Now, before I begin this I should state that we have moved away from this system as the children got older, and we needed to begin separating big kid toys from baby toys. But for the time where their toys could be combined this was an amazing system and would probably still work well for an only child or two children close in age.
Our lounge room used to be a nightmare, stuff everywhere every night. I could try and clean through the day but I never seemed to achieve much. And half the time they seemed to just be dumping toys out for the sake of it, and never actually playing with them. The toys I wanted them to play with, the good quality ones, found themselves at the back of the shelf behind the ‘lights and sounds’ plastic toys which were easy to pull out and use. I always loved the idea of rotating toys, but it never happened, it was a pain to do and things just got messy. And I was tired of separating the duplo, farm animals and play food from each other each day.
After another 1 hour evening clean up we decided something had to change, and we came up with this
You can see the children’s board books on the bottom right hand side. (paper books are elsewhere). These are always out. Also always out are a few select toys (the magna-doodle, the toy laptop, the singing dog and the ‘doctor kit’ are currently out of the rotation system and always available). These are the toys that see regular daily use or regular requests while put away (the doctor kit was very popular during my pregnancy as they saw the midwife doing checks with me and wanted to copy). Some will re-enter the rotation when they fall out of favour, as the doctor kit has since the birth of baby (dolls are now the constantly available item!)
There is a chest of rainbow drawers. This is two sets of jumbo drawers from the discount store. You can see we have put them together into a set 7 drawers high, and we have one drawer that stays out. The rule is that the kids may not take drawers out by themselves. They have to clean up the current drawer then come and ask mummy or daddy to swap the drawers around. No more separating little toys! In them we have
– Duplo and Wooden Blocks
– Foam Blocks (We found them at Clark Rubber about 3 years ago. One of our best baby toy finds! They are similar to these from Amazon)
– Farm animals/Jungle animals/cars and trucks
– Play food
– Marble Track Toy
– Doll house furniture
– ‘toybox’, mostly consisting of musical instruments, and cheap trinket toys/happy meal toys/etc
– one empty drawer left spare
The kids have actually been very good about only having one drawer at a time and cleaning up the old one before getting a new one. They know what is in them all so they just ask for what they want, so labels weren’t needed, but they could certainly be labeled.
We divided all the other toys, big and small, into 4 groups. You can see one group on the shelf and floor alongside the toys which remain outside of the rotation like the magna-doodle. The other 3 groups are each in a tub, seen on the right hand side of the room. Each Sunday the current toys are packed away, and a new tub put out. In each tub is also a note stating which big toys go with it (things like the vacuum and piano table you can see in the photo) These are stored in various places around the house and get swapped out with the boxes.
And finally, the red bin you can see in the middle is the catch-all. If we just need things clean quickly or we have spare odds and ends which have been separated from their sets, they just get thrown in there, and the bin is also emptied and put away on a Sunday. Makes pickup that much easier, and everything has a home. It also helps to not end up with things being confused and mixed up when my husband helps to pick up and doesn’t recognize what set something comes from.
So there you have it. As soon as I put this system in place I noticed the children playing, really playing, more. They were using toys they hadn’t touched in months, and being much more creative without a constant mess around them or an overwhelming amount of choice available. I could finally see what was and was not getting played with. It cut our evening toy pickup time to about 10 minutes, and the children could finally help with it because the mess wasn’t overwhelmingly large. It’s amazing what a few tubs and drawers can do, and this was the event that convinced us it is worth spending money on organization systems. I was sad to see it go.