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Walking through a Toy Rotation - A Step-By-Step Guide

I recently observed that it was time for a some changes in our playroom. While I typically don't change everything at once (and didn't this time either), I do make a change here and there fairly frequently. Then, every now and then, we need a big overhaul. And, that was yesterday. I spent the day cleaning shelves, rearranging, and putting out some new work for Gus (and Nora, but we will focus on Gus here). 

I'm going to walk you through the process and share my thoughts as I went. This will help you get a better look at my process and how I tackle a rotation. 

Starting Point 

A step-by-step look at how we rotate toys in our Montessori home.

My initial reaction is that everything is 1. looking cluttered, I want to ignore the shelf too. 2) A lot of this isn't being used right now. I know its still warmer weather so a lot more outside work is happening (gross motor play mostly) but it's time for a change. 3) Open windows means a lot of dust, and everything needs a wipe.

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First Steps

First, I need to gather supplies which include some possible toy choices and my bottle of spray cleaner. Then, I start pulling things off of the shelves. I have a running list in my head of the things that will likely stay and the things that will likely go. These are all based on my observations of Gus over the last several weeks. 

First thing I do is pull and replace the things I know will go, and the things I want to replace those items with. In this case, I knew that three of the toys needed to be removed outright. 

A step-by-step look at how we rotate toys in our Montessori home.
1. Gus isn't done with this vintage transportation puzzle, but he was ready for a switch. I'll likely rotate between these two for awhile. The new puzzle is slightly more abstract, so it may be too hard for him, I'll observe and see. 

2. I love this chunky puzzle, but it has gotten way too easy. I will likely bring it back out when he's learning the language for shapes, but for now I think a more challenging 3D puzzle is more appropriate. The vintage cone puzzle from Plan Toys is one of my most favorite ever so I'm happy to see it on the shelf again. 

A step-by-step look at how we rotate toys in our Montessori home.

3. The color work hasn't been touched in awhile. Replacing it with a Playmobile 123 truck that Gus loves (I know because he sneaks it out of his closet at every opportunity). This truck is a must have on the shelf right now. 

4. This pegging sorter is popular with Gus but it's been on the shelves for awhile. I think he would be happy with a switch and is really into buckling. Adding this vintage puzzle piece with a buckle should grab his interest. 

Stuff that Stays

Once I replace the things I know will go, I go through the things I know will stay. There are a few things that Gus loves or needs on his shelf that will stay put as is. These included: 

A step-by-step look at how we rotate toys in our Montessori home.
A step-by-step look at how we rotate toys in our Montessori home.

1. This is work given to us by Gus' speech language therapist. He has some language delay and these help to encourage him to make sounds. This isn't Montessori work, or something that I would include if he wasn't specifically have speech motor issues. 

2. His shape sorter! He loves this thing and its the appropriate challenge for him. It's been on the shelves awhile but it still gets good use so it stays. 

3. Lacing work. This is a newer addition to the shelves, but one he repeats daily at this point. Stays as is! This is the perfect challenge for him right now. 

4. Size sequencing puzzle. I rotate these more frequently and he really likes them, so it stays. 

A step-by-step look at how we rotate toys in our Montessori home.

This is a messy process! As I finish deciding on one of the items I just place it back on the shelf. Other stuff stays around the room, or Gus hauls it around! 

Making Tweaks 

Next, I look at what's left and some of it can stay but needs a small change. Here there weren't many things. I find that I often tweak things between rotations to make sure they are working well for Gus. But, I did add a few more farm animals to his matching work, and decided to put the pieces to his garden puzzle in a basket instead of keeping the puzzle together. 

A step-by-step look at how we rotate toys in our Montessori home.

New Toys

Once I have done all that, I finally see if there are any gaps left on the shelf. I don't mean physical space (although that is a concern), I mean developmentally. Do I see anything that he is working on that isn't represented here? Or is there something that he likes that could have more options? Here I wanted to add a couple more things. 

A step-by-step look at how we rotate toys in our Montessori home.

1. I had taken all the color work off the shelf, so I wanted to make sure there was something representing color matching. Gus is also super into matching and pegging so this work was a good fit. 

2. These blocks were for both Nora and Gus. I had taken some other building blocks off (these were for Nora so aren't featured here) and I wanted something they could both build with. 

3. More matching and language work. These simple matching cards and fruits/veggies expand on his object to picture matching interest with the farm animals, but in a new way. 

Putting it All Back Together

Now, it's my favorite part! Putting it all back out. I clean all the shelves with my spray and start putting things back. This is total trial and error. I want to make sure every part of the shelf is appealing and organized. I want there to be enough white space, enough color, enough accessibility. I love these shelves because I can adjust as needed, remove or add as needed. Basically, I place a few things, step back and look. Replace a few more things, step back and look again. 

A step-by-step look at how we rotate toys in our Montessori home.
A step-by-step look at how we rotate toys in our Montessori home.

I try to think about where Gus is most likely to work with something. If something is too heavy to lift from the floor, if the work will call to him in that spot. Is the shelf too dark? Is it too small? Is it too big? Is the container right? Is the tray right? It takes time. And just being willing to play with it. 

A step-by-step look at how we rotate toys in our Montessori home.
A step-by-step look at how we rotate toys in our Montessori home.

This is also the time where I might put work away - things that I took off the shelves. Or work that I took out but it's just too much. I don't want the shelves to be overcrowded, so if I planned too much work, some of it must go back. 

Hopefully this was helpful, and gave you a glimpse into how you could rotate toys! How do you rotate materials? 

A step-by-step look at how we rotate toys in our Montessori home.



Celeste said…
I'm curious to know more about your system for storing everything that's not in rotation.

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