Montessori: Explaining Toy Rotation

Toy rotation is a common practice for us mommas trying to incorporate a little Montessori into our lives. But what exactly is toy rotation and how can it enhance play?

Too many toys can leave children feeling overwhelmed and unsure about what to play with. Toy rotation basically means giving your children access to a small number of toys at a time that you rotate after allowing them enough time to really explore and interact with the toys.

The first time I read about toy rotation I was hooked on the idea and couldn’t wait to try it out. The difficulty was that back then we lived with my partner’s mum and had no storage, like, ZERO. So I waited until we had our own apartment to test out the toy rotation theory.

As a stay-at-home mum with a toddler who has never spent a day in childcare, toy rotation is tough. I use Thalia’s built-in wardrobe to store her toys, but the minute that she hears me open the door and slide a box off of the shelf – I swear kids have super-hearing – she wants to get her hands on everything, and how can I say no?!

Well, the short answer is that I can’t, and soon enough she is sitting on her bedroom floor surrounded by a ceremonial circle of unicorns, dinosaurs, dolls, and absolutely loving life. For about 5 minutes.

But I promise, when it does work, it’s great!

What is toy rotation?

Toy rotation means that the bulk of toys are stored away with your child having access to just a few at one time – depending on how much time your child spends at home, you can rotate the toys as often or as little as you like.

I tried rotating every fortnight and found that Thalia was completely disinterested in the toy selection much faster than this, so now I try to aim for once a week. When I remember. Which isn’t often – let’s keep it real.

The benefits of toy rotation

Hiding toys probably sounds really mean, but I promise you that it’s the complete opposite! Your child will have easy access to all of the toys that they can see, and you won’t get stressed about them emptying boxes of toys, crayons, and puzzles all over the floor, only for them to walk away and find something else to do 2 minutes later.

Here are a few more benefits of toy rotation:

  • It’s one of the easiest ways to deal with toy overload.
  • Too many toys can be overwhelming and create disinterest in playing.
  • It’s much easier and faster to tidy.
  • Everyday objects are turned into toys – children become even more creative with access to fewer toys.
  • It’s easier to prepare for the influx of gifts that inevitably arrive every birthday and Christmas.
  • They will spend longer on one activity due to fewer distractions, meaning that play is experienced on a deeper level.

I’m still learning, but here are my top toy rotation tips (that’s fun to say) so far:

Use categories

Store toys in boxes according to categories, then select toys from each category instead of wondering which toys to get out each week – it also makes it easier to recognise which toys you had out the most recently.

Another method is to categorise the toys, and then divide them equally between 4/5 boxes. When toy rotation day comes around, you just put all of the current toys in their box and pull out the next box!

Use shelves

A set of toddler-height shelves are a great place to display a few toys or books that your child can help themselves to whenever they want.

Set up little worlds

Thalia’s dolls have a cot, pushchair, and a little wicker chair that make for a very cute play scene. Setting up things like farm sets make the toys look ready to play with and appeal more to children.

Play with them

Although solo play is great for children and the perfect way for you to grab a few minutes of peace, playing with your children is an effective way to demonstrate how they can use their dolls and kitchen together – for example.

Rotate the toys whilst they sleep

Try to keep the location of the stored toys a secret, or at least out of reach and not visible. Change the toys around without them knowing so that you don’t end up surrounded by toys – like we often do.

Take some time outside

When things get boring in the house, head outside for an hour or so – this could be in the garden, on a walk, or in a nearby park. They’ll come back with new eyes for their toys!

Use household items for different games

Give children access to your (safe) kitchen utensils, sports equipment, a spray bottle for watering house plants, or your cork collection (is that just me??) will change things up a bit.

Group toys

Group toys together for a better learning experience. For example, you could put a shape sorter along with a book about shapes on a shelf or in a basket together.

Use things from outside the house

Use sticks, flowers, and leaves to change up toy rotation. They can make painting, farm play, and pretend-cooking a little bit different.

Let them get bored

Boredom is the birthplace of creative play! For us, this usually happens whilst I’m in the shower – I often come out to discover a little world that she has created.

Don’t put multiple toys in visible boxes

We used to have two toy boxes in the living room that were overflowing with Thalia’s toys. Guess what, she never played with any of them. Ever. There’s a lot to be said for an attractive and accessible play area!

Most of all, I’ve found that being flexible on toys is the best way to tackle toy rotation and Montessori methods. Some days – usually when I have a lot of work to get done – I’ll pull down Thalia’s cuddly toy box and let her go wild for an hour. Do what works the best for you!

By Keira Leane Shepherd
Reproduced with kind permission

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