Do your kids have legions of Legos? Masses of Matchbox cars? Battalions of Barbies?
If so, I recommend you spend a few hours setting up a toy rotation. It’s pretty painless (especially considering the high pain-threshold you’ve developed from stepping on all those Legos…).
Note of caution before undertaking this project: use your best judgment to decide whether or not your kids should participate. Kids under the age of 5 will likely be more of a hindrance than a help. Plus, since they are generally of the out-of-sight, out-of-mind mentality, they probably won’t remember what toys are missing. (Of course, don’t discard any of their truly favorite toys… that well-loved Thomas train and battered-but-beloved Barbie should stay out at all times… but you already knew that!)
Kids over age 5 can be helpful, depending on their temperament. If you decide not to have them help, just remember that they may feel upset if you discard toys without their input. Even though it might feel scary, I recommend having them help. It will teach them some valuable lessons about living with less, giving to those less fortunate, and valuing their possessions. I used to be scared to have my kids help with organizing, but now I realize that the more they do it, the better they get it at it!
Step One: Toy Mountain – Ferret all those toys from their pesky hiding places (play room, kids’ rooms, the crisper drawer of your fridge, wherever they may be) and assemble them into one big pile.
Step Two: Purge Like a Boss – Get out a samurai sword (or just imagine you have one) and divide toy mountain in half. Yes, half. Half will be kept, the other half… sayonara. Your kids don’t need all those toys, they don’t play with all of them, and your life will be much, much easier without them. Believe me, I speak from experience here. Your kids will be more creative in their play. There will be less toys underfoot because your kids will actually be able to put them away (gasp!). Yes, your kids will still fight over toys. That’s just the nature of kids, no matter how many toys they have. Simply (and quickly) decide if each toy is a keeper or a goner. Sell or donate the goners and move the keepers on to step three.
Step Three: Divide in Half Again – But don’t worry. Nobody’s headed to the donation box this time. Half will stay out for play and the other half will be stored for rotation. Adopt a “separate but equal” policy. Now, before you get the wrong idea, I’m not talking about the bad pre-Civil Rights separate but equal, but the good my-kids-like-these-toys-about-the-same separate but equal. Basically, if your kids would consider Mr. Potato Head and Buzz Lightyear to be of separate but equal awesomeness, put Buzz out for play, and let Mr. P chill in a bin for awhile. (I mean, he’s a potato, after all, chillin’ in a bin is kind of his thing…)
Step Four: Store It! Select a good spot for out-of-rotation toys. I put mine in the attic, some people put them in a closet or cupboard. It really doesn’t matter, as long as the location is not easily accessible for your kids. You don’t want them treating the out-of-rotation toys like another play area. My kids are now old enough to access the out of rotation toys, but I tell them that the toys are resting and need to be left alone. (I will sometimes let them swap me a current toy for an out-of-rotation one, though, if they wish.)
Step Five: And Rotate! Some people do this every few weeks. I do it when my kids get noticably antsy with their current toys, usually every two months or so, more often in winter. A major bonus of toy rotation: the day you get those “new” toys out, your kids will play happily for hours. I love using toy rotation as a sanity-saver for bad weather days!
That’s it! Toys rotated, mom and kids happy, the world a better place. I’d love to hear some ideas about how you use toy rotation in your house!