A toy rotation system is a great solution to help refocus your daycare children’s play. Sometimes, the children get bored with the current toys on the shelves and they end up playing with them for ten minutes and then leaving them on the floor. You end up with a floor full of toys and children who are walking around bored. This is when you establish the Toy Rotation System! Rotating the toys will help your existing toys become fresh again and it will help you at clean up time. It’s a win-win situation.
Option One-If you have storage space in your basement
Take half of your existing toys off the shelves and package them up into boxes or bins. I like to group my toys and then label the boxes so I can clearly see where everything is. For example; I have boxes labeled cars & trucks, airport set, dolls, dress up clothes, puzzles, games, blocks, baby soft toys, baby stacking toys, farm set, doll house set, castle set, finger puppets, etc.
I have a mix of big bins for large toys and boxes with lids for everything else. Sets have clear zippered bags or baskets that hold the pieces so everything for that set is together. For example, the parking garage has a basket beside it for people and cars.
Make sure the boxes of toys are easy for you to pull out and access. If you have boxes or bins stacked high on top of each other, rotating the toys will be a big hassle and then you may not do it. I bought the most inexpensive storage shelves I could find and crammed them into my storage room from floor to ceiling.
Option Two- If you do NOT have extra storage space in your house
Not all of us have the luxury of a storage room in our basements to store extra toys. One solution to this problem is to store toys out of sight in your main playing room/living room area. I have this wall unit that I use as a toy shelf. Some of the spaces in the wall unit are for displaying toys while others hold boxes or bins. I have toys stored in the upper boxes (above kid reaching level) that are currently ‘out of rotation’. The black bins that hold toys blend well into the black storage unit (but I only have two in there right now, so I’m supplementing with the silver baskets) and the children understand the bins are not accessible to them.
I also store toys (flannel board sets, big books, board games and puzzles) under couches. I put toys in baskets and store the baskets under side tables. Here is a basket of toys tucked under our theme unit table.
I have two cloth bins that hold ‘out of rotation’ toys under my coffee table in the playroom (originally from the black storage unit).
I have a bench seat in the kitchen that also holds toys. Look around YOUR house; you might be able to find extra storage space here and there. Add a decorative basket or bin and presto– extra toy storage space!
Decide on how often you are going to rotate your toys. I would suggest every week or every two weeks. Pick a time that will work well into your schedule. You can either rotate a few toys every week (this will take about ten minutes) or rotate half the playroom every two weeks (about 20 minutes) or rotate all the toys every month. I have tried out each method and have found changing up a few toys every week works best for my schedule and my kids.
When I switched all the toys, the kids felt compelled to take each new toy off the shelf and play with it a short while before moving on to the next one. Then, we had the whole toy room on the floor in a big mess. I don’t want the kids to ‘sample’ the toys and I want them to ‘engage’ with them. Switching only a few toys each week also allows the children an opportunity to remember where the new toys go back to on the shelf. Every toy has it’s own spot. This makes clean up time a breeze. My “Clean Up Guide” will give you more information if you need help in this department.
On Sunday night (or often Monday morning), I carry three or four toys in a laundry basket and put them back in their designated boxes in the storage room. This is key. You need to put them away in the spot you allocated for them. Your storage room can easily turn into a mess and then it takes too long to rotate the toys. It needs to be quick and easy.
Once the old toys are away, stand there looking at the labeled boxes and decide what to take out for the next week. I think about what kinds of games the kids have been showing interest in. I consider the season and what topics have come up in books or activities we have done. I think about our next theme unit and match toys up with our learning activities. For example; we are currently doing a farm unit so I will bring out farm animals, tractors, play food, a cowboy hat, a duck mask, a soft plush barn set and a pretend hoe and rake. These toys and props will give the children ideas and opportunities to act out the books and stories we will be reading.
I might also pick something completely different (a race car set and an abacus) that hasn’t been in the rotation lately.
I love watching the kids’ faces when they come into the playroom Monday morning and see the toy they haven’t seen in awhile. They immediately start playing the game they played with it last time. As the week goes by, new ways to use the toy are added and the toy is enjoyed again. Sometimes my children will ask me, “we haven’t had the (fire truck) in the playroom for awhile, can we bring it out on Monday?”
My one word of caution to you if you decide to implement a toy rotation system into your home daycare, don’t let the kids into the storage room to choose a toy to take out. I made this mistake, they wanted to bring out ALL the toys, and wanted a new toy EVERY day. It works better if you decide on a schedule that slips easily into your regular routine. You don’t want to add more work to your busy life.
Please share any pieces of advice about toy rotation tips that work for you or bring up an obstacle that you are experiencing. I’m sure there is a daycare provider reader here that has already found a solution. Let’s share our ideas and get the most play value out of each toy we own!