Toy clutter—it’s a problem all parents face. From the toddler years when blocks, push toys, and board books seem to be scattered down the hallway to the school-age years when kids collect tiny Legos, matchbox cars, and Barbie dolls, clutter remains an ongoing issue. A toy rotation is one way to fight this problem.
Step 1: Gather
In the main play area, gather all the toys to the center of the room. You are making a bigger mess at first, but this will help you get organized in the long run. “It may be best to start this process when the kids are in bed or out of the house,” says Colorado Springs, Colorado, mom Kara Thomas. The process may go quicker and smoother sans children. However, if that isn’t an option, get the kids involved and have them help bring toys to the center of the room.
Step 2: Reduce
Go through the pile you have gathered and throw away broken toys and items that have missing pieces. Take out any toys that are no longer age appropriate. Last, pick out toys that the children don’t play with. Jill Miller, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, mom of two, says, “We purge things every year for the annual neighborhood garage sale. It also gives us a little cash boost.” If your family is not up for the work that goes into selling items, consider donating them to a local charity or passing them along to a friend.
Step 3: Sort
Once you have reduced the number of toys, you should be left with age-appropriate toys that your children enjoy. Now divide the toys into three categories: thinking toys (puzzles, board games, shape sorters), pretend play (play food, dolls, blocks), and toys that encourage gross motor play (balls, push toys, cars). When you have the items sorted, there should be three piles, one for each category.
Step 4: Divide
Divide the toys into three to four groups. Each group should have equal numbers of toys from the categories of thinking toys, pretend play, and gross motor toys. Place each group of toys into a large box and label it. Plastic tubs work well and can double as a toy box.
Step 5: Store
Once the toys are sorted and separated into three to four boxes, keep one out and put the remaining boxes in storage. Make sure you have easy access to the stored boxes so you can rotate them frequently.
Step 6: Rotate
Decide how long to keep a box out for play. Some families switch weekly, while some switch every two to three weeks, and some may switch every month or longer. Choose a time that works for your family. When each box is out, take note of what toys are most popular and which items get ignored. As you are packing up the box, remove the items that didn’t get played with and donate or sell them.
By implementing a toy rotation system, you will be able to cut down on toy clutter in your living space because three-fourths of the toys will be in storage at any given time. In addition to a tidier home, there will also be less mess for kids to clean up and a better chance for all the toys to be utilized.
Reduce Toy Clutter
- Participate in garage sales or consignment sales. “We sell toys they are done playing with,” says Olathe, Kansas, mom of five Deanna Brown.
- Pass them along to a friend or a family in need.
- Donate to a local charity.
- Give them to the church nursery or a preschool. Many times an area church or preschool may be in need of used toys in good condition for their classrooms.
- Take them to Grandma’s house. Now the kids will have something to play with when they visit.
- Try the Konmari method using the book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. “I use the Konmari method on the toys and ask, ‘Does this bring my kids joy or me joy?’ If not, then I get rid of it,” says Kassie, mom of three.
- Throw out the junk. Get rid of cheap toys from fast-food kids’ meals and carnivals. These toys rarely offer many hours of play time and often break easily.