Toy Rotation the Cheap and Easy Way [Get Organized!]

So your kids have a few new toys, huh? Are they playing with all of them, or are they already showing favorites?

We spend a ton of time here at BC talking about which toys are the “good” ones that kids actually play with, and I’m sure you’ve made some fabulous choices. Even so, it’s natural for kids to gravitate towards one or two toys and play with them semi-exclusively for a while.

But what about the perfectly good toys that never seem to see any action?

No need to ship them off to the Island of Misfit Toys. There are some things you can do to encourage them to play with more of their stuff.

First, make sure your kids can see and access their toys. When toys are out of sight and/or out of reach, they’ll most likely be out-of-mind as well.

Of course, when we see the same items in our rooms every day, they become invisible to us over time. The same goes for toys on the shelves and in the toy bin. Enter the idea of toy rotation.

In addition to encouraging kids to play with more of their toys, toy rotation helps solve the problem of being short on storage space and cuts down on the time it takes to tidy everything up. It works with books, too.

The Basics

Setting up a basic toy rotation system is a lot less time consuming than it may sound. You don’t need any special bins or supplies, either.

You can get as complicated as you like with your toy rotation system, but the essentials are as follows:

1. Divide up the toys. How many go in each set depends on the space you have, the number of toys you have, or you or your child’s personal preference. A dozen is plenty.

2. Keep one set of toys out at a time. Put away the others.

3. After a week or two (depending on your child’s continuing interest in the toys that are out), switch to another set.

Read More

There are many variations on this them. Check out these articles for more toy rotation strategies.

Have you tried implementing a toy rotation system? How did it go? Have any tips? Share them in the comments!

photo in top image by Elizabeth/Table4Five [via Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/table4five/377763536/]

28 Easy and Cheap Ways to Organize and Store Toys

Wondering how you’re going to find a place for all that new loot in your kiddo’s nursery, bedroom or playroom? I’ve created a board at Pinterest with 28 ways to get organized using items you can make yourself, find around your house, or pick up inexpensively. Check it out and let me know what you think!

If you need more ideas, browse through BC’s Guide to Frugal and Fabulous Toy Storage.

A Baby Cheapskate Guide to Frugal and Fabulous Toy Storage

My husband and I figured we’d be parents whose houses would never be overrun by toys and whose child would enjoy a well-edited assortment of aesthetically pleasing, educational, and mostly silent playthings. {insert rueful laughter here} Let’s just blame what really happened on generous, if not so disciplined relatives.

What starts out as an infant’s small collection of rattles and lovey bears so easily snowballs into mounds of plastic play food, Hot Wheels, construction toys, and puzzle pieces. If you’re like us, you ask yourself, what do we do with it all? And how do we do it frugally?

Looking at the toy storage photos submitted last week by Baby Cheapskate readers (view the entire album), we see a two major similarities. The most prevalent is the use of bins, baskets and boxes to corral smaller items rather than a large toy box (though some families do use toy boxes along with bins). The other is the use of furniture that isn’t specifically made for toys, but that can be reused and repurposed for years to come in various rooms of the house.

Bins, boxes and baskets allow you to keep small and medium-sized toys together. Some parents also like them because they allow them to rotate toys available to their child so that they’re not always playing with the same thing. Deep bins are good for keeping toys out of sight when they’re put away, while shallow bins allow young kids to see what they have and easily reach the toys they want.

Bins, boxes and baskets can come from your own closets, from the dollar store, or from the thrift store. They don’t have to cost much at all. Get creative! One reader picked up trash cans from the dollar store to fit inside an IKEA Expedit storage unit (top right). Collapsable leaf bins make great stuffed animal storage and can even double as toddler “tunnels” (right). Plastic milk crates, see-through bins, and even laundry baskets can hold larger toys. Even old suitcases can become toy storage pieces (left) that close and slide right under the couch and out of sight at the end of the day. Even shoe boxes and other product boxes can be put to good use.

For super-bonus organizer points, affix labels with photos or the names of the toys to the bins they belong in!

Multipurpose shelving and storage. To really stretch your storage dollar, create storage solutions that you’ll be able to use long after Mr. Potato Head has been put away. This doesn’t necessarily mean investing $200 in a big IKEA Expedit unit (though they look great); the most frugal toy storage idea submitted by our readers didn’t require buying a thing. The family simply turned a closet into dedicated toy storage that they can shut the door on at the end of the day (right). Others surrendered their media center or built-ins to the worthy cause of toy organization. Another family used vintage wooden peach crates to create their own version of cubicle storage. Super frugal thrift store and Craigslist finds submitted by readers include a $10 handmade wooden cabinet (love the green!) and a vintage trunk (left).

A few considerations before you commit to a particular organizational system:

  • Get out a tape measure and a notepad and survey the toys your child currently has. Are they mostly small (LEGO, Hot Wheels, plastic figures, etc.), large (Pound a Pegs, Ride Ons, Giant Stuffed Bears), or some of each? Are they mostly rectangular (board games, puzzles) or irregularly sized? Craft a storage system that will keep all they toys tidy, regardless of size. Make sure the shelving you choose is tall and wide enough for the toys you want to put on it. If you look at the submitted photos, you’ll see that many of the units have a variety of storage solutions–an area for puzzles, an area for trucks, an area that allows access to small toys, an area for stuffed animals, etc.
  • Consider your lifestyle. If your child plays in your main living area, it makes sense to create storage there rather than hauling toys to and from a playroom or bedroom. And if so, how important is it for you to minimize the presence of toys in your main living area? If you want them completely out of site, you’ll want to opt for deep bins or cabinets rather than open shelving.
  • Picture your child as a teenager. Can you imagine use for your storage unit or shelving then? If your storage unit is going to stick around, invest in a piece that suits your decor or that can fit in a pantry or basement. If you know it’s temporary, it’s fine to choose inexpensive “kiddie” stuff.
  • Make sure your toy storage solution leaves some breathing room for future toy “expansion,” because, yep, most likely your child will have even more toys than she does now!

Readers, what are your best “frugal toy storage” tips?

Toy Storage Solution Photo Contest Winner

The winner of our Toy Storage Solution photo contest, chosen by the more than 600 readers who voted, is:

Photo #3 features a 5×5 IKEA Expedit shelving unit ($199) with straw bins and dollar-store waste-paper baskets for bins. Congrats, Dawn! You win a $25 Amazon gift certificate!

Your second and third favorites?

#33, Two IKEA Trofast units ($99.99 ea.) with labels:

And #36, which features handmade built-in storage units:

Thanks, readers, for helping me with my research! I’ll post the BC Guide to Frugal Toy Storage on Monday.