Play is an important part of a child’s emotional, social and intellectual development. In play, they learn about the world around them and how they fit into that world. However, toys and play are not the same thing. Though lots of play is good, lots of toys are not, and kids usually benefit from fewer toys.
Kids want to play, it’s in their nature. When we give them too many toys we are squelching their inner desire to play and to learn through play. I have seen it in my own kids and it’s quite an amazing transformation when they have fewer options to play with.
Benefits of Fewer toys
Having fewer play things will benefit your kids in so many ways. Your kids will:
Learn value and responsibility
When kids have too many toys they won’t care if one is broken because there are many others. Having fewer toys will help them learn to take care of a toy because there isn’t another (or the promise of another) to replace it. With fewer toys to create clutter and if the toys all have homes, kids will be more likely to put the toys away and develop a love for uncluttered space. Kids who value their toys will learn to value their other possessions and their money as they grow.
Having too many toys has been shown to decrease a child’s attention span. Alternately, the fewer toys they have (or have access to at one time) the longer they play with each toy and the more they learn from it. Having too many toys can be overstimulating and cause acting out. Kids who learn to focus will have an easier time in school and develop emotional maturity.
Develop perseverance and self esteem
When children are able to engage in one toy for longer periods of time they are more likely to explore it fully and spend more time trying to master it rather than moving onto something easier. When children spend more time mastering a toy they develop better self esteem.
Develop creativity and resourcefulness
A German study found that when all toys were removed from a kindergarten class for 3 months, children began to engage in elaborate dramatic play using just the tables, chairs and blankets they had access to. With fewer toys to entertain your child he will learn to use what he has to invent games. This means more imaginative play, less boredom and more self directed play.
Children become less selfish (and more generous!) when they have fewer toys. They are grateful for the toys they have because they have to think hard about what they really want, wait for them, and maybe even pay for them themselves. Practicing gratitude has been shown to increase overall happiness.
Develop better relationships
Creative play is how kids develop social skills. Needing to share toys with another child or compromise on how the toy is being used helps them navigate social conflict. The more time they spend building these skills the easier social interactions will be in the future and the more friendships they can build.
Have more time for hobbies
Fewer toys allows for more time to develop hobbies and a love for art, music, dance, sports, etc. Having a hobby has many benefits including lower stress, better self-esteem, enhanced creativity, and better ability to stay present.
Play more outside
I believe that the best play happens outside so, fewer toys inside encourage kids to want to go outside. Not only will they get exercise but they will develop a love for the natural world that will stay with them throughout their lives.
Learn that toys or things won’t make them happy
Instead they learn that sharing their toys with friends, spending time with family, spending time in nature, playing sports, reading, creating art, listening to or making music, or doing nice things for others are what create the most lasting happiness in life.
What benefits of fewer toys have you noticed in your kids? Let us know in the comments!
linda spiker says
I agree whole heartedly!
Megan Stevens says
I love this and fully agree. Years ago I read an article that talked about why boredom is important for kids, how it stimulates them to become inventive and creative. I like that you mention perseverance and gratitude. Such a helpful post; thanks!!
Yes, boredom is so important for kids (and probably adults too!)
I totally love this post, and I think we see things very similarly. I used to work in a children’s hospital, and I remember that often, when I would approach a kid with an “analog” toy, she would ask, “What does it do?” Kids have become so passive, and need the extra nudge to explore and create their own play and fun. Thanks for writing this– definitely sharing!
Thanks Ariana! I like that idea of “analog” toys!
All very good points! Before I started limiting my daughter’s toys I would often get the I’m bored line from her often. Then I would say how could you be bored with all those toys??!! Well sure enough when I took away some toys she learnt to use her imagination a lot more and make do with what she had.
I actually just cleaned out a bunch of toys from my son’s room and I still need to do more. It’s crazy how much we accumulate over time and before you know it, it seems like your life is run by toys.