Kids play better when they have fewer toys

pile of toys
CC BY 2.0 Valentina Yachichurova

A new study shows that there is such thing as too many toys.

If you're planning to buy a pile of toys for your kid this Christmas, you might want to think again. A new study confirms what many of us parents have suspected all along -- that there is such a thing as too many toys!

Researchers from the University of Toledo put 36 toddlers in a room to play for a half-hour. The room contained either four or sixteen toys, and differences in the way children interacted with these toys were observed. They found:

"With fewer toys, participants had fewer incidences of toy play, longer durations of toy play, and played with toys in a greater variety of ways. This suggests that when provided with fewer toys in the environment, toddlers engage in longer periods of play with a single toy, allowing better focus to explore and play more creatively."

Lead study author Carly Dauch explains that a surplus of toys acts as a source of external distraction for young children. She is cited in The Telegraph:

"During toddlerhood, children develop, but may not have mastered, higher level control over attention. Their attention, and therefore, their play may be disrupted by factors in their environments that present distraction."

So, you don't have to guilty for resenting that overflowing toy box that spreads its contents around the entire house. Paring down is not wrong; it's actually beneficial to your child.

It will also do wonders for your wallet. The Telegraph reports that a typical child in the UK owns 238 toys, but only plays with 12 favorites on a regular basis. American children, writes minimalist expert Joshua Becker, receive an average of 70 new toys a year. (Seventy new toys a year! My mind was blown by this number. As mother to three young kids, I'd guess our number is more around 5 new toys annually, and only at Christmas and birthdays. I can't imagine how expensive, not to mention disorderly, it must be to have any more than that.) Becker goes on to say that "the U.S. represents 3.1% of the world’s children, but 40% of the toy market."

If you're not up for doing a permanent purge, then consider removing a number of toys from circulation and storing away from sight until your child is in need of a refresh. It will be like Christmas morning all over again!

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