A study conducted by the University of Toledo suggested that children who have fewer toys are more creative and have longer attention spans. The Ohio-based university recruited 36 toddlers who were allowed to play in a room with either 16 toys or just four. They found that the toddlers who played with four toys used each for twice as long.
In the UK, the average parent buys their child a total of 238 toys. Surprisingly, a survey found that they only played with 12 “favorites,” which makes up just 5% of their collection. Another study in Germany found that children who had fewer toys were not only more creative but also more social.
Having fewer toys makes children more resourceful, forcing them to solve problems with what they have available. According to Vancouver-based clinical counselor Deborah MacNamara, children don’t need toys to play. It may sound a bit extreme, but children are far more inquisitive than us adults.
While they do need something to play with, kids have a pronounced ability to explore their environment and find ways to make the most of what is available to them. So, this begs the question, are you spending way more than you should on kid’s toys? Probably.
We live in the digital age, where kids are learning to browse around iPads, flick through television channels and expertly play online games, often with a greater level of proficiency than their parents. But that’s not to say that you should ditch the expensive action figures and Barbie dolls for an Xbox.
Playing with toys is still better than staring at a screen. That’s because they offer a greater opportunity for kids to use their creativity and interact socially. No toys = not good, but so is too many. If you’re struggling to find ways to keep your little ones busy, consider healthy alternatives such as drawing, painting, and outdoor activities.
Saving on Toys
As we mentioned earlier, it’s safe to say that a small collection of toys that your kids enjoy playing with is the way to go. Aside from not buying a new toy every week, you can also save money on the few that you do buy. For example, you can find an assortment of free samples for your kids on freebie websites.
Open-ended toys that foster creative thinking, such as paint and canvas sets, coloring books, Lego bricks and blocks are often quite affordable. Focus on buying toys that provide room for imagination and you’ll quickly find that they aren’t all that expensive.
Taking a Minimalist Approach
On the Becoming Minimalist blog, writer Joshua Becker has listed a number of ways to take a more minimal approach to buying toys for your kids, with a focus on increasing the amount of time that you spend with them as a parent. He doesn’t advocate completing removing toys from your kid’s lives, but rather cutting down on the number of toys.
Avoiding fads, choosing quality over quantity and not giving in to temper tantrums when shopping are some of the more noteworthy recommendations. In addition to saving you money and fostering their development, doing the occasional purge of toys that are no longer used and not buying more will also go a long way in decluttering your home.
To further build on this, you can involve your kids in the clean-up process to teach them a valuable lesson about choosing which material items they really need in life.
It’s not always easy to cut down on spoiling your kids, but there are enough benefits to make it worth the effort. At the end of the day, having them spend more time with you and less time with things is what really matters.
For more on this topic, check out the full Simplify collection