Is Toy Rotation Worth The Effort?

Is Toy Rotation Worth The Effort? Plus the answers to 7 more questions!

Six months ago I got fed up with all of the toy clutter around the house and decided it was time to take drastic action. I gathered up all the toys, sorted them into bins, and started our family’s experiment with a toy rotation system. It is time to report back and share what is working, what isn’t working, and if it is really worth the extra effort.

If you’ve never heard of toy rotation or you want to hear exactly how I set up our system, read the post Cutting Down on Clutter with Toy Rotation from six months ago.

An Update 6 Months After Starting A Toy Rotation System

How often do you rotate the toys?

In the winter months I did it every week or every week and a half. As soon as the weather got nicer, I started spreading out the rotations even more. I don’t have a strict schedule for it, but I’m probably rotating the boxes every two weeks.

How long does it take you to pack up the old toys and pull out the new ones?

It always feels like it is going to take me a lot longer than it actually does. If all the toys are cleaned up, I can pack up the bin in less than 10 minutes. It takes me more time if the kids are around when I do this. I do not recommend trying to pack up toys with children around.

How do you reveal the new toys to your children?

I had read about a mom who packed up their toys each Friday night after the kids were in bed and then every Saturday morning was like Christmas when the kids came downstairs to see the new toys sitting out. That was not my experience. My kids were very unimpressed when I tried that.

What really works for my family is to let the kids unpack the new bin of toys themselves. They can clearly see all the new toys without any of them getting “lost” inside a basket or on a high shelf. They don’t have to go “hunting” for the new toys. They are all right there for them to dig through. They love it!

Do your children miss toys that have been packed up? Do they ever ask for packed up toys?

At first Grace asked for toys quite often. I explained that her toy was packed up and we would get it out another time. If she insisted, then I went looking for the toy. I think she just needed some time to learn what this toy rotation thing was all about.

The only thing Noah ever seemed to ask for was a ball. I learned quickly that Noah needed to have easy access to the balls at all time. I was careful to make sure there was some kind of ball in each bin, but Noah has his favorites.

Is Toy Rotation Worth The Effort? Plus 7 More Questions Answered!

What is the hardest part about using a toy rotation system?

Setting up the system took the most time, but maintaining the toy rotation system is the hardest part. Although it doesn’t take much time to pack up a bin and bring up a new one, I have to mentally be in the mood for the task and the children need to be occupied somewhere else.

We don’t have a play room. Toys don’t stay in just one spot in our house. It is annoying (and a bit of a drag) to gather all the toys that wandered away. I often find missing puzzle pieces, a lost Little People animal, or random blocks after I’ve packed up a bin. I started to throw them all into a basket on top of our toy shelf so I can keep the random little pieces somewhat organized until I bring up the bin that they belong in.

Do you keep a list of everything that goes in each toy rotation bin?

Oh goodness no. I’m not nearly that organized. As a matter of fact, the last time I switched out bins I brought up all of the bins so I could reorganize them a bit. They weren’t quite as even as they had once been. Grace has taken some of toys that were once in the bins and started keeping them in her room for quiet time play. I’m fine with that, but it did mess up my system a bit. So I just sorted through all the bins again. I pulled out toys Noah has out grown and anything else the children never play with.

Where do you keep the bins of toys so your children don’t find them and play with everything?

Our bins are in the basement. Our children never go into the basement by themselves. We don’t encourage them to play down there since it isn’t a finished space. Honestly, I think they would be a bit scared to go down there alone. It helps that our children are 2 years old and nearly 5 years old.

After all the work to set it up and maintain it, is a toy rotation system worth the effort?

Yes, yes, and yes a thousand more times. There are moments when maintaining this system is a pain, but keeping our toy clutter under control before was a daily pain. It is so much easier to clean up the toys each night.

My children are much more engaged with the toys than they were before we started the system. There is genuine excitement when we pull out a new bin. Before the only toy excitement my kids expressed was at Christmas or on their birthdays.

An added surprise bonus to doing toy rotation is that it was much easier to gather toys for our 8 hour road trip this summer. I usually try to hide some of the good car ride toys a couple weeks before we have a big trip so the kids are excited to play with them in the car. This year I went in the basement, opened all the bins, and pulled out plenty of good toys the kids hadn’t seen for awhile. It was so easy!

If toy rotation sounds like something you would like to try, make sure you read Cutting Down on Clutter with Toy Rotation to see how I sorted our toys and set up our system.

Do you have any more questions about toy rotation systems? If you’ve tried it, did you think it was worth the effort?

Posted in Parenthood | 10 Comments

Melissa & Doug Toys for 20% Off

Melissa and Doug Toys for 20% off on Amazon - My kids love these toys!

I am a huge fan of Melissa & Doug toys.  They are a company I trust and my children love playing with their toys. Get an early start on your Christmas shopping (eek! Did I really say Christmas??) with these great sales from Amazon.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. These prices are subject to change.

As of July 23, 2014, the following Melissa & Doug toys are all at least 20% off and qualify for prime shipping:

Click on each image for product information, pricing, and to make your purchase.

OUTDOOR FUN:





BABY TOYS:




PLAY FOOD:



ART & MUSIC:






BLOCKS & PUZZLES:





AND MORE!



Would you like to see more posts like this highlighting deals I find online? Let me know!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. At no extra charge to you, I will receive a small commission off any sale through these links. This is a blessing to my family and I thank you for supporting Simply Rebekah.

Posted in Frugal | Leave a comment

I’m Scared to Have 2 Kids: an update 2 years later

Two years ago I confessed my fears of having a second child. Now I'm sharing my 3 struggles with the transition, how having 2 kids is actually easier, and the 6 questions I ask myself when I think of having a third.

On April 23, 2012 I took a deep breath and published a blog post that I was nervous to share. I confessed that my swollen belly made me anxious. I wasn’t ready to have two kids. In fact, I was flat out scared that I wasn’t going to be able to step up to the challenge.

Ironically, the same day that I published that post ended up being was the same day my second child was born. Today my little Noah is over two years old and I think it is finally time for an update.

So is it scary to having more than one kid after all? Yes. And no. Parenthood is scary in general. I don’t think it matters if you have 1 kid or 11 kids. I’m confident that I will always be wondering if I’m doing it right.

Noah and Grace September 2012

3 Struggles We Had Going from 1 to 2 Kids

1)  Grace loved Noah deeply and adhored holding her new little brother. However, she was not a fan of me breastfeeding. It is possible that she remembered nursing and felt jealous, but even if she didn’t remember it was clear to her that I was doing something very intimate with Noah that she wasn’t able to do. She cried and wanted on my lap whenever I nursed him for the first couple of days.

It broke my heart to see Grace’s tears and jealousy. I had been worried about how Grace would handle sharing mommy and daddy and this type of reaction was exactly what I had feared. It was difficult to balance my clingy toddler, hungry newborn, new-mama guilt, and my need for some personal space!

Thankfully, this stage didn’t last long and Grace quickly overcame her insecurities. In the moment it felt long and heartbreaking, but ultimately it only lasted a few days.

2) Getting enough sleep was certainly a challenge. At night, Nate and I each had a child we were in charge of.  I took care of all of Noah’s needs. If Grace woke up, then Nate was on duty. Although I wasn’t getting a ton of sleep, that method helped. I also napped daily when Grace napped in the afternoon. Of course it was just the worst. thing. ever when Noah and Grace didn’t coordinate their nap times. Those days felt like eternity.

3) The biggest challenge (after I started getting enough sleep at night!) was the feeling of constantly being needed for something. My “down time” significantly decreased. Someone is always asking for something. I’ve even told my children, “Stop asking me for things!” Some days aren’t so bad and then there are others when I feel like I’m going insane.

Grace and Noah April 2014

How Having More Than One Kid is Actually Easier

Now that Noah is a little older, he and Grace play together. all. the. time. It isn’t always a peaceful playtime, but it is a lovely experience. Now that I’m not Grace’s number one playmate, it is easier for me to do laundry and prepare meals. Plus it is just plain adorable.

Nate and I always knew that we wanted more than 1 child. It was easy to take the plunge and have our second child even though I worried about my abilities as a mother. We don’t regret having Noah for an instant. He is amazing and we are lucky to have him.

Now that we have 2 children, the big question is:
Will we have 3???

All of those same fears I wrote about in 2012 come rushing back when I think about adding another little one to my family. Additionally, there are several new questions and fears.

1) Do we really want to hit the reset button again? Life is starting to get a bit easier. Everyone is sleeping through the night. We don’t worry about little ones falling down the stairs. I can see a light at the end of the diaper tunnel. That reset button takes us back to all of that again.

2) Can we afford 3 children? It isn’t all about money. I’m sure we would make due, but more children means there is less money to go around for big things like braces, college, and weddings.

3) Can we fit 3 children in our home? This is 100% a first world problem. We can totally fit another person in here, but the logistics still give me pause.

4) How far apart do we want our children? I like the idea of my children enjoying the same types of things at the same time. My sister and brother are 12 and 10 years older than I am, so this wasn’t the reality in my house. Yet wouldn’t it be nice if we could go to the park as a family and all of the children are still young enough to enjoy being there?

5) Am I willing to put my body through another pregnancy and birth? Sadly, I have learned that a healthy pregnancy and safe delivery are not a guarantee. Another pregnancy would be met with a new sense of fear. Plus it is highly likely that I would need to have another c-section. I didn’t love the first one.

6) What will a 3rd child do to our marriage? AKA: Will anyone ever be willing to watch 3 kids so we can enjoy a date night???

I am jealous of the couples who are confident in their family size. I wish I had the confidence to know with certainty that Nate and I are done having children or to know with certainty that there is another baby coming.  But I don’t know. I just don’t know.

One thing I do know with certainty is that whether we are a family of 4 or a family of 5, we are one awesome family. I am so thankful.

I would love to hear your experiences. What influenced your decision to have or not have more children? How did your family adjust to bringing home a new baby?

Posted in Parenthood, Pregnancy | 44 Comments

More Fast & Easy Vacation Meal Planning

More Fast and Easy Vacation Meal Planning- Save money on vacation by planning easy meals you can make yourself! This is an example of what one family truly ate while on vacation.

When our family goes on vacation, I always make a meal plan.  We love to eat out, but it isn’t very relaxing with little ones.  Plus it gets expensive!

In 2011, I pulled together a fast and easy vacation meal plan.  Last summer when we went on a beach vacation, I decided to document our meals so I could share them with you all again.  I hope it inspires you as you plan for your next vacation.

What We (2 adults, a preschooler, and a toddler) Ate On Vacation

Day One:

  • Breakfast - peanut butter toast at home
  • Lunch - chicken salad sandwiches, chips, and yogurt in the car
  • Supper - chicken tenders, green beans, grapes - This meal was suppose to have rice, but I forgot it at home. I made the chicken tenders with an Italian Parmesan cheese and breadcrumb mix you can find in the refrigerator section of the grocery store.

chicken, green beans, and grapes

Day Two:

  • Breakfast - baked oatmeal - I made (and froze ahead of time) one large pan of baked oatmeal and we ate it all week.

baked oatmeal

  • Lunch - chicken salad, chips, carrots & dip, and apples - I bought a few easy pre-made things for easy lunches all week. 

chicken salad, carrots, and apples

  • Supper - pizza tot casserole, peas – I made the casserole ahead of time and froze it. It is nearly impossible to take an appetizing picture of pizza tot casserole, so this is one isn’t from vacation.

Pizza Tot Casserole: a freezer friendly recipe

Day Three:

  • Breakfast - baked oatmeal
  • Lunch - chicken salad, macaroni salad, peaches / kids – peanut butter sandwiches, chips, peaches

chicken salad, macaroni salad, and peach

  • Supper - chef salads with homemade dressingNormally I add hard boiled eggs to my chef salads, but I skipped them to simplify the meal. The dressing I made ahead of time.

chef salad

Day Four:

  • Breakfast - pancakes, eggs, bacon – We like to go out to eat for breakfast even more than we like doing it for supper. It is cheaper, less busy, and the kids are usually better behaved first thing in the morning.

breakfast out

  • Lunch - cheese sticks, granola bars, bananas – This was a simple, snacky type lunch because of our big breakfast.
  • Supper - enchiladas, spanish rice, peas - The enchiladas were made ahead of time and frozen.

enchiladas, rice, and peas

Day Five:

  • Breakfast - peanut butter toast
  • Lunch - On a last minute whim, we grabbed lunch on the boardwalk.
  • Supper - leftovers

Snacks for the week included: fruit, cheese sticks, energy bites, granola bars, and this heavenly chocolate butterscotch chex mix.

Heavenly Chocolate Butterscotch Chex Mix

My biggest tips for fast and easy vacation meal planning:

  • Figure out how many meals you’ll eat in and how many you’ll eat out.
  • Make as many meals ahead of time as you can and freeze them.
  • Don’t forget about fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Keep breakfast and lunch simple.
  • Make food you are excited to eat. It is vacation after all! If you are excited about the food you are making, you’ll be less likely to skip it and eat out.
  • Plan at least one meal for leftovers.

For more vacation meal planning inspiration, check out what we ate on vacation in 2011.

What are your favorite dishes to make on vacation? Do you make freezer meals ahead of time?

Posted in Recipes & Freezer Cooking | 2 Comments

My Favorite Tried & True Pinterest Recipes

23 Tried and True Pinterest Recipes - I'm offering my tips and opinions on my favorite Pinterest discovered recipes. Don't be scared to try these! They are worth it!

One of the best gifts I ever received was a cookbook with personalized notes in it telling me which recipes were worth trying.  If you are anything like me, you’ve pinned approximately 27 million recipes on Pinterest, but how many have you actually tried? Sometimes it is just nice to have a real life person tell which recipes are worth it.

I’m challenging you to bring Pinterest to real life and try a new recipe this week!  To inspire you, I’m sharing 23 Pinterest discovered recipes that are worth trying out. Each recipe is linked to Pinterest so you can easily pin these winners for later.  While you are there, I would love to have you follow me!

23 Tried & True Pinterest Recipes

Main Dish Recipes

Smothered Beans & Rice Burritos - This is my favorite burrito recipes.  All the yummy-gooey stuff on top makes them oh-so-good!  Plus it is a freezer friendly recipe, which I love.

Crockpot Cheesy Pasta & Beef Casserole - Grace went on and on and ON about how much she loved this recipe.  It makes a lot, so we had it for leftovers a couple of times and she sang my praises every time.

Baked Sweet & Sour Chicken with Fried Rice – This recipe is sooooo good, but it is too much effort for a weeknight supper.  Save it for the weekend or anytime you don’t have children crying at your feet.  I’ve only made this once because of the effort, but I’ve literally day dreamed about making it again.  I think I used my own chicken fried rice recipe.

Zucchini & Ground Beef Skillet Casserole - This is one way that I use zucchini from my garden in the summer.  The flavor is really good and all the ingredients are unprocessed.

Crockpot Italian Chicken – The first time I made this recipe, it was a bit too salty for me.  I cut back on the Italian dressing and that helped a lot.  My whole family really likes this recipe, but it does call for some processed ingredients (cream of chicken soup) that some people like to avoid.

Pizza Balls - This recipe is easy and fun.  It would be good for lunch, but I never like to turn my oven on for lunch.

Cheesy Chicken & Wild Rice Casserole – This is another recipe that takes some extra effort.  There are two different kinds of rice that you need to have prepared.  Plus you need cooked chicken.  After I made it once, I didn’t think I would ever make it again, but it was so good that I had to.

Double Decker Tacos - Crunchy and soft tacos all in one!  This is a fun way to make taco night extra special.

Sausage-and-Lentil-Skillet-600x450.jpg

Sausage, Lentil, & Rice Skillet Meal – I can get the sausage at my discount grocery store, which makes the meal really cheap.  It is on my regular rotation of cheap meals.

Crockpot Creamy Mexican Chicken & Black Beans – Stop reading right now and pin this recipe. RIGHT NOW! This recipe is a foolproof meal to make when company is coming over.  I’ve made it several times and I’m always asked for the recipe. I serve it over spanish rice to add some extra flavor.

Taco Casserole – I don’t think this is the healthiest recipe with the chips, sour cream, cheese, and lack of vegetables, but it is oh so good! It freezes really well. I always make two and put one in the freezer for later. I add rice and black beans to help stretch the ground beef.

Spaghizza – Spaghetti and pizza combined to make this wonderful dish.  It is also freezer friendly.

Soup Recipes

Crockpot Tomato Basil Parmesan Soup - This is a creamy twist to regular tomato soup. It is a nice soup for company or if you are taking a meal to someone.

Olive Garden’s Zuppa Toscana Soup – Nothing from the Olive Garden is bad. NOTHING! This soup can get a bit spicy from the crushed pepper flakes, so adjust that accordingly if you are sensitive to hot stuff.  This is also a freezer friendly recipe.

Slow Cooker Creamy Chicken & Wild Rice Soup - This might be my favorite Pinterest recipe find of all time. L-O-V-E this soup!!! I have made this several times for company. Serve it with a salad and a good bread.

Hearty Potato Soup - This is a really good recipe with no processed ingredients. I don’t add the green chilies because my kids don’t like spicy things. However, Nate and I add some straight to our own bowls and I love the extra flavor it adds.

Panera’s Broccoli & Cheese Soup - I don’t think this is the healthiest soup and I don’t care. It is amazing.

Recipes to Drool Over

Chocolate Whole Wheat Zucchini Muffins

Chocolate Whole Wheat Zucchini Muffins - Oh goodness… This is like eating cake, but it is whole wheat and has zucchini in it, so it must be healthy!  Or maybe not.  I make it with coconut oil and I love the extra hint of coconut flavor.

Pumpkin Pie Dip - This dip is great for someone who is watching what they eat. The amount of calories per serving is really low and the serving size is a good amount. Don’t let all that healthy talk fool you though.  It is GOOD even though it is healthy!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie - This a healthier version of a chocolate milkshake and I can’t get enough of it.  I add a lot of ice cubes (in the blender) until it is as thick as I want it.  Otherwise, it is a really runny smoothie.

Easy No-Bake Granola Bars

Easy No-Bake Granola Bars - I double this recipe to make a 9×13 pan. I left out the chia seeds because I didn’t have any and the recipe still turned out great. They are so much better (and better for you) than store bought granola bars.

Cream Cheese Squares - These are very simple to make. They would be great for brunch.

Homemade Coffee Creamers - This isn’t the healthiest thing to put in your coffee, but it is so much better than fake coffee creamer you can buy at the store. The store bought stuff usually doesn’t even have dairy in it! I like making the almond version.

I hope you’ve been inspired to try a new recipe! Let me know which recipes are on the top of your list to try.

Photos used with permission from Amy’s Finer Things, Live Renewed, Hey Donna, Mostly Homemade Mom, and A Delightful Home.  

Posted in Recipes & Freezer Cooking | 2 Comments