The following is by editor Kara Fleck.
In April, I have been sharing with you some ways that I care for my children’s things. Today, I want to talk with you about books and toys: namely, our rotation system for both.
We rotate books and toys because I feel like rotating allows us to have less toys but enjoy them more.
What This Looks Like at Our House
We have books that we rotate seasonally. We also have books that we rotate according to our homeschool themes. We have books for specific holidays, too.
I keep these books in baskets and I rotate them on a frequent basis. The baskets are in our loft/playroom and on our living room coffee table and in a few other kid-accessible spots.
I also have a small basket that I use to rotate board books from our collection for Lucy, my two year old. I put two or three books at a time in there for her and she knows that is her basket.
Photo by Kara Fleck
My kids each have a bookshelf in their bedrooms with books that are age and interest appropriate. The rest of the books are on our family bookshelves in our office/dining room. The books in their rooms are rotated less frequently than the book baskets, but I do go through the shelves a few times a year and make changes.
My goal is the keep the children’s bookshelves and our book baskets from getting so congested that we can’t enjoy the books that we own.
Right now the kids’ personal bookshelves look like this:
- My nine year old has about 2 dozen books on her shelf, including a book series she is currently reading, her Bible, and a few classics like Charlotte’s Web, The Phantom Tollbooth, and My Friend Flicka, among others.
- My four year old son has a variety of bug books on his shelf, as insects are his current obsession.
- My toddler has about half a dozen board books on her self, face out so that she can see the covers.
Beloved favorites stay on their shelves, like my son Max’s copy of Where the Wild Things Are.
Photo by Kara Fleck
We also rotate some of our toys. I generally do this with smaller toys that have many pieces, because it helps to keep them from getting mixed together if we only have one type of toy set like this out at a time.
I keep these toys in canvas bins and we have a cubby hole shelf. Once a week or so, I switch out the bins in the cubbies with of one type for another. Bins that aren’t in use get stored on shelves in a closet. Having these items in bins makes it easy to just switch them out without any sorting or hassle.
That top photo with Jillian and Max playing in the middle of a sea of play mobil? It is manageable because it is one category of small items at a time and not a sea of play mobil and duplo and lego (which, trust me, in my house would all be dumped on the floor at the same time).
My kids can play and take up space and make a mess, and when they are done, all of the toys go right back into the bins.
(Note: that top photo was actually taken last year, before I was using canvas bins for rotating toy storage. At the time, I was using plastic totes, which worked fairly well for the quantity we had. Later, I downsized the amount of small toys we had and the bins became a more efficient way to store and rotate these items.)
- Matchbox cars
- musical instruments
- different types of dress up clothes
- Mr. Potato Head
- stuffed animals
They then use these items as part of a structured play rotation during the week. In Jamie’s words, “We rotate through several activities each week so that we actually use all the toys we have, without becoming bored.”
Photo by Kara Fleck
Rotating Craft Activities
In my family, we also rotate certain craft activities, in part because they come with a “mess factor” that I prefer to deal with only once a week. We have a watercolor painting day and also a set day for playdough, too.
Is It Time to Downsize?
Sometimes, even with these toy and book rotation systems in place, our play areas can feel chaotic. Then I know I need to reevaluate what we own and make some decisions. I try to follow the “one in, one out” rule, but that doesn’t always happen. We can accumulate too much, despite good intentions.
Are you feeling overwhelmed by the books and toys your children have? Are they having a hard time keeping things picked up?
When this happens at my house, despite our toy and book rotating, I know that it might be time to downsize.
First, ask yourself a few questions about the items:
- Are items currently being played with? Have they been outgrown? Are there broken or missing pieces that make them unusable?
- Is the way these items are stored/displayed visually appealing? Is this a peaceful space? Or a chaotic and cluttered space? This impacts a child’s play environment.
- Would less be more? If so, downsize.
When it comes to the actual methods of storage and the space, ask yourself:
- Is there adequate storage space for the items? Do you need a larger bookshelf? Toy box?
- Is there a better way to store or display the toys, books, art supplies or collection? Are you making the best use of your space?
- Do those items deserve the investment of time and space for bigger storage? Do they enrich your child’s play and your family environment? Are the worth making room for?
If you come to the conclusion that your child is ready for a larger bookshelf or her collections needs a bigger storage space, and it is worth the investment of money and space to you, then you can make some adjustments with how you are using the space and bring in some other storage options.
However, if it isn’t worth it to you to get a larger storage system, then perhaps it is time to downsize to a more manageable amount.
Photo by Kara Fleck
Stuffed animals are one category of toys that seem to multiply at our house. Art supplies are another thing we accumulate quite a lot of: if we’re using those supplies or playing with those stuffed animals on a regular basis, wonderful.
But if items are just gathering dust and taking up space, I know it is time to let them go to make room for the supplies we truly use and love.
And, if items are worth keeping but you don’t have much space for their display and your child’s access to them, then consider rotating the books and toys.
Do you have a rotation system for books and/or toys? How do you handle knowing when it is time to downsize those items? What works at your house to keep toy and book clutter to a minimum, and still allow your family to enjoy these things? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!