If you are a parent of a child younger than 13, this is the most important piece of advice I have for engaged, happy, independent play at home. It will also help your child achieve the remarkable feat of cleaning up after themselves. If know, it sounds too good to be true, but I promise that this strategy works (like magic)!
Repeat after me: LIMIT and ROTATE
Instead of displaying all of your child's toys at once, LIMIT and ROTATE materials.
Limiting choices helps children focus and prevents overstimulation. Having too many choices makes it difficult to make a single choice, and studies show an overabundance of options makes us less happy with what we end up choosing.
How many toys should be available at a time depends on your child's age. Younger children need fewer materials, and older children can begin to handle a bigger selection. I would recommend beginning with the number of materials on the shelf outlined below; however, this is not prescriptive. Every child is different, so follow your child's needs.
Age of Child
Approximate Number of Toy Options Available in Play Space*
Birth to 12 months
12 to 18 months
18 months to 2 years
*Toy options can include sets with many pieces, such as a box of blocks or dollhouse with dolls and furniture.*
Rotating toys maintains excitement and interest. In my classroom, activities that have been on the shelf for a while begin to collect dust; however, if I put the material away for a month or two, grab it out of storage, and make it available again...Voila!...It flies off the shelf!
Tips for Rotating Materials:
Keep favorites on the shelf at all times. For example, if they love magnet tiles, keep them on the shelf even as you rotate other materials.
There is no magic formula for the frequency of rotation. It is an art, not a science. Start with rotating 1-2 times per month, and see how it goes.
Follow your child's lead! Lack of engagement is a sign that it is time to rotate.
Utilize toy libraries. If you are located in the Twin Cities Metro, you can visit ours.
Check back soon, as I will be creating sample shelves for each age group and model how to rotate materials!