Have you been thinking about starting a toy rotation system, but are unsure if you want to commit to keeping it in place? Have you started rotating toys, but are feeling burnt out? Here are 5 tips to help you keep up the good work.
1) Know your motivation!
Any pursuit that requires additional application, at some point, will beg for a reminder of your initial purpose or motivation for undertaking the task. There are excellent reasons for adhering to a toy rotation system. Next time you feel bogged down by having to rotate toys, consider that young children have short attention spans and crave mental and physically stimulation Translated: young children behave best and demonstrate the most growth and contentment when they are consistently stimulated through play and learning. I caution readers against feeling pressured to play the role of entertainer for their child (signing them up for too many classes, feeling pressured to always be playing with them, etc…). Instead, research dictates that children remain engaged when their environments are arranged and routinely changed to promote self-directed play and learning. Renounce the parent guilt pleading with you to accept the post of entertainer and primary playmate. Send in your resignation and quickly secure your new title: Chief Facilitator of Play and Learning Experiences. Your first task on the job (of the most vital and urgent importance of course) is to set up and adhere to a toy rotation system. To learn more about why rotating toys is important read my article: Rethinking the Playroom
2) High and lofty goals result in burnout.
Ask any dieter and they will agree, that sustainable transformation is achieved through steady, incremental changes. The same goes for keeping to a new organizational system. If you are being engorged by a house full of toys, then it may be time for an intervention, but pick one area at a time to overhaul. Instead of making a goal to clean all the toys in your home, start with a room or a particular toy collection that is the most problematic. Also, start with an area that you are sure to be successful in reworking. If your playroom is looking like a scene from Hurricane Sandy, then try starting with one of your kid’s bedrooms first. If you are successful there, then take what you learned from overhauling the bedroom and apply it to the playroom. If your toddler’s train collection is the biggest problem, then set the blocks, books and other toys out of mind while you work to create a better system for storing and playing with trains. I find that most homes need solutions for book storage and use. Books are usually the first place that I start organizing when I go on home visits. To learn more about book display and rotation, read my article: Book Rotation and Display.
3) Call for reinforcements!
You have penciled in every Wednesday afternoon as toy rotation time. Thursday morning rolls around and the old toys are still scattered about and you have no time attend to them. What should you do? It may mean that you need to pick a new day or time to rotate. Chaotic weeks are the number one deterrent to toy rotation. Usually, kids are less content and helpful during rotation on those weeks, so be flexible. If you are trudging through a tumultuous mess of a week, then don’t give up on toy rotation entirely, just be flexible with when and how you complete the rotation. Perhaps you need to use a little electronic babysitter (i.e. T.V. show) to help you out for 20 minutes so you can quickly rotate toys. If you are uncomfortable with using T.V. so you can get the job done, just hop back up to item #1 of this article and remind yourself of the benefits of rotation. Your kids will benefit all week from the toys and activities that you prepared for them during that 20 minutes T.V. show. Consider arranging for someone else to play with your children for a hour so you can rotate toys and accomplish other essential tasks (or just take a nap afterward!). Paying $10-$15 for a mother’s helper or babysitter to help you out is a great investment. See if a neighborhood friend wants to swap kids with you while you rotate and then you can return the favor for an hour while he/she tends to things they need to do. Also, you can enlist your spouse or a family member to join forces with you by helping with the children or by working alongside you and your little ones while you rotate toys and activity centers.
4) Keep a list.
My fellow “Type A” readers are now probably getting excited at the mention of a list. If you don’t know where to start when you need to rotate toys or you can’t remember which toys were out last week or the week before, then make a list of your toys or themes you use for toy rotation. Follow the list and take one step out of the process. I like using themes so I keep a list of our favorites in the closet where I store my toys. Here is an example: farm, space, fairies, doll house, cars, construction.
At rotation time, go around and pull out toys, books and activities that correspond with your theme. Throw in a couple odds and ends that don’t have a theme and you will have yourself a fresh set of toys.
5) Clean-up each day
Kids are scattered by nature and likewise so are their toys. A set of blocks in a nice little box will find their way into the basement, bathroom and wagon in the backyard within one day of play. Once your toys are scattered everywhere, tidying up or maintaining a toy rotation system transforms from a hill into a mountain of a project. To combat burnout, schedule 15 minutes of clean-up nightly into your schedule. Before bedtime, facilitate a group clean-up session. Even if all the toys don’t return to their permanent home, most toys will within 15 minutes if you observe your clean-up regimen daily. On rotation day, finding all the parts and pieces to put away to make room for the fresh picks will be notably easier.
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To learn more about setting up a toy rotation system, read my article: Toy Rotation: Step by Step Guide