Toy Rotation - How To Encourage Children To Play With Their Old Toys?

Toy Rotation - How To Encourage Children To Play With Their Old Toys?

Toy Rotation - How To Encourage Children To Play With Their Old Toys?

Have you ever felt like your child doesn't play with their toys? When it comes to toys, we have such a wide variety of them available that we can get overwhelmed and buy much more than our child actually is able to play with. As a matter of fact, children need much less toys than many of us would think. They can actually get frustrated and even bored when they have too many toys available, especially if they are all on display. This will lead to them not playing with any of their toys.

Kim John Payne, co-author of the book Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids says: "As you decrease the quantity of your child's toys and clutter, you increase their attention and their capacity for deep play."

Decluttering and giving away unused toys and ones that your child had outgrown is a great starting point.

Toy rotation simply means that you only leave a few toys on display and pack away the rest. You will then have to observe which ones your child reaches for and which ones are staying on the shelf. At regular intervals, you will then put away the ones that are not played with and put out a few new ones that had been stored away. 

It is good to be able to identify in which developmental phase your child is, as based on that knowledge it will be easier for you to decide which toys to leave on display. 

    How to set up a toy rotation system?

    To start the process, gather all toys and go through each and every one of them, use a critical eye when deciding which toys to keep and which ones to give away. 

    After this is done, categorize the toys, you will find a few examples in the table below. Choose 2-3 toys from each category and put them in rotation boxes, try to put a variety of toys in each box. The amount of toys you have out at a time greatly depends on your child and on how many children play with them at a time so consider this only as a guide. You could label the boxes, give them a number and note down which contains what toys. Then store them somewhere where your child doesn't have access to them. 

    The next step is to arrange the first set of toys in the play area. If your child asks about the toys that are put away, tell them that they will be back soon. 

    Usually, any kind of toy rotation has a positive effect. If a toy hasn’t been seen for a while, it will be played with as if it was new. But it can be even more interesting if for example instead of the cars that have been out for a while, you put out different types of vehicles. 

    Here is a quick example to give you some ideas:

    Toy Category

    First Week

    Third Week



    Magnetic blocks


    Emergency vehicles


    Play figures






    Soft toys



    Loose parts

    Natural materials

    Man made materials

    You could also create seasonal boxes or book boxes. Put in a box some books about spring for example, along with spring themed toys or characters from your child's favourite spring themed book (Bugs, flowers etc.) 

    The frequency of toy rotation is not set in stone. The key is that you leave a toy out for long enough so that your child can explore it but not so long that they lose interest in it. A week is usually a good length of time but for example many open-ended toys (like the Rainbow Stackers) can be left out for longer periods as they can be used in many different ways and scenarios. Some other toys, like play kitchens, coffee sets, dolls’ houses, baby buggies and such change with your child’s play so don’t really need rotating. 

    If your child really enjoys playing with a specific toy, it can certainly be left out for as long as your child finds it interesting.

    What if you have only got one of a certain type of toy?

    For example if your child really enjoys playing with the train around the train track, in the spirit of recycling, you could use a big piece of cardboard (or some small ones) and draw a road network on it and add some vehicles, pieces of stackers to use as bridges and even add some small cardboard boxes as garages. 

    Another great option is swapping toys with cousins and friends who have something you don’t.

    Benefits of toy rotation

    • Having fewer toys available reduces over-stimulation and encourages creative thinking and independent play
    • A rotation is an opportunity to pick out toys that are no longer reached for
    • Each rotation brings out "new toys" which reduces boredom
    • Creates less clutter, makes decluttering and clean-ups quicker and easier 
    • Creates a calmer environment
    • The child gets to practise doing an activity for a longer period of time as their attention isn’t diverted to whatever has just caught their eye
    • Leads to developed sense of patience and perseverance and heightened creativity as the child learns to repurpose toys in different ways


    At first, the thought of toy rotation can be a bit overwhelming. But once you start doing it you will quickly see the difference it makes in the way your child plays with their toys. And you will absolutely love the fact that clean-up will take much less time and your home will look tidier! :-)