Montessori Toy Rotation

Montessori Toy Shelf

When we first set up the main floor playroom for our daughter, K, it was a place where we stored every toy we had for her.

There were a ton of activities to keep her busy, and we always had a wide range of toys available for babies of all ages (for when our friends stopped by with their little ones).

Messy Playroom
NOT actually our playroom 🙂

At the time it seemed like a good idea, but we were later introduced to “toy rotating” by one of the Montessori Instagram accounts we follow and realized there was a much better way.

What Is A Toy Rotation?

A toy rotation is simply having a set amount of toys out on display for your child to play with and then storing away other toys that you can rotate in and out.

Toy rotations are actually something we do with our two Golden Retrievers dogs. Every time we pull out toys from storage the dogs act like it’s a new fun toy they’ve never seen before.

With kids, it’s very similar.

When you bring out “new” toys (even if they’ve played with them before) it is exciting for them and will often lead to them engaging with those activities more.

It also allows you to reduce the number of toys you have set out in the playroom, which can be a great way to promote focus and let them master individual skills (and can make keeping the area tidy easier too)!

Cleaning Up Our Montessori Playroom

Although the colossal collection of toys we had scattered all over the room seemed to keep K busy, we later realized it was making it tough for her to focus and master an individual activity.

We decided to tidy things up and pack away a lot of toys she was either getting too old for or that she wasn’t using.

Montessori Playroom Shelf
The 1st Edition of our Montessori Playroom

We originally cut back quite a bit on the toys we had out for her (see the above picture), but realized even then we still had too many activities out on display for her.

From following various Montessori parents we learned that roughly 8-10 activities would be plenty.

In the above picture we had 13 toys out, and then a few more not pictured.

We also had one toy out of reach which we wanted to change with our next playroom makeover (the Montessori way is having everything in reach for the child).

Clean Montessori Shelf
The 2nd Edition

As you can see from the above picture we cut down the number of Montessori activities on the shelf to 8, and also rotated in some new Montessori-minded toys.

Not only do fewer toys on the shelf help K stay interested in each activity more, but it also means we have more toys available to rotate in and out each week.

After this, we purchased wooden trays and baskets for each activity to make them easier to use (carrying a single tray is easier for a toddler than trying to carry multiple items or going back and forth).

Montessori Shelf With Trays and Baskets
The 3rd Edition

Nowadays our playroom is looking much more like a Montessori Playroom!

Tips For Rotating Toys

  • Try having just 8-10 activities out in the playroom
  • Have a wide variety of activities (ie. stacking toys, puzzles, musical instruments, etc)
  • Rotate the toys every 5-10 days (we do it weekly)
  • Use the toy rotation as a time to clean the toys and play area
  • There are no set rules – do what works best for you and your child!

If you are looking for ideas on toys and activities to rotate on your shelf check out our Best Montessori Toys for 1 Year Olds or Montessori Toddler Toys guides!

Frequently Asked Toy Rotation Questions

How many toys should we be rotating in?

Depending on the age of your child, we’ve found around 8-10 total toys or activities in a playroom to be the perfect number for a toy rotation. If you have another 10 or so in storage that will plenty for a toy rotation, as you don’t need to rotate every toy each time you swap them out.

How do I know when it’s time to rotate the toys?

Observation is key. Watch your child and observe which toys are being used and which haven’t been used for many days in a row. We rotate our toys out weekly on Monday and only rotate the toys our daughter isn’t engaging with. I would say between 5 days and 2 weeks would be an ideal range.

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6 comments
  1. Hi! I am thinking of applying this rotation method for my 27m old kid. But I’m imagining what if he asks me for toys that I’ve hidden away from him? Shall I bring it out or tell him it will be back after some days?

    1. We started our toy rotation early with our little one, so it’s a little bit of a different scenario, but we tell K that she can use the toys that we have out for her and she will get new ones soon. If there was a certain toy she was asking for that isn’t out we would most likely have no issue getting it for her, but we try to just let her use the activities that are already out. Hope that helps

  2. Hi, first of all, love the post! But I did have a question. I have a one year old, and a lot of my friends have much older kids, so they don’t really play with the same toys as each other. Where did you find the balance of having something for the older kids to play with without having so many toys for older that your child’s playroom is overrun? I’m having a hard time knowing the right amount of toys for visitors and how to put them in the playroom.

    1. Thank you! This is a tricky one, we don’t have too much experience with this as our friends mostly have children who are around the same age. When our nephews come over who are quite a bit older they mostly have fun engaging in gross motor play and imaginative play. But a couple of suggestions that might work 1) ask your friend to bring a few of their child’s favorite toys 2) sensory play – using things you already have (ie. kitchen utensils with either water or rice) 3) go for a walk in nature or play outside 4) DIY activities again using items you already have. Here are a few Instagram accounts that have a ton of play ideas @mothercould @busytoddler. Lastly, if you do have some materials that are suitable for your one-year-old and your friend’s children you could bring those out during playdates and put them away afterward. Hope this helps.

  3. Hi! Quick question, where did you store all the other toys that were not on the shelf? Did you keep them in a toy box in your baby’s room or did you keep it somewhere only accessible to you so that only parents can switch out toys? I’m trying to figure out how to reorganize the play area for my almost 1 year old. Thank you.

    1. Hello! We store them in the basement in large bins. Our oldest knows that they are there but that they are off-limits. Toy rotation happens while the girls are sleeping or when our oldest is at school. If you’d like to send me DM on Instagram I can send you a post on our toy storage. 🙂

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