New year, new start – am I right?
I’m sure all of us are ready to see the back of 2020. As I type right now, I’m itching to take down the Christmas tree and get organised ready for a fresh start in 2021. I know that many of you are ready for the exact same thing.
One of the questions I get asked the most over on Instagram relates to toy rotations, play spaces and organisation, so I thought I’d collate all of my answers here on the website. If you find that your question isn’t answered here, please don’t hesitate to DM me via Instagram or send a message via the contact form.
Why are toy rotations and place space organisation important? You might be wondering…
Children need the time and space to be able to get really stuck into play. It is impossible for them to play independently if their space is in chaos and toys are cluttered everywhere. So whilst toy rotations might seem like an excuse for Instagram influencers to show off all of the expensive toys they have been gifted, there is way more to it than that.
In my course, Your Playful Home, I teach my students about the importance of creating a welcoming home environment. Play space organisation and toy rotation doesn’t just help our children out but it helps us too.
Hands-up if you constantly feel like life is happening to you right now? I used to feel this way too – especially after my third child was born. I felt guilty for not doing enough with my toddler and yet I was exhausted by the merry-go-round feeling of having to create yet another planned activity.
Play space organisation changed all of this for us. By creating a intentional, inviting space for my children I was able to gain time back and work on my own projects too. So yes, I will shout it from the roof tops that play space organisation is important!
Toy rotation seems like a lot of effort. Is it worth it?
Short answer: yes! Toy rotation does indeed seem like a lot of effort, especially in the beginning. It does take a while to sort out the toys you have, then there is the dilemma of where to put the items that aren’t on show (more on this later).
However, the benefits are worth the initial time it takes to set up. First of all, it will make your children more independent in their play. They will be able to see what is on offer on the shelves and take out items of their own choosing. Toy rotation also makes it a lot easier to tidy away too – not only because there is less out in the first place, but because the children find it easier to help.
We first introduced it when I found out I was pregnant with my third child. Z was around 18 months at the time and I really wanted to help her become more independent with her play. By the time E was born, she was really good at choosing items to play with from the shelves without having to ask me for help. This was so valuable during the early days of breastfeeding when I seemed to be glued to the couch for hours on end!
Where is the best place for a play space?
This really depends on the type of space you have available! Some people dedicate a spare room but if that isn’t possible, a corner of the living space is just a good a choice. We have three children and as we live away from the rest of my family, the spare room has never been an option for us, so we have divided our main living space into three sections (play space/ lounge area/ dining room) This works for us because I can easily see the children – my youngest has just turned one so with our set up, I can still keep a close eye on him whilst he plays more independently.
How do I get started with toy rotation?
The first step you need to take is to declutter the space you intend to use, then organise toys like for like. Decluttering is a really important part of the process because a good play space is not laden down with heaps of toys. My course, Your Playful Home: Set up your home for playful learning & independence takes you through each part step by step.
Where do you store all of the toys that aren’t being used in a toy rotation?
This will depend on the size of your house. Good options include, using an empty chest of drawers for the purpose of storing toys or alternatively, you may wish to consider under the bed storage. You can find out more about our furniture recommendations for play spaces here.
How do you stop a toddler from pulling everything off the shelves?
This really depends on how old the child in question is. Very young children (under 2 years of age) are likely to just be exploring what happens when toys are emptied out of their baskets – it isn’t ‘naughty’ behaviour at all. Let them explore, but also encourage them to help tidy up and put the toys back too.
With older children, get them involved with the tidying up of the play space right from day one. They need to know that they are responsible for tidying away the items that they have played with. If you need to, try implementing a rule where they have to put one item back before playing with another.
However, if the toys simply aren’t being played with – perhaps just dumped and then ignored, think about whether its time to change up the shelves and switch items around.
How often do you rotate the shelves?
I change up the play space every 1-2 weeks. I closely monitor what is being played with and what has just been left ignored for a few days.
If the toys are still being played with after a few weeks, I keep that current set up in place. There is absolutely no point in changing items around if they are still popular – save yourself a job! Case in point, our animal small world that has been on rotation for at least 6 weeks now.
If you are looking for toy rotation inspiration, head on over to my Instagram page after this for a weekly dose of inspiration both in stories and posts.
My child is obsessed with … how do I get them playing with other items?
Children do tend to get fixated on one particular type of play for a while so my advice is to introduce items that will expand their interest. I’m going to use the example of play food here because this was essentially the question asked over on Instagram stories!
If your child is only interested in playing with toy food, try introducing a few other items that might expand that interest – for example, a cash register (made or bought), a toy / real landline telephone (with the cords cut off) or a small table and chairs to play ‘restaurants’.
Other than providing items that will help expand their play, try making other items visible on the shelves as well. Maybe even play with the other toys yourself to see if that captures their interest.
How do I arrange a play space for a range of ages?
This can be really tricky but always put toys out that are suitable for the youngest child in your care. With the under threes this means avoiding anything that could be considered a choking hazard. This is something we’ve had to get used to since Miss 3 was born – my eldest 6.5 years at the time is (and was) Lego obsessed so we had to move it all to his room and impose strict rules around keeping it there.
Alternatively, is there a way to segment the room? With child gates for example, or is there another room that can be used by the older children for more independent play? If these aren’t real options for you, try keeping the small items in small storage boxes for table top play.
Whatever you decide here, impose some ground rules so that small ‘chokable’ items aren’t in reach of your littlest learners.
- Play space organisation helps your child to become more independent in play
- Toy rotations can be done every one to two weeks
- Play spaces should cater to the youngest child in the room – so no choking hazards for the under 3s!
- Follow your child’s interests and behaviours to increase the likelihood of toys being played with
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