Toy rotation is one of the best things you can do for your child, your home, your wallet, the environment, and (most important) your sanity.
The process is really simple. All you have to do is put away toys and materials that your child has lost interest in and bring out items that your child hasn't used in awhile. This keeps the play area fresh and engaging. Plus, it keep toys and Montessori materials interesting for so much longer. No need to buy new toys for every stage of development.
Why Toy Rotation Works...
Because children change so much in the first 6 years, they use toys and materials differently, even just a month or two apart. For instance, a ring stacker (pictured below), has different uses for different ages.
First the child will just explore the wooden rings with all their senses - touching, mouthing, banging together. They may even try to stack a couple of them.
Next, the child will use it to develop fine motor skills, placing the rings on the dowel.
Lastly, the child will use it to learn size discrimination, placing the rings in order from largest to smallest or smallest to largest.
Once the child has mastered the intended use and is interested in pretend play, they might even use the pieces in their imaginative play.
Toy rotation has so many other benefits as well. It:
Prevents children from feeling overwhelmed by the number of choices, making it easier for them to play independently
Makes the play area look less cluttered, making it a more relaxing space for parents and children
Less toys makes clean up easier
Limited options generally promotes creativity because children have to use the materials available in their imaginary play
Requires you to buy less toys so you can justify buying higher quality, more beautiful options
How To Do Toy Rotation
There's no set rules for toy rotation but here's a few simple guidelines to help:
There's no recommended schedule for when toy rotation needs to happen but usually children enjoy some new materials every 2-4 weeks. Follow your child's lead. Check the section below to watch for the signs your child is ready for new material.
It's generally not recommended to change out all the toys and materials at once. It can be stressful for your child when the playroom looks entirely different overnight. It's often easier to replace 1-2 items at a time when you notice your child losing interest.
If your child does seem stressed about where the toys are going, you can involve them in the toy rotation process. Have them help you put the items into storage containers and take the new items out to put on the shelf.
When rotating items, pay attention to your child's current interests and developments. Ideally you'd offer new materials that build on your child's current interests.
Signs Your Child Is Ready for New Materials
They seem bored, maybe they're asking to watch TV more frequently or have less interest in playing independently.
They're overly destructive with materials. Once children have gotten everything they can out of a toy's intended use (at their stage of development), they're going to try and find new uses. This can result in destructive behaviour like throwing, dropping, or banging toys.
They mastered the item successfully and haven't touched it in a few days.
You don't have to overcomplicate the storage. You can use whatever you have on hand, even empty shipping boxes, shoe boxes, or plastic bags. It's just helpful to keep all the pieces of a toy together.
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