By Fredrica Syren:
When our daughter was a baby, we did not have many toys for her, and actually always laughed at how she would find anything fun to play with (e.g. straps on her car seat, the vacuum, pots and pans, etc.). As we became a family with three kids, the number of toys grew also. The huge pile of toys everywhere and how people would buy so many toys for our kids all the time drove me crazy. Don’t get me wrong: I truly appreciate that friends and family loved buying things for our kids. But soon I would start threatening them that, if they brought a toy, they would have to take two home with them.
I soon discovered that my kids would play intensely with a new toy for a day but completely ignore it the next. I also saw that, despite the huge pile of toys, they found they needed my help to play. That’s when I decided to limited how many toys and what toys they would have.
Studies have shown that having fewer toys generates more creative play and that too many toys actually may prevent kids from developing their imaginations. When too many toys are present, a child’s attention span is shortened, and they cannot fully appreciate a toy in front of them when there are too many options behind it.
One thing I surely noticed is that when my kids have received numerous toys on a regular basis, they began not to take care of them much; they seemed to think it was ok to break something because they soon would get something new. They also began to expect new toys more often. I see that fewer toys make them appreciate and care for them as “special.” The fact is that kids cannot learn to value anything if there is always a replacement.
Having fewer toys makes kids develop more interest in art, reading, writing and painting. They also become more resourceful. I have seen how my kids absolutely can spend hours reading, dancing and creating things with pillows and blankets now that we don’t have so many toys around. This also means they bond as siblings and as a team to solve problems and play together. There is less bickering over a single toy, and they are always so proud of what they have accomplished.
For us, limiting toys has been successful, and I’m happy with the development. For sure it’s been difficult to get gift giving friends and family to get with the program and accept our policy; they seem to think sometimes we’re denying our kids happiness. I see how this can seem extreme and, of course giving gifts to children is fun and special. I try telling them that, instead of a toy, why not give them gift of time together and do something with the kids, like join in their beautiful imaginary world and enjoy it as much as they do.