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January 11, 2018

Toy Rotation in Our Montessori Home

It's that time of year where everyone is trying to figure out what in the world to do with all these new toys they have. Do you put them out? Do you store them for later? If you put them out, what do you do with all the old things? It can be really frustrating, especially since we know that too many toys can be a big problem in a Montessori environment. 

How should you rotate toys in a Montessori environment? Here are some Montessori points to keep in mind when considering toy rotation.

The answer to this problem is toy rotation. This idea that you put out some toys now, and then store the others. You then rotate the toys as needed so that your children have things that fit their interests and present the appropriate amount of challenge. But, what does that practically mean in a Montessori environment? I'll tell you right away what it does NOT mean - rotating your toys on a specific time schedule. 

Keep some of these ideas in mind as you think about rotating toys! 

Sense of Order

Young children (birth to around age 6) are in the sensitive period for order. They have this incredible sense of order that can be disrupted with changes in environment and routine. If we are frequently changing toys in the environment, we can disrupt this sense of order in our children which can lead to undesirable behavior. 

In order to help preserve that sense of order, try rotating just one or two things at a time. Avoid massive, sweeping changes in a child's environment -- again, especially one some random predetermined adult-led time table. 

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In Montessori, concentration is such an important topic! We try to create environments where children are able to deeply concentrate on their own interests. Maria Montessori found that when children were able to concentrate, they had great joy and satisfaction in their work. 

Children are naturally driven to explore their environments, so when something new is added, they may feel this pressure to bounce around checking out every new thing. Therefore, rotating too often or too much really is a concentration killer. Children become unable to focus, and settle into the things they have available. 

Shelves are from IKEA and part of the Besta line | Rug | Climber from Magic Cabin

So make sure your children not only have enough time to play, but that they have enough time with their things to really deeply concentrate on them. Don't rotate too often, but let your children have time to explore each option to the fullest. 


In the words of Maria Montessori, "repetition is the secret of perfection." Children have a deep need to repeat activities over and over and over again - even after mastery. Only they know when they have attained perfection. The adult's judgment about how much a child chooses a work has no place in a Montessori environment. If a child is still called to a material, then the child should be allowed to use the material, even if they can use it perfectly. 

So, be careful not to rotate toys simply because your child has mastered the work. Give your child space and time to repeat until he or she is done with the work. Do not place a value on the work your child is doing, instead respect it. Therefore, be careful not to rotate things that your child is drawn to and uses. 

Child's Interests

In Montessori a child's interests should drive the activity that your child participates in throughout the day. Montessori is, at its core, child-led. A child is given the freedom to explore his or her interests as deeply and freely as possible. This does not change when we think specifically about toys. Your children's things should be things that deeply interest them. And, when they do interest them, they should have as much time and space as they want to explore those interests.

Therefore, toy rotation should also be based on a child's interests. This means, sometimes toys stay out for months (even years) at a time. They don't need to be taken away if my child is still using them. It also can mean that a toy (even if its awesome, and Montessori friendly) is removed (or never introduced) because my child just isn't interested. 


So this has been a lot of what not to do when rotating toys, so what SHOULD you do? The answer - observe, observe, observe. Observation is one of the central roles of an adult in a Montessori environment. Without observation, you can't determine your child's interests, you can't see if they are able to concentration, you can't see if they are able to repeat their work, you can't decide when to rotate, what to rotate, how to rotate. Observation is key. 

Rotation should be based on your observations. It should be based on your child's interests. It's that simple. No rotation schedules. No huge sweeping changes. No adult-led desire to use all the new toys. Simply child-led.

Do you rotate your children's toys? How do you rotate?

Looking for more help setting up and running your Montessori home? Don't miss Cultivating Spaces for Children!

How should you rotate toys in a Montessori environment? Here are some Montessori points to keep in mind when considering toy rotation.


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Betty said…
This was such a helpful overview, and your room set up is inspiring! I normally do a partial rotation of our shelves every 1-2 weeks, and I wasn't sure if I was leaving some things out too long. But the answer is always follow the child - relieved to hear this echoed in your thoughtful post!