I used to struggle with how to organise the playroom for our 3 children, under the age of 6. After years of organising bedrooms and playrooms with toys, I have created my top 6 ways to rotate toys for more meaningful playtime.
1. If the playroom isn’t being used for play, it’s time to rotate toys.
I’m always catching myself saying “you have a million toys, go play with then!” That’s when I realise it’s time to rotate toys. The playroom has lost it’s play potential and now they are bringing toys to the lounge room and I can’t watch Netflix.
For my kids, they will usually bring their toys out from the playroom every 2-3 weeks. I’ll ask them to take it all back in and I’ll rearrange shelves and toys to make it interesting again.
I keep most of the craft, puzzles, paints, stationary and games in our storeroom. I’ll usually rotate puzzles. Crafts, paints and stationary are supervised so they are used when I have spare time.
2. Safety First
I call this the tidal wave of destruction, but as your baby grows into a toddler that 12-24 months is an age of destruction. They crawl and pull themselves up to reach breakables, then they can climb to reach breakables. Rather than beating yourself up about the mess you’re better off embracing mess. Safety first means putting any breakables like glass jars or special gifts up high and only using these items when supervised.
Another potential problem is your toddler climbing shelves. This is a danger in my own children’s playroom so I make sure anything that is heavy like blocks goes at the bottom of shelves. Rather than making shelves top heavy and easy to pull down on themselves.
Choking hazards during clean up should be thrown out or put up high. I usually ask myself the question: “Could he silently choke on this if I was in a different room?” Sometimes, gifts older siblings receive often have chocking hazards. I will usually keep those toys in their own bedroom as much as possible.
3. Age Appropriate Toys
Another simple way to rotate toys for play time is to make sure toys are age appropriate. It can be hard putting away the baby toys as the toddler starts to grow up, but having space for more challenging toys will help develop their critical thinking.
With a baby, toddler and primary school child, I would challenge the baby to pull himself up to the second shelf and reach toys and books that were hard cover, touch and feel books. I used instruments and blocks for him to reach and manipulate for play.
My toddler and primary school child could reach the top of the shelves, so I would add paperback books, letter blocks, delicate instruments and magnetic shapes.
I used the floor space to encourage our crawling baby onto fake grass, over foam mats, and crawl chasing balls.
4. Creating zones within the playroom space.
The forth way to rotate toys for meaningful play is to create zones within the playroom space. It can be a juggle in a small area to give each child enough space. Rotating toys will help challenge higher order thinking play for each kid.
Zone ideas include:
- tummy time corner for baby
- dress ups and role play
- construction zone for blocks and duplo
- quiet space for reading
- small world – tiny toys play
- Home corner with kitchen
- gross motor zone
5. Clear out
I sometimes get the best ideas for developing play when I have a clear out of craft and toys. Our storeroom and cupboards get messy over time, but every 6 months I recommend a thorough clear out. I normally find things I have forgotten about or things that were never completed. Set aside a solid nap time without kids or ask a friend to have them one morning to allow time for this.
I like the idea of Marie Kondo’s ‘get everything out and organise your items’ strategy. I like this idea to organise toys and crafts from the cupboards and storeroom. I usually gather alike categories into piles rather than double handle everything. Puzzles, paints, puppets, glitter, stickers, stencils, card board, games are all organised into separate piles on the floor so that I can see how much space I will need back in the storeroom, what can be recycled and what can go in the bin.
Getting organised helps us as parents to be motivated to play with our children. Rather than feeling overwhelmed by mess, when we make time to reorganise we create mindful play which is intentional play with our children. Intentional play scaffolds better communication skills and higher order learning from quality time. As much as I put aside organising, it does make me more motivated in parenting.
6. Always lead back to literacy
After I’ve created a new space for play I’ll ask myself “how can I lead this back to literacy?” Your child’s play space should have space for books or words. Even from infancy, their literacy should be ‘normal’ even if it wasn’t for your childhood.
You could try having a book shelf that you rotate the books around. Placing baby touch and feel books at the bottom and paperback large prints at the top. Each of my children has age appropriate books in their own room for bed time reading, but a common area for literacy is just as important.
I have a calendar that can be changed depending on the weather and date. To promote independent reading I’ll add books at eye level for them to seek.
Sometimes, we also add labels to everyday items so that we build words in their memory. For example, in other rooms like the bathroom we have laminated words around the room, such as: “mirror” “sink” and “shower.” In the playroom there’s “artwork” and “window” and in the kitchen there is “clock” and “plates.”
If you have any questions about toy rotations write it in our comments section! We would love to hear from you. I hope this post has encouraged you to embrace mess and be intentional in developing critical thinking skills in your kids.
Written by Sarah Courtney