Why You Shouldn’t Give Your Children so Many Toys

In a new study by researchers at the University of Toledo, toddlers who were given fewer toys played more creatively and were more involved in their play than those who had many toys available. Mom and Dad, it might be time to remove this robot chicken, plush mustache, bingo emoji set and Spiderman drone from your Amazon shopping cart. I’m sorry.

The researchers put 36 children, aged 18 to 30 months, into various outdoor play sessions, one with four toys in the room and the other with 16 toys. The toys were varied – some were battery operated, some had wheels, and some were designed to teach concepts such as shapes or counting. In an environment with four toys, children spent 108% longer on toys and played with them in more ways. Their play was deeper, more sophisticated, more imaginative. When children were surrounded by many toys, they tended to move from one object to another more often.

Oddly enough, we knew this was happening for a long time, didn’t we? Parents who had moved into a new home and hadn’t yet opened all of their boxes were shocked when their kids played for hours with a random set of pots and pans, turning them into hats, drums, and catwalks. (“Maybe we just need to get rid of this giant BABY SHIT box, huh?”) Kane Monroy would probably never have built an entire arcade out of cardboard at age 9 if he had a playground. I love watching my 4-year-old daughter enjoy playing with what she accidentally finds in the trash bin (don’t judge). Also, aren’t we all more focused when we are alone with a diary and a pen, rather than in front of 62 open tabs?

Nobody says we should ban toys, but simplification can do a lot of good. If you buy (or borrow) toys, look for toys with an unlimited ending: bricks, dressing up accessories, small kitchen utensils, plasticine, and toy cars. Place the toys one at a time . Have a small, dedicated space for toys (and donate anything that doesn’t fit). Give experience, not things . Destroy anything that keeps beeping, blinking, or glowing with a vicious strobe .

You can do it. Don’t let toys win.


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