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great tips for setting up a toy rotation system

There are Only Two Types of Toys

Did you guys know that along with her expertise in communication and play, our new contributor Kim also has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to toy organization?  Today she’s sharing some of her know-how with a quick and easy 3 step plan to corral your deluge of toys.  I can’t wait to put this system into place in our house! 


I write a lot about play, toys, and rotating toys.  It seems as much as we all want to harness our inner minimalist and have beautifully simple and organized play spaces for our children (AND ourselves), we just seem to have difficulty kicking the habit of too many toys.


Here we are going to break it down, make it super simple, and leave it impossible for you not to be inspired to go into your child’s room and start sorting.  So simple, in fact, that when you start sorting there will only be two piles for just the two types of toys.


Toy Type 1: Loved & Lasting
These are the toys that your child comes to over and over, enjoys endlessly, and is excited to see each time he gets home.  They are the train tracks your child falls asleep with, the doll missing chunks of hair, the go-to board game, the stuffed dog dragged through the dirt by it’s “leash”, or the art pad. These toys usually are not so age specific and grow with your child and his imagination.  They are loved and lasting.


Warning: If you aren’t sure if your child has these toys it may be because she’s never been able to find these treasures in all the toy madness at your house.  Try selecting these toys based on my Good Toy Rules or try rotating your child’s toys first to slim down your child’s options and see what he gravitates towards.


Toy Type 2: Shiny & Passing
These toys are super exciting and completely wow your child each time he sees them – for about three minutes. These toys usually do too much on their own.  They leave your child feeling short in the imagination department and quickly bored once they figure out, or remember, how to make them work.  These are the push button, too many parts, light up, noisy, works on letters, pop up, drop down, and fancy toys.  Yes, they are shiny, but they are also passing.


Now, you’ve got two piles – what do you do?  Click through for the steps.

Step 1: Keep the Loved & Lasting toys out and available.

If you still have a ton of those you may decide to rotate them but, for now, steps 1 and 2 should help you feel a major difference in your child’s play space and play.


Step 2: Get the Shiny & Passing toys out of everyday.

The one thing I know for sure is that too many toys equals less organized play.  Keeping the Shiny & Passing toys from distracting your child will allow her to focus on deeper experiences while engaging in real and effective play.  So, there really is no room for Shiny & Passing toys in everyday play anymore.  Get them out.


Step 3: Give the Shiny & Passing toys new life.

Shiny & Passing toys can be great for moments when you need them to give your child that wow factor and keep him engaged.  We keep a basket of the quieter Shiny & Passing toys up in the closet.  When I need to make a quick “Busy Bag”, I grab a bag and go to this basket to choose some toys for a long car trip, a doctor’s appointment, or a long meal out.  Because your child doesn’t see them everyday, these Shiny & Passing toys are exciting enough to get you through those tricky moments.


Shiny & Passing toys can also be fun to re-purpose if they have missing parts.  I love how The Imagination Tree uses parts to create Invitations to Play.  You can also get great inspiration from Childhood 101 and Happy Hooligans.


What do you think?  Could all of your child’s toys be sorted into just two piles?  Are you ready to simplify?


Similar Stuff: More from Kim.


This post is part of MPMK’s “Project Organize Your ENTIRE Life”.  You can read all about it here, check out all of projects here, and join thousands of POYEL facebook group members here.



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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

structureinanunstructuredlife.com June 22, 2012 at 1:09 pm

This post couldn’t have come at a better time! My kids are spending the weekend at my in-laws and on my to-do list is pare down and reorganize their play room! I was trying to figure out how to decide which toys to keep out and which to pack away for rotating – this gives me excellent guidelines to think about as I go through everything! Thanks!


Kim @ Little Stories June 22, 2012 at 7:01 pm

Hope your organization this weekend goes well. Keep us posted.


Kim @ The Educators Spin On It June 22, 2012 at 1:46 pm

We’re going through toys at our house this week as we do each summer to donate, this post is a very good reminder! As always we appreciate your advice!


Kim @ Little Stories June 22, 2012 at 7:01 pm

Thanks, Kim!


Alison Solove @Experimental Wifery June 22, 2012 at 1:52 pm

I love the distinction you’ve drawn, but I have to ask, why keep “shiny & passing” toys at all?

We created an Amazon.com wishlist for our one-year-old son and made our principles about toys known to our friends and family. He has a small number of quality toys–most of which are non-plastic and not made in China–that he loves to play with. “Shiny & passing” gifts disappear to Goodwill as soon as the gift-giver goes home.

Manufacturers will continue to make these environmentally disastrous, consumerism-promoting toys as long as we, as a culture, continue to buy them.


Kim @ Little Stories June 22, 2012 at 3:53 pm

We too love our amazon wish list for the same reason! All of our friends and family are very aware (probably too much so!) of how picky I am about toys but undoubtedly some not so great toys get in the mix. Sometimes even toys that I bought thinking they’d be great (natural, high quality) for whatever reason didn’t pass the test with my daughter. We could certainly donate these toys, and some we do, but some we keep for our Busy Bag. I think that the key is either way you are repurposing them in a good way. And I in no way encourage people to buy new ones, just hope to give them an idea of what to do with the ones they already have. In my post Shopping In Your Own Toy Closet on Little Stories I talk about the importance of buying good toys and fewer of them and couldn’t agree with you more. Is that helpful? I can post the link later if you can’t find it. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!


Tansy Dolls June 22, 2012 at 5:22 pm

I’ve tried to organize her toys. I will try again with this method; our small apartment is overrun with toys. The problem is she is a sorter. So she has 3 turtles but you cannot get rid of two because they are a family and she views them as a family. We’ve put a hold on all stuffed animals because of this issue. In fact, I have asked kindly that people stop buying her toys. I request art supplies. We could always use more watercolor paper; she goes through it so quickly.


Kim @ Little Stories June 22, 2012 at 7:00 pm

Tansy, I think it’s great that your daughter has made families! You can see in the picture my daughter has a rabbit family too. One way to handle that is to create sets from that family. So your daughter may have a turtle set out, but you may put away the frog set for now and then rotate them. I agree that art supplies are always welcome!


glimmersnaps June 22, 2012 at 7:07 pm

I like this way of naming the two groups of toys! My little one is only 16 months and he prefers books, tiny animals and non-toy items. Both of his grandmothers love to buy him toys. My mom tries to find the types of toys we prefer– wooden, creative, open-ended. But my MIL gravitates toward flashing lights and noises. It’s a smart idea to hide a few of the shiny & passing toys around the house to use in a pinch. Maybe he’s upset and I need to help the older one for a minute or go to the bathroom… there’s a singing helicopter that can occupy him for 5 minutes!!

This is good inspiration for me this afternoon because I’m getting ready to gather up donations for our community yardsale.


the Statons June 22, 2012 at 8:52 pm

This comment has been removed by the author.


paige June 22, 2012 at 8:53 pm

Awesome post! We are just (after 3 years) getting our families to understand what kind of toys we prefer and why we prefer them. They’ve started to see how fast the Shiny & Passing toys break! Glad we aren’t the only ones who don’t just buy every battery-sucking toy that we see.


Jen | Our Happy Family June 22, 2012 at 9:29 pm

Love this post!! I’ve noticed lately my kids have been bored and not playing with their toys as much… then I realized that we’ve had so many of the “shiny & passing” toys laying around that people have given them as gifts (3 spring birthdays!) that they couldn’t get to their loved toys! I bagged the new toys up up last night and low & behold this morning the kids woke up and went right to their wooden blocks like they used too :)


Sakura June 22, 2012 at 10:32 pm

Great idea! My 2 year old has his toys organized in 4 types:
– Trains and cars
– Puzzles and blocks
– Coloring station
– Misc (I now realize this type is almost equal to your “Shiny & Passing”)

We made this new organization about one month ago and it’s so much easier for him to find what he wants and to clean up afterwards!)


Stacy of KSW June 23, 2012 at 2:25 am

Fantastic post Kim/Steph! And what a terrific way to explain it … I’ve been trying to smuggle Kim to my house for months to help with our toy situation :) These tips alone will help us a lot


hennymats June 23, 2012 at 7:05 pm

Couldn’t agree more. Now, how do I get my MIL to stop buying the shiny & passing stuff??? No subtle hints or straight forward pleas (let alone wish lists) have helped in any way. She got my 3-year-old a video game for his birthday. Ugh. Actually packed that one up and sent it right back to her house to have the kids play with it when they’re there. I refuse to hook something to the tv to have my boys use remote controls for throwing a ball between mickey and pluto. Go out and get a real ball!

Sorry, that just had to be said 😉 Anyhow. Thanks for sharing!


Suzy June 24, 2012 at 3:10 am

What a fantastic post. I keep trying to downsize the toy department (ie. the living room, bedroom) but feel guilty as she always catches me and grabs the shiny toys so I think “oh she loves it, better not put it away”. The resulting mess is usually worse than how we started! Instinctively I know they were just transitory likes but your categories and descriptions really help me to collect the many loved and lasting toys together and put the rest aside for excursions where they can shine.


Bethany @ No Twiddle Twaddle September 14, 2012 at 6:48 pm

Thanks, Kim. You have done a wonderful job of making this all real simple and easy. I am not naturally an organized person, but I think even I could use this article to get control over our toys. (Now I just need to actually do it. : ) )


Haylee Ockerman October 2, 2012 at 12:56 am

The shiny and lasting toys are priceless! Great explanation on how to keep them around!


Robin @ Thank Your Body October 25, 2012 at 9:41 pm

Love this! So many great ideas. We’re definitely a minimalism family, but this is so helpful in thinking about what kind of toys I DO want in our home. Thank you!


lynne November 4, 2012 at 2:06 pm

I just discovered this and thank you! We’re getting ready for our annual massive donation of kids’ toys in preparation for the new haul winter holidays will bring (4 sets of grandparents, need I say more?) and this is a perfect way for me to make the decisions of what goes and what stays. We already rotate out a lot of stuff, but now I’ll have a better sense of what goes into the “keep” vs. “donate” piles.


joss September 4, 2013 at 12:40 am

There are so many lovely toys I’d acquired as a nanny that I thought had universal appeal (wooden blocks, play kitchen, farm animals, doll house, puzzles, pattern blocks, baby doll bed) that I was shocked when my own kid didn’t want to play with any of them at all. It didn’t matter, for example, whether I stocked the play kitchen with lots of interesting pieces or stripped it down to a few manageable items. All she wants is her art supplies and stories. She sleeps with her paintings. Since she’s only 3 1/2, I’m reluctant to give away everything else just yet, but we have gotten it out of the way, crammed into a closet. A bonus, decluttering the rest of the house has created a great stash of weird odds and ends for collage/sculpture.


http://momtv.com September 8, 2014 at 11:10 pm

I got this kind of set for my 2 year old grand son.I was received
over a lot more when I saw the amount of and exactly how speedily our
son took a loving to them.


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