Updated: Apr 13, 2021
Bean and I live in a small Victorian terrace. We don't have the luxury of a playroom, or home 'school' room, and space is limited. If, like me, you want your home to be beautiful and calm, but also an inviting and purposeful play and learning space for your children, then toy rotation is a game changer.
What's the point?
Toy rotation can take some time to establish, but it is so worth it as it has many, many benefits. Here are just a few...
*Children can feel overstimulated by too much choice. With less toys available, children become more engaged, and play becomes deeper and richer.
*Toy rotation encourages independence, as children can access and put away toys and resources themselves. This in turn leads to children learning how to play on their own.
*Creativity and imagination blossoms as the children find new ways to play with the same toys. You will even find that they reinvent everyday objects for play value.
*Siblings argue less.
*Tidy up time becomes so much more manageable.
Where do I start?
Decluttering is the first and most important step. I've written a whole other blog post about that, which you can read here. If you do not already have toy rotation in place, this is how to start. You want to consider a few toys/resources that you’ll have in your space as your ‘continuous provision’, so they will live permanently in your play space. Be as minimal as you feel able, as the toys/resources that live permanently in your space need to be easy for you all to manage.
When you are selecting the toys and resources for your continuous provision, try to aim for a 80/20 ratio (80% flexible to 20% non-flexible toys).
So, for example, in our play and learning space we have less than ten toys that form our continuous provision. They are..
*a set of large natural wooden blocks (flexible)
*a basket of books, both fiction and non-fiction (the books themselves rotate, but there’s always a basket of books available - non-flexible)
*a basket of dressing up clothes (flexible, as mostly play silks, accessories and props)
*a box of little people (we have Playmobil - non-flexible)
*our Spielgaben set (loose parts - flexible)
*our wobbel board (flexible)
*paper, pencils and pens (flexible)
If your child has a favourite toy, dinosaurs for example, then you would keep out a basket of dinosaurs as part of your continuous provision. Your continuous provision is whatever you decide meets the needs and interests of your young children. I usually recommend that books, and mark making resources (paper and pencils/pens/chalks) should be included, but you decide what is appropriate and suitable for your children.
What do I do with all the other toys?
Everything else needs to be categorised and packed away, out of sight, and you will rotate in/out new toys and resources each week/fortnight/month, depending on your topic and areas of interest.
I'd love to be able to say that I have this wonderful system in place for organising all of our toys and resources, but as I said above, we live in a small house and space is limited. I've had to utilise various spaces, and I am yet to even begin to declutter and organise our art and craft materials which are currently dotted about all over the house!
Here are our maths shelves which are in a corner of our dining room. It is an Ikea 'Trofast' unit, with shelf inserts. Bean is 7, and now understands that she can access these materials independently, provided she doesn't get it all out at once and that she puts things back when she is done. These are ALL of our math resources (not including books) and, although they are freely available to her, she tends to play with each material more when it is out as part of our toy rotation.
In my bedroom, behind the door, I have a large Ikea 'Kallax' unit which is where I store all of our books; fiction, non-fiction and curriculum. In this photograph I am midway through sorting them all out. They are now organised into Literacy, Numeracy, Science, Nature Study, Seasonal, Geography, History, Language and Arts, with the whole bottom shelf for fiction.
In our utility room I have a set of shelves for some of our bulkier toys, for example, our marble run and basket of musical instruments. I also store our spare trays and baskets here. The toys are all stored in baskets because they are portable and beautiful, and I've found that once they are up on the shelves Bean is not interested in them because the contents are not visible.
I have a shelf or two in the cupboard on our landing, a shelf in my wardrobe, a cupboard in the kitchen. Basically, any space that I can tuck things away, out of sight. I dream of having it all in one place, and one day I'm sure that I will, but it doesn't really matter. It works for us, so I'm sure that it could work for you too.
Since writing this blog post back in October 2018, I have launched an online course for parents and childcare professionals, called The Simple Art of Toy Rotation. Join me and my lovely cohort of past participants to learn how to reduce, refine, organise and present toys to facilitate creative and independent play. The course is practical and fun, and your membership is for life, so you can benefit from any updates I make and refresh your skills every time I run the course. You can read the full course description and sign up here. The next course starts on Thursday 22nd April 2021.
Do you have toy rotation in place? What difference has it made to your family? If you would like to start, but you have more questions, please comment below or on the social media threads, and I'll do my best to answer them. Please share with friends or family who you think might find this post useful.
With love, Rowan x