Toy Rotation Boxes

Let’s talk about toys for a minute.

Kids love them, and parents love happy kids.

But then you have birthdays, kind friends, grandparents and relatives, yard sales, special occasions, road trips, Christmases and other holidays….

And all of the sudden you have WAY. TOO. MANY. TOYS.
Too many toys is a problem (especially if they are constantly accessable) for several reasons:

1. Your house gets messy soooo fast.  Your kids dump entire baskets of toys just to see what was in it, or just because it’s fun, and you spend the whole day picking up.  Or you don’t spend your day doing that, and your house is a disaster zone.

2. Your kids don’t even play with all of their toys.  They have their favorite toys and activities, and the other toys just get spread around. Maybe they’ve outgrown them, or maybe they were never used in the first place.

3. Since your kids aren’t playing with all of their toys, the unused toys are taking up unnecessary space in your house.  Maybe you live in a mansion, but I don’t have room for anything unnecessary.  Besides, your extra toys could be a blessing to someone else’s kids.

4. You’re basically teaching your kids to hoard when you keep toys that they don’t want or need.  Do you actually need 10 different baby rattles? Or 50 different trucks? Or dozens of little stuffed animals? I’m not a super minimalist or anything, but sometimes we just need to be honest with ourselves, and get rid of our emotional attachments to excess.

Here are the solutions to toy insanity:

1. Purge the toys. Sell them, donate them, or give them to a friend.

2. Implement a toy rotation system with the rest of the toys!

Story time.
About a week ago, we were on the receiving end of a generous friend who had recently purged out their own toys and baby clothes. Our entire living room was full of boxes and bags of baby clothes and items, and nice kid toys.

Seriously, it was literally more than I’m going to get our kids for Christmas for the next 7 years.

We didn’t have the time to deal with the stuff right then, so we threw the bags and boxes into my craft room and locked the door.

Over the next few days, I started sorting through the baby clothes, and (since I often use my craft room when the kids are awake) the “new” kid toys got slowly spread into the rest of the house.

We had a toy rotation system in place earlier this year, but we got a ton of toys from a friend last month, and that kind of threw off our system… and then after the recent giant pile of toys this past week, it was all too much to handle without revamping all the toy rotation boxes.

It was becoming a nightmare to clean up every night. We are trying to be more minimalistic when it comes to toys, and it was overwhelming for us to be spending 20 minutes cleaning up toys that our kids hardly even touched.

So, last night, I decided to take some free time I had to crank out organizing the toys. It only took four hours… 😲

Dreadful. But we are so happy to have it done, and it will save us so much time in the long run!

(Note: It doesn’t usually take me nearly that long to set up the toy rotation boxes, but we had a lot of new toys to go through and make decisions on.)

Months and months ago, I was originally inspired by Jamie Hand’s blog article on the subject, and I realized just now that I do (and recently did) almost everything she did!

Here’s the process:

– Gather all the toys in your house to a central location.  All of them.  Check each room.  Ain’t nothin worse than setting up a perfect little toy system, to find a pile of uncategorized toys in a random room the next morning.

– Sort them into piles on the floor or table, categorized by types.  For example: books, puzzles, stuffed animals, infant toys, musical toys, etc.

Make sure to take out all those weird non-toy things your kids play with, that somehow ended up in your toy bin.  You know what it is.  A plastic straw from a sippy cup? A mason jar lid ring? A feather duster?

– Get rid of the toys you honestly don’t care about, or that your kids don’t ever play with, or that you think are annoying, or that look weird to you.  This process is way way way easier if you have someone to help you, and to be real with you.  Trust me.  Somehow we’d developed these strange attachments to super weird toys that have been around for far too long.  It was so helpful to have my husband there to say, “That toy is useless and annoying, and we’ve kept it for 2 years. Donate it.” Or to remind me, “The kids don’t ever play with that.” Or to help me remember that we have a small house, and that we don’t have room for lots of giant toys, let alone ones that make excessive noise.

– Next, put all the “donate” toys in a box (get them out of your sight, and make your space look like you actually did something, cause you did). We had about 4 big boxes of toys to donate.  Most of them came from the new batch of toys, but lots of them came from our old toys as well.  It hurt a little bit, but it was also refreshing.  Might as well let someone else enjoy them, and free up space!

– Make sure to leave the toys that you are keeping in their categories, cause that will make putting them in the toy boxes way easier.

– Throw away broken toys.  Nobody wants them.  Don’t kid yourself.


The number of toy rotation boxes or totes that you need will vary on how often you want to rotate toys, and how many toys you have.

We honestly are perfectly fine with 4 medium sized totes from WalMart.

We also use an extra storage system for toys that are not currently age appropriate. (Rattles and teethers for babies, K’nex or difficult puzzles for older kids, etc.)  There’s no need to take room in your boxes for good toys that your kids won’t appreciate now.

– Now, one by one, take each categorized pile that you have left, and divide the toys in each pile evenly among your boxes (or as evenly as you can).  It may help to break down the piles even more.

For example, I sort my kid books even further into ‘types of books.’ I might put one board book, one musical book, one cloth book, and several easy reading books in each box.  The last thing you want is a bunch of books for your baby, and no books for your toddler. Or older kids. Or whatever you have.

I also make sure there is an even spread of large and small vehicles for my son, in each box. #hecan’tlivewithoutcars

All other toys, I use my best sorting judgement.

This is about halfway through my sorting for my toy rotations back in April.

– Mark each box with a sticky label or a Sharpie, so that you have a reliable order in which to rotate the boxes.  You think you’ll remember, but you probably won’t.

Here is this week’s toy rotation on the shelf:

Simple, easy, practical.

We are getting ready for another baby, so we are keeping the baby doll out indefinitely for “being soft” practice, as well as a couple more favorite toy items of each kid, but almost everything else will be rotated out next week.

Now, depending on how many toy boxes you decide to have, and how much energy you are able to muster on the daily, you can rotate the boxes as little or as often as you’d like.

You can rotate daily, or every few days, or whatever you want.  We usually rotate once a week on Sundays, sometimes every two weeks. Make sure to rotate the toys after the little kids are in bed, or you’re asking for a cry fest.  Just saying.  We gather up the toys throughout the house, throw them in their designated box, and divide the next week’s toys between the toy containers and bins in the living room.

Tip: Find a good spot to store the off-week toy rotation boxes… A spot where your little kids won’t find them and get into them and spread them around the house.  I learned that the hard way.

This morning, my toddler was so excited for “new toys”, even though 95% of them were toys he has always had.

It’s been fun to see our kids not only play with the majority of toys on the shelf, but to see them use their imaginations more with the toys they have available.

I’m excited to have the toy rotations back, and I know it’s a great method for keeping your sanity in regards to toys.

Try the system out, and let me know in the comments how it works for you, or if you have any tips or questions!

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