guide as well. My go to efficiency expert, Tracey Gritz, says to label baskets for each week (week 1, week 2, and so on). Bring out the basket of toys for that week and put the others away. Easy peezy.

Remember, as with so many areas of our lives, less is more. More toys does not equal happier children. And with the holidays around the corner, new toys are bound to be coming your way. Consider booking a toy rotation session with us before the holidays to get current toys on a rotation schedule and ready for the new ones soon to be part of the mix. Contact us today to schedule your session.