Creating a plan for your toy rotation and sticking to it!
By Guest Blogger: Dana Vitolo
I’m a trained Montessori teacher (AMS) in 3-6 and have nine years of experience in the classroom. But now I’m a homeschooling mom spending my days exploring with my active 2 year and 8 month old daughter.
I have experience setting up shelves in the Montessori classroom for 20 or more children. But setting up a Montessori toy shelf and storage and rotation system at home is a bit different. There are challenges, but it’s so worth it.
For instance, at home:
You’re setting up a shelf for your kids and not a classroom full of kids. The types of toys you put on the shelf may need to be rotated more frequently.
? Only your kids will use the toys, and they may grow out of them quickly or never want to use them.
? You may not have as much free time (or any time at all) to clean, declutter, and rotate toys on your shelf. Therefore, it’s important to be more creative with your time.
Our toy shelf at 7 months
My Montessori toy rotation journey
I set up a Montessori toy shelf in our living room when our daughter turned 7 months old. This is when my Montessori toy rotation journey began. When my daughter was this young, it was easier, in a way, because I didn’t have to rotate the toys as often. I just changed a few toys here or there, as needed.
But, I had a tendency to put too many toys on her shelf at once. I learned that it’s best to have no more than 10 toys on the shelf at one time. For months, all she wanted to do was pull everything off the shelf or not go to her shelf at all. This was all normal for her age. But I suspect she may have also been overwhelmed with all the choices.
Our toy shelf at 10 months
Although with time, I figured it out. It got easier. It started to make sense when and how to rotate her toys. The whole process is a learning experience but it’s also rewarding and a lot of fun!
Montessori Toy Rotation is an ongoing process and it’s always changing and looking different. Just when you think you got a routine down, your child changes. For instance:
? She no longer loves ducks, but now she loves dogs.
? She mastered that puzzle quickly and won’t touch it anymore (even if you put it away for weeks and take it back out).
? She’s not a fan of art materials this month, but she’s always asking for play dough lately.
? She has no interest in anything on the shelf, even though I just changed everything. But she just wants to run, jump, and climb.
Our toy shelf at 16 months
As my daughter got a little older, we needed to get more toys and I had to think of more challenging activities. She mastered her toys and grew bored of them quickly.
As I write this, my daughter is two years and 8 months old. It’s starting to become more challenging to keep on top of the toy rotation process. Her toy and activity collection is growing, and I foresee how Montessori toy rotation can become overwhelming if I don’t get on top of it and if I don’t have a plan.
But there is one thing that is needed for both the Montessori classroom and your Montessori-friendly home. You need to have a plan for rotating activities on the shelf.
Coming up with a Plan
I didn’t always have a plan at home. I’m just starting to organize a plan for our Montessori toy rotation system now. The best thing to do is write everything down. I have always told myself that I can remember everything in my head so I don’t need to write anything down. I usually can remember everything. But, there is always something that I miss or something that I could have done better if I just wrote it down.
What do I write down on my plan?
Plan for the year When I was a Montessori classroom teacher, I planned ahead all of the themes or topics I wanted to cover for the whole year. I would write down the lists for each month in a word doc. This is an excellent practice to do at home, as well. Plan for the month Look at the themes that you planned ahead. For the month coming up next, dig deeper with more details. Write down this list in a word doc.
• What specific activities do I want to do?
• What does my child like right now?
• What do I need to make?
• What do I need to find or buy?
Make a List for all of your toys in storage.
Write down all of the toys and activities you have in storage in an Excel spreadsheet under different categories. Even better, print out that Excel sheet and put it on a clip board in your closet for quick and ready access. This will help you keep track of everything you have at a glance, which can help you with your toy rotation and planning. It can also help you decide on what you need to buy and what you can purge. Observations for the week Write down the 8-10 toys/activities you currently have on the shelf with space for writing.
Write down your observations for that week.
Did your child touch that toy/activity? Did she use that activity every day all week long? These observations will give you clues as to what to take away, what to keep, and what you can take out next
Our toy shelf at 2 years 7 months
How often should you rotate the Montessori toys?
You will need to rotate the toys on the shelf on a regular basis. Otherwise, your child will become bored. How often you rotate the toys depends on your child. Further, the frequency may change over time. It could be every week to every three weeks, or as needed. Additionally, you could change out one or two toys, here or there, or change them all at one time. I do both. About once per month, I change out all of the toys on the shelf. I remove everything off the shelf and put everything on the floor while I dust the empty shelves. Here’s a good cheat…have your child help you dust as a practical life activity! While I do this, I look for clues as to what my daughter really liked on the shelf, because she’ll start exploring with them on the floor. As I put all of these toys away, I look through toys and activities stored in the closet to put on the shelf next. I involve my daughter. I replace all the toys we had on the shelf with all different ones. It’s wonderful to start fresh and my daughter notices right away with excitement! Tip: Get your kids involved!
When I rotate activities/toys and go through the bins in the closet, I declutter as I go along. I do this with my daughter! She loves to help and go through all the toys in the closet. This also gives me a clue as to what she gravitates towards and what I could toss, or put on the shelf next!
Observe The best way to know what to put on the shelf next is to observe your kids throughout the day. While you’re watching your kids, ask yourself questions. You’ll start to notice patterns. For example:
• What worked and what didn’t work?
• Do they have a favorite toy right now?
• Which books/toys/activities do they take out mostly these days?
• Did your child master any activities? Which ones?
• Is there a toy they never want to play with and why?
• Did your child have an “aha” moment and is there a way to challenge her further?
Our toy shelf set up at 2 years and 8 months old
The 4 most important things to remember on your Montessori toy rotation journey are:
• Have no more than about 10 toys out on the shelf at a time
• Write down a plan for the year, month, and week
• Rotate the toys every one to three weeks, or as needed
• Observe your child and write it down
In conclusion, the toy rotation process is always changing, including your storage area. It will never be perfect or completed. Do the best you can. Go with the flow, involve your child, and have fun with it! I hope that this article was helpful and inspiring to you. How do you rotate your toys? Do you have any tips that you’d like to share? Leave a comment!
About Dana Vitolo:
I’m a Montessori mommy mentor, trained in Montessori (AMS) 3-6, M.A.Ed, and homeschooler.