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?


  1. I agree 1000% I used toy rotation for years! I also had a large tote of toys that I only brought down from the attic when small children were visiting, (So that MY children didn’t have meltdowns about sharing their own treasures), and a second large tote that my preschoolers played with ONLY when I was homeschooling their siblings.

    1. Bonni, I love the idea of having special toys stashed away for certain activities/occasions. So smart!

  2. I didn’t realize that this was an actual “thing.” I’ve been doing this for months with my youngest. She has so many toys, so I pull some out that she hasn’t played with in a long time and put away the ones that have been out but not played with much lately. She acts like she just got a ton of new toys, and I’m happy to see her play with something different. I had no clue that there was an actual term for this. I just thought I was clever… Oh well… This works amazingly, though, and I highly recommend it to all parents.

    1. Nancy, you are clever! Haha! I didn’t think of this on my own. I had to read about it somewhere else before I started doing it. 🙂

  3. My sister-in-law does this but in a different way. They have a bin of train tracks and trains, a bin of Duplo blocks, and a bin of something else that I can’t remember. They get one bin of specific toys in the morning, one in the afternoon, and one in the evening. Or it could just be 2 bins and one bin in the morning – afternoon and then one bin in the afternoon – evening. I think the 3rd bin is play food that gets thrown into the rotation too. They have books and other things that are out all of the time. The kids pick up the toys and put them away (well most of the kids do). They have a 6 1/2 yr old boy, 5yr old boy, 3 yr old girl, 1 1/2 yr old girl, and a 1 month old boy.
    I’ve been thinking of doing this with my 6 1/2 year old son. He has a lot of toys that he can’t get to because we store all of his bigger cars and trucks under his bed like a parking garage. I’m thinking of getting a couple of big bins to match his toy box in his room and sort them and do this the way you’ve said you do things.

    1. Your sister-in-law has a really interesting system. I don’t think my personality is structured enough to carry through with that kind of system. I like the idea of being spontaneous. I’m sure it makes for super easy clean up though!

      Susan, if you try out the bins with your son let me know how it works!

  4. What do you do with large items like a little people farm or doll house? Things that don’t fit in a bin.

    1. Katie, We have a couple of Little People sets and the smaller ones fit in the 2 extra large bins I use (not the one pictured in this post). We also own the barn and it doesn’t fit with all the other toys in the bin. I take it down to the basement with the other bins and stick it on top.

      We also have a large Melissa & Doug doll house. We leave it out all the time.

      There are some other large items that we leave out all the time (play kitchen, baby doll furniture, etc). We had some sit and ride toys that I left out for a long time, but last month I stuck them in the basement too. I’ll pull them back out in a month or so. It really helps that we have so much storage space.

    1. Jennifer, I have 4 bins. Two are what you might think of as a medium or large size bin. They are what is pictured in this post. The other two are extra large. I make sure I have the bigger toys in those bins. Four really isn’t the magic number. It is just how many empty bins I happened to have in the house.

      Make sure you read my post all about how I set up my system. You can see pictures of the bins there.

      If you give this a try, I want to hear how you like it!

  5. If you hear any comments about how this goes over with the 6+ age group, I’d love to know about it! My son is almost 6, and suffers the same syndrome (too many toys to play with). He also almost exclusively plays with his legos and then everything else just sits. Sometimes I wonder what would happen if I just put EVERYTHING else away. Would he even notice?

    1. Give it a try, Veronica! It sounds like your son is the perfect candidate for toy rotation. Maybe legos would be the one thing you always keep out at your house and you could rotate the rest.

      I don’t suggest talking to your son about it before hand. If you ask him if he wants to try it he is likely to say no. Just surprise him with it. 🙂

  6. I do toy rotation with my just 2 year old, and she doesn’t consciously notice it, but definitely plays better after I’ve changed out her toys. I usually do it first thing in the morning before she gets up, and can agree it was tough the one time she was there for it.
    The hardest part of it for me is that I use rotation to clean all of the toys, and that’s a total pain. I spray everything and wipe it down, then it sirs out for 2 weeks in the bin. The huge benefit though is that if my toys are ever exposed to a sick kid (mine or a friend) I can change out everything quickly to minimize exposure to bad germs. That alone is what keeps me motivated to thoroughly clean them every time, even though I dread the task.

    1. Kate, I rarely clean our toys. RARELY! Like… almost never. LOL!

      I guess I should do that, huh?

      1. Throw them in the dishwasher and washing machine! I do this with everything that isn’t electronic – for the electronic stuff I just spray with a 5% bleach solution and let it sit out. I put the toys in those lingerie bags. Easy peasy.

  7. I’ve been thinking about doing this but I just can’t seem to decide on which toys to put away! I have stashed away the things that they weren’t playing with – too old for the toy and it’s been thirsted, too young and it’s away until they’re old enough.

    1. Clare, start by sorting all your toys by type (balls, puzzles, dolls, blocks, etc) and then try to have at least one type of toy in each bin. You don’t need to worry about which you’ll put away because eventually all of the toys will have a chance to be packed away.

      Of course there are some larger toys that we always have out along with books and art supplies.

  8. I adore toy rotating! But, like many other moms who have commented, I do it slightly differently. I use mostly small bins, less than a square foot in size, and they sit one of two bookshelves (three shelves each) we use strictly for toys. I fill up the bookcases with bins of toys, and what doesn’t fit on the bookcase gets packed up for a while. The exception to this rule are larger toy sets, like blocks, trains and the toy kitchen, where I always leave out because they are so open ended.

    I rotate only about twice a year! My kid’s birthdays are all in the late spring/summer, so I rotate toys after they get new toys for their birthdays and again after new toys at Christmas. What I was struggling with for a while was that I have two boys and a girl, so I felt like I always needed to have “girl” toys out, even though my little girl loves to play with her brother’s trains and marble run, and such. In addition, one of my boys just turned one, so he has toys that are not at all appropriate for the older kids, and visa versa. I made a list recently of all the toys we currently have out, (which was way more than I expected) and watched my kids play for a few weeks, recording which toys they played with the most and for how long. (Simply dumping out a bin does not count as playing!) That was really insightful, and really helped me identify which toys should be packed up for a few months.

    1. I can’t stand it when my kids dump out toys for “play!” Isn’t it just awful, Sarah??? UGH! That happened a lot less when there were less toys for my kids to dump.

      It sounds like you have a good system and you seem much more organized than I am! 🙂

    2. I kind of object to the whole boy/girl toy divide. But I especially object to the idea that a marble run is a “boy’s toy”. Maybe you just meant that it had been given to one of her brothers, so is considered “his toy”. I sure hope so…

      1. Um, yes…hence the reason the word “brother’s” in my comment is possessive. The trains and marble run are toys that belong to my oldest boy, given to him for birthdays or holidays. And when I refer “boy” or “girl” toys, I referring strictly to divisions of interest, which is why they are in quotations. I think people read too literally into the boy versus girl toy debates.

  9. I used this with my 3 children, leaving their favorites out (Barbie, matchbox cars, legos) but rotating other things seasonally. I swear by it and it still works for me. There is such excitement in unpacking things you haven’t seen for a while!

    1. So true! I’m glad to hear that you’ve had success in leaving out some favorites. That has been working well for my family also.

  10. i just wanted to say. THANK YOU!!! I found your first post about 2 months ago and we just finished our first month of toy rotation!!! This is the best thing ever!!!!!

      1. I have a 3.5 daughter and a 14m son. We have so many toys it’s crazy!! I have 4 totes and really love it!! One different thing is my daughter loves helping me pack up the toys so we can get new ones out:)

        1. That is a great age for using a toy rotation system! I found that it makes clean up each day sooooooooooo much easier. I’m happy to hear that you took the risk of putting in the effort of toy rotation and enjoy it!

  11. I just found your two posts at the perfect time! I have a 4.5 year old and 9 month old and I babysit a 4 and 2 year old s well. I am so tired of walking into our play room to see all the toys dumped all over the floor! This is my weekend project!

  12. I have two girls ages 4 and 6, but I also cAre for a 6 year old boy and his 1 year old sister. We have too many toys, they play with a toy for ten. I uses then run off to play with something else. Drives me crazy. I attempted to rotate while back, but most of the toys remained in the playroom, and the christmas and birthdays happen and well. You get it. After reading your blog last night I am ready to get serious about toy rotation, the kids are on board also, they think it’s a great idea. Now to clean my basement so I can fit everything down there. 🙂

  13. Starting this today! I’m also going to attempt rotating books. My SIL once worked at a bookstore and now works at a library so our kids get a bunch of books for every occasion. It’s a wonderful problem to have but there are so many to choose from at night that we all get overwhelmed!

    1. It is such a great idea to rotate books, Staci! I haven’t tried that one.

      One thing I would caution you on…

      I don’t know how old your kids are, but really little ones can really thrive from reading the same books again and again and again and AGAIN. So maybe don’t include their ultimate favorites in the rotation and have them available for all the time.

  14. I am SO excited to start this! One question – for things like a big set of duplo blocks, should I pack that all in to one box or separate it out so they always have a small amount of blocks to build with? (I’m thinking using a small amount of duplo isn’t quite as fun as building a tower with every block you own as tall as you can reach!).

    1. I would put all the duplo blocks together (unless you have a massive number of them). However, if you have other things kids can build with (wooden blocks,magna-tiles, etc) I would put those in different bins. Does that make sense?

      1. Yes that’s makes sense, thank you. I spent all of yesterday setting up our toy rotation and I went with what your suggested.

        As an aside, I made a cute display of my little one’s soft toys (which I didn’t include in the rotation because he loves them all). When he came home to see them all set out on his shelves he was so excited and squealed: “I have SO many toys!” 🙂

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