How We Do Toys...

Friday, 15 February 2019
... I love toys. What I don't love is unloved toys.

And if toys are stacked up and difficult to get to, that's what they become, and have you ever seen anything so sad as an unloved toy? It's like a Christmas Tree that doesn't get to fulfil its Christmas destiny.

From the very beginning, even before becoming a mum, I had a very strong idea about toys. Ones I loved, ones that annoyed me, ones that were pointless. My life as a nursery teacher has taught me a lot about how children play and I've often felt in somewhat of a privileged position when it comes to being a mum, because even though all children are different (oh so different), I've been able to observe 100's of children access toys and I feel I know what works and what doesn't and can use that knowledge with Theo.

First up, quality. The quality that the toys are in is probably one of THE most important things when it comes to how children are using toys. I've worked in settings before where there are 100's of toys to play with, literally 100's and where do the children even start! Well I start by having a cull. Any setting where I've been asked to change things up, that's the first thing I've done. 

- Broken toys? Be gone - Missing pieces? Be gone. - 
What the flip does this do?!? Be gone!

It may sounds ruthless and wasteful but broken toys are just a no go for me. Especially in a nursery setting. I want children to respect toys and care for toys and I'm not sure they can truly do that if they are often faced with something that is broken or looks like it's seen far better days. I'm not saying everything has to be shiny and new, the loved toys with the scuffs or the teddy with the missing eye are of course MORE than welcome but the shape sorter with a missing shape or the jigsaw with missing pieces... no. I would be incredibly frustrated as an adult to get to the end of that jigsaw and find pieces missing and I don't want a child to feel the same. Of course some toys can have missing pieces and it doesn't matter but the ones that really need all the parts and they don't, well they're out.

Also the toys that just don't really do anything, or are too fiddly, or too closed. I usually cull those too, or put them away for a more suitable time. Often children will use toys in a way you didn't expect so maybe for the toys that you're not sure of, let the child explore them for a bit, watch how your child plays and if they get disregarded quickly or not used have a think about whether they are suitable yet, or at all. 

OK, so you've Marie Kondoed (new verb) the toy stash so what is next? It's time to sort out storage and how the toys are going to be displayed. Today I'm going to talk about toy rotations. I also want to talk about a few other things about play; invitation to play and open ended play but I'm going to tackle this at a later date.

These might be something you're familiar with or you might be thinking huh? Let me tell you they're all really simple ideas and ideas that I have used for a really long time in nursery settings, particularly toy rotations. That's what I'm going to start with...

But first let me be honest, I want to get better at toy rotations (in fact I want to get better at all the things I have mentioned) and this is how this blog post has come about. I was sitting on Instagram and got inspired with the many gorgeous accounts where parents are sharing how they deal with toys and play in their house and I thought, "I've done this for years in school why am I not doing this at home?" I kind of started it but then just got stuck with every new toy being bought into the house needing to be played with and displayed straight away and before I knew it our shelves were full, so we've scaled back and this is how toy rotations work for us. 

Most of Theo's toys are stored in his room. We're lucky that Theo has a good sized room so there is space for his toys up there but where ever you store toys you can do toy rotations. I'm going to share a couple of ways you can do toy rotations. 

- You group toys into types. So a vehicle box, jigsaw box, musical instrument box. Then each time you come to do a rotation you decide what out of each box you would like to bring out to play. This is the way we currently do things and it works for us at the minute because we're not over run with toys. The toys that are "in storage" so to speak, i.e. not out to play with, all stay in the plastic Ikea boxes and are sneakily stacked and hidden behind the chair in the nursery. This will need to change in the future because inevitably Theo will acquire more stuff and to be honest the way the toys are in storage is not the best because its not easy to go through the boxes. I think we are going to have to find a way of storing things in the garage. I guess you just have to be smart with where you can keep things. 

- The other way is not my idea but came from chatting to @steph.soj over on Instagram. She has an inspiring set up and spoke to me about storing toys in a way so that you could just pull one box out per rotation. Each box would have a mixture of things in, enough to out out in your space and then that way, when you come to rotate your not searching through each box of toys for things but you just pull out one box and a way you go. I really like this idea and I think I want to move to doing it like this BUT.... there's a big but. I'm sooooooooo particular about where things go and if I have a box that has cars, farm animals and jigsaws all in one box... well the thought of it brings me out in hives. But that's just me and my silly ways. Maybe once I sort out a better way of keeping the toys that are out of use, I might be able to move to one box for a rotation. 

A final thought, I never rotate all the toys at once and often leave the more open ended toys or favourite toys out all of the time.

Ok, so that's the idea of toy rotations in the briefest way I can manage and I don't even feel like I've touched the surface as to why it's a good way to do things but I'm aware this is already a lengthy post. I might follow up this post with a shorter one where I talk about why this works. What I want to do now is answer a couple of questions that you have sent over to me to make sure I have covered enough to get you started. 

I also rotate books too.

How often do you rotate toys?

I try and do it at least once a month. If I was better I would do it fortnightly and at school I used to do it half termly. I think the most important thing to make sure of is that you ARE rotating toys. Trust me though, once you start you will see such a difference that you will want to rotate to keep it fresh. 

How many toys would be in the rotation?

I guess this depends on the space you have. We have the Kallax 4 x 2 storage unit and we have four boxes for toy sets such as a train set, a farm yard set and then 4 spaces for individual toys like a jigsaw or a large car. Then a couple of other toys dotted around the room. You don't need a lot and the choice of toys makes all the difference. More open ended toys can become many different things so don't worry about your child becoming bored, it will only add to their creativity.

Does the way you store toys help Theo choose what he wants to play with?

Absolutely and also how to tidy up afterwards. Everything has it's place and because there are fewer toys he is less overwhelmed by what to choose and then as I said, where to start when tidying up. It's lovely to watch him go to the open shelves and watch him select something himself and then when he's done put it back and choose something new. This obviously hasn't happen just because of the way things are displayed but I honestly believe that if he sees his toys being cared for, he definitely wants to look after them too. 

There we have it, toy rotation in a nut shell, a really big nut shell. I hope that is helpful. Please ask in the comments, or over on Instagram, if you have any questions and share any ideas you have me me because I want to get better at this too. 

Amy x

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