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"Mom, please don't give away this car to another family".

I felt SO guilty when my son said that to me, looking at me with those big blue eyes and clutching his favourite diecast police car.

My son thought I was giving away his toys, when I was simply rotating them out and putting the old ones away in the closet - a common practice in Montessori and something I do every month or so.

I was trying to keep things fresh and engaging and he thought I was donating his toys :(

I talk about how perceptive and sensitive toddlers are all the time but I completely failed to notice his anxiety every time I refreshed the toy shelves.

So why do toy rotation at all?

Don't get me wrong, I still love toy rotation! It keeps things fresh.

Children, like adults, get bored of doing the same thing every day. They might be really into something for a few weeks and then not interested at all anymore.

That's when it can help to put away toys or activities for a month or two.
Yes, we put away even the big stuff, like the Pikler, for a few months at a time.

Then, when you bring something out again, it's like a brand new toy.

And it really can feel brand new with children so young, whose reasoning skills and physical capabilities could have changed significantly in just a few months.

They may be able to interact with a toy or activity in an entirely different way than the last time they used it.

Toy rotation also reduces clutter, waste, and helps me to invest in fewer, better quality toys.

So where did I go wrong here?

When I talked to Katie, our pre-casa teacher on staff and the creator of our at-home program, she reminded me they always do shelf rotation in the classroom WITH the children.

She explained that toddlers can be so sensitive to change. To take away their things in the night and completely change their environment is disorienting.

So we started doing it together, going through the closet and picking out new activities or toys he was excited to see again.

Yes, this did take much longer but something amazing happened....

He voluntarily suggested giving away some of this toys that he no longer wanted.

I've tried to talk to him before about donating or giving away things we no longer use but he's always been resistant to the idea.

It's likely he was thinking that it could be any toy at any point, and he has no say in the matter. Maybe thinking he'd go to bed one night and all his favourite toys would be gone.

Now he feels like he has control and understands the process.

After Christmas, when there was a bunch of new toys in the house, we went through the closet and he offered up half a dozen things he said he didn't want any more.

(Admittedly, I snuck a few of the baby toys into my closet for our new little one on the way. Who knows, maybe this will mean less fighting over his old toys with the new baby...)

Get kids to donate toys

Added Bonus of Toy Rotation

Less requests for screen time!

We do a bit of tv in the house but i find every time we set up the shelf again, he's just so excited to play with all the new stuff that I get little to no screen time requests.

In fact, that's now my gauge for when we need to do a rotation - when I start to get daily (or hourly) requests to watch Handy Manny :)