do the number of toys affect children?
When it comes to toys for toddlers, more may not be better according to research just published by Carly Dauch and her colleagues. That’s bad news for grandparents and the 20-billion-dollar toy industry.
Dauch studied the play activities of children between 18 and 30 months of age, exposing them to a wide range of 32 gender-neutral toys. The children were individually allowed access to a room of either four or sixteen toys during a 30-minute period, and their resulting play activities were analyzed.
When given fewer toys, the quality of the toddlers’ play was dramatically different. They focused their attention more on each toy, and perhaps most importantly used the toys in a more creative manner.
From a child development perspective, these results are extremely significant. We want toddlers to develop self-control and attention skills, and that’s a lot easier without having to cope with a highly distracting and stimulating environment of excessive toys.
The parents reported that these kids had an average of about 90 toys at home. While toys are intended to entertain and promote a child’s development, the impact may be just the opposite. If given fewer toys, our toddlers may be more likely to develop the very skills for which parents think they are enhancing with more toys. Fewer toys may result in improved learning and a greater attention span.
Here’s what this research means for parents of toddlers.
1. Manage expectations. Explain to your child that you will not buy them things whenever they want. State this very clearly before you take them shopping. Most importantly, don’t say one thing and then do another.
2. Rotate toys. It can be overwhelming to maintain this minimalist philosophy at birthdays, holidays, or during visits from grandparents. Accept the toys, but then put them away for a while. One parent told me that she maintains a toy library. Once every few weeks, the kids can take out a different item, but then must return an existing toy. An added benefit of this approach is that clean up time is much easier.
3. Focus on experiences. With modest resources, is it better to spend money on an experience or buying a thing? The experts in the psychology of happiness tell us that people, including children, are more likely to be positively impacted by experiences. After a while, we get accustomed to the new toy or video game. However, kids remember special vacations or trips they had with their parents.
4. Why do you buy so many things for your kids? What your children ask for is not what they really need. Your time, attention, love, humor, and guidance are more important and impactful than any toy.