Why Fewer Toys Will Benefit Your Kids

The potential possibilities of any child are the most intriguing and stimulating in all creation.” —Ray L. Wilbur

Toys are not merely playthings. Toys form the building blocks for our child’s future. They teach our children about the world and about themselves. They send messages and communicate values. And thus, wise parents think about what foundation is being laid by the toys that are given to their kids.

Wise parents also think about the number of toys that children are given. While most toy rooms and bedrooms today are filled to the ceiling with toys, intentional parents learn to limit the number of toys that kids have to play with.

They understand that fewer toys will actually benefit their children in the long-term:

1. Kids learn to be more creative. Too many toys prevent kids from fully developing their gift of imagination. Two German public health workers (Strick and Schubert) conducted an experiment in which they convinced a kindergarten classroom to remove all of their toys for three months. Although boredom set in during the initial stages of the experiment, the children soon began to use their basic surroundings to invent games and use imagination in their playing.

2. Kids develop longer attention spans. When too many toys are introduced into a child’s life, their attention span will begin to suffer. A child will rarely learn to fully appreciate the toy in front of them when there are countless options still remaining on the shelf behind them.

3. Kids establish better social skills. Children with fewer toys learn how to develop interpersonal relationships with other kids and adults. They learn the give and take of a good conversation. And studies have attributed childhood friendships to a greater chance of success academically and in social situations during adulthood.

4. Kids learn to take greater care of things. When kids have too many toys, they will naturally take less care of them. They will not learn to value them if there is always a replacement ready at hand. If you have a child who is constantly damaging their toys, just take a bunch away. He will quickly learn.

5. Kids develop a greater love for reading, writing, and art. Fewer toys allows your children to love books, music, coloring, and painting. And a love for art will help them better appreciate beauty, emotion, and communication in their world.

6. Kids become more resourceful. In education, students aren’t just given the answer to a problem; they are given the tools to find the answer. In entertainment and play, the same principle can be applied. Fewer toys causes children to become resourceful by solving problems with only the materials at hand. And resourcefulness is a gift with unlimited potential.

7. Kids argue with each other less. This may seem counter-intuitive. Many parents believe that more toys will result in less fighting because there are more options available. However, the opposite is true far too often. Siblings argue about toys. And every time we introduce a new toy into the relationship, we give them another reason to establish their “territory” among the others. On the other hand, siblings with fewer toys are forced to share, collaborate, and work together.

8. Kids learn perseverance. Children who have too many toys give up too quickly. If they have a toy that they can’t figure out, it will quickly be discarded for the sake of a different, easier one. Kids with fewer toys learn perseverance, patience, and determination.

9. Kids become less selfish. Kids who get everything they want believe they can have everything they want. This attitude will quickly lead to an unhealthy (and unbecoming) lifestyle.

10. Kids experience more of nature. Children who do not have a basement full of toys are more apt to play outside and develop a deep appreciation for nature. They are also more likely to be involved in physical exercise which results in healthier and happier bodies.

11. Kids learn to find satisfaction outside of the toy store. True joy and contentment will never be found in the aisles of a toy store. Kids who have been raised to think the answer to their desires can be bought with money have believed the same lie as their parents. Instead, children need encouragement to live counter-cultural lives finding joy in things that truly last.

12. Kids live in a cleaner, tidier home. If you have children, you know that toy clutter can quickly take over an entire home. Fewer toys results in a less-cluttered, cleaner, healthier home.

I’m not anti-toy. I’m just pro-child. So do your child a favor today and limit their number of toys. (Just don’t tell them you got the idea from me.)

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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Comments

  1. lulu says

    I think TV and toys are actually beneficial to childrens oral language development which is vital for reading and writing at a later stage. Toys can be used to increase a child’s inventory of mental images, people, places and events. Toys help build vocabulary because the more talking a child is doing the more they are able to comprehend. I would agree with the author that few toys are good rather than too many, but I do not agree with comments about TV. I agree there is alot of rubbish on TV that children should not see, and cartoons are increasingly violent, therefore we should monitor what they are watching. However if children cannot access books then TV is the next best thing because it helps bring characters to life and gives insight into peoples experiences, it helps children to familiarise themselves with the five domains of language, given that they are also socially interacting with others. :)

    • Dana says

      lulu, you need to read Jerry Mander’s Four Arguments For The Elimination of Television.

      I can’t really talk; we have the TV on too much in this house. It was not, however, what I originally intended for my child. It would have helped if other adults had respected my wishes and not piled me down with this stuff, but I wasn’t mentally ready to fend it all off. So here we are.

      And, well, my daughter’s seven, will be eight in November–and while she can communicate with people around her, there are kids younger than she who can speak a lot better than she does.

      Part of it is that we hardly know anyone in this town–but that is exactly the point. TV does *not* teach verbal skills. Research has shown that watching someone on a TV screen is *not* the same thing linguistically as watching a person talk who is in the same room with you.

      Content doesn’t matter. The structure of what TV is, is the main problem. If you want to increase your child’s mental inventory, get them out of the house and experiencing things.

      If you’re not ready to do that, fine, but at least admit that’s what the problem is.

        • Jennifer says

          I read Simplicity Parenting and found it to be a wonderfully insightful read. TV and toys will NEVER be considered superior to imaginative play, nature, and real social interactions. I vowed to keep toys simple and few and TV only as a maybe once a week treat. I personally as an adult to not watch ANY TV. Not because I don’t have time, but I’d rather do something productive with the time I have. This society that thinks TV is educatnal is also the same society that is obese and unhealthy. Just food for thought.

          • SF says

            I agree with Jennifer. I don’t let my toddler watch any TV. Because I don’t want him to be hypnotized in front of TV. We want him to explore the real life outside, not the life inside the Television box. We let him explore, play, be active, learn things naturally. And he is a very happy baby.
            @Alex Converse: you shouldn’t be sacarstic to Jennifer. Watching Television does waste time for adults. You cannot sit in front of TV just for 10 minutes. It becomes 1 hour, 2 hours and sometimes God knows how long. And later, it becomes a habit.

      • cheldhen says

        Hi Mommy Dana,

        I agree with you, definitely it was not helping us to improve the communication of our child while watching TV. I think the better idea is to talk to her little by little everyday lets says be more “TALKATIVE” to our child since we are the only one who’s really care for them. When my daughter born we practice inside the house that even she can’t talk at an early age we make sure that we will talk to her even without response from her everyday until she grow up at the age of 4 now.

        She can pronounce very well and of course interacting with her classmates too.

        Mommy don’t you worry its not the end of time teaching our child, please be more patients talk to her anywhere anytime, or even ask her about her school everyday.

        Thanks

      • james says

        Growing up in India we never had access to the toys we do in the States. This article really solidifies why my 2.5 year old is head and shoulders above her peers. When we first had our daughter, I told my wife(we both work by the way) that we have to limit the amount of junk we have for our kid and completely eliminate TV. It really makes me want to throw up when I see a peer putting their young child in front of the tv to keep them calm. Growing up in India we made so many of our toys and had loads of fun with them. Being our first child we got loads of toys as gifts, and we didn’t know what to do with them. As months went on and we were getting more toys as gifts we would eliminate 4 toys for every 3 ones introduced. Slowly we have eliminate the junk she doesn’t play with him and are down to the few she does. Those ones being a guitar/mic, drawing table and easel and a kitchenette. As far as TV goes, the only tv she got to watch was with me in the evenings and it was all about animals(5 minutes max). She really has flourished into an intelligent/mature(for her age) child. Your childs vocabulary will expand if you talk to them and and have conversations with them on a daily basis, and not sticking them in front of the tv.

        It can be tough at times not to stick them in front of a tv, but it it’s not impossible. Another we do is we always have Dinner together on the dining table, no tv and talk as a family.
        J

        • SF says

          Yup, I agree with james. We also never let our toddler watch TV. Once in a while he gets to watch baby cartoons, but 10 to 15 mins only. We never leave him infront of TV to distract him. We let him explore the real world around him instead of the world inside a television box. We talk to him, tickle him, play with him, cuddle him, and let him play on his own with his toys or anything safe at home. It makes us busier since we have to keep running back to him when we are doing chores but it’s worth it coz he is developing well and his social skills are great and he is very active child.

          • PrairieCoast says

            How is “never letting our toddler watch TV” the same as “10 to 15 minutes of baby cartoons once in a while”? I have no issue with your parenting choices, but that statement doesn’t make sense.

      • Jessica R says

        I absolutely agree with LULU!!!! At first, I always left the tv off because I wanted my child to learn “the correct way”. Not to mention I heard about how television can stunt a child’s ability to speak, walk, and it makes them unable to learn new things. Well, eventually my mom started her with Dora and Baby Einsteins, Little Einsteins and tons of other kids learning television programs. Well, her vocabulary was not stunted. In fact, her doctor was extremely impressed because she was speaking at an extremely early age! Now, at 3 years old she can speak very clearly. Her pronunciation is amazing, and she is not only reading, but writing small words as well! It is absolutely incredible but I owe this to Dora (she speaks and understands some Spanish), and Super Why.

    • Early Childhood Educator and Advocate says

      I am a professional in the early childhood education field with an education to back it up. I don’t want you to take that statement negatively, i simply say it so you might take what I say seriously.

      Television should NEVER be a substitute for books, nor is it “the next best thing”. Research shows that even quality TV (Sesame Street, Arthur, Blue’s Clues were some in the study) has a detrimental effect on children’s language development in the earliest years (under 2). Good quality television can have a positive effect on language development for older children, but its meager.

      They are definitely not “socially interacting with others”! The only way that is possible is face to face with another person, not on a screen.

      There is also no way that children cannot access books, unless their parents and caregivers do it intentionally. Books are available for free at the library (a magical place that children love) and dirt cheap at thrift stores (I got 5/$1.00 yesterday). Besides interaction with caring adults, books are just about the most important thing to provide children.

      Replace the word “toys” with “books” in your second sentence and you have it exactly right. Open ended toys (art supplies, recyclables, blocks, fabric, dress up and dramatic play clothes and accessories, instruments– anything that doesn’t limit the child and tell them what or how to play with it) are great and necessary for optimal development.

      Children are made to play and will turn anything available into a toy. Example- this morning I was pretending to be a “super robot” with a 2 year old, with a colander on my head and a blanket tied around my neck for a cape. He chose the outfit and invented and directed the play, and was also wearing a blanket cape and had a play dough bucket on his head.

      You seem intelligent and your intentions are good, but you are severely misguided about TV.

      • KF says

        THANK YOU!!!!!! THANK YOU!!!! It is soooo nice to hear someone agree with me. I am caring for two children (soon to be adopted) that were exposed to way too toys, waaaay (granted I’m talking all day everyday) too much TV, and many other things. There interaction with others was highly minimal…all before the age of 2 (4 for the oldest one). My eight year old has global delays and speech is her most significant one (followed by low muscle tone). I have often wondered how much TV had affected them during that time. Although TV is not the sole culprit,being “babysat by the TV” (I think) severely stunted their emotional, social, cognitive, common sense, and healthy attachment to others.
        However, now that they are 7 and 8 years old….we love watching the discovery channel.

      • Jessica says

        I do agree with everything you said but I would like to add that you have to provide a child with close ended toys as well. It provides te child with problem solving skills and when finished a high sense of accomplishment. Though i do agree that open ended toys should be more abbundant. Also for the TV thing I agree that it should NEVER be used as a baby sitter, but it can help a child with comprehension skills but ONLY when watched with a parent and then discussed after so that the child is really gaining the meaning.

    • Stefanie says

      Maybe you think that Lulu because you have no other context beyond toys and TV for kids. Do any of us?

      I learned about a boy being raised with NO TOYS. You’d think his childhood would be marred in some way, but after reading it I see that he’s growing up richer and wiser than his more affluent peers. It’s remarkably, really. Want to see the effect?
      http://lauragraceweldon.com/2012/02/20/the-boy-with-no-toys/

    • Lisa says

      My oldest daughter was raised without a tv in the house until she was about 7. After that we had tv for a year, then got rid of it again–because we missed the wonderful life we had without it. Everything changed when we had the tv, and my daughter changed. She has a highly developed linguistic ability, and has been ahead of her age in this way since she could talk. She has also always been highly creative, is never bored, and very intuitive and empathetic. I know that these traits are partially inborn and genetic, but I also believe it’s possible that they could flourish in the environment she had, in which she was not bombarded with images and sounds from the tv. She heard natural conversation, talked with me, and observed her world. I definitely do not think she suffered a bit due to lack of television. The other benefit to no tv has been she does not know who Justin Bieber is.

    • Fran says

      No tv are not supposed to teach children how to play. You are! You, your familly and the socializong you do!

      Yes games are good, that’s what the article sais…doesn’t meen they have to own every damb thing they want.

  2. Jennifer says

    I have to say.. I never understood the point of having a child watch tv. It never biologically made any sense to me – I couldn’t understand the point of setting my child down in front of the tv, even with childrens’ shows playing, even with baby shows playing – with the intent of him watching it. He’s always been perfectly happy crawling around and otherwise amusing himself. He’s getting a very good grasp on language, but then again, we teach him American Sign Language so I can’t really speak on either side, either. Meanwhile, I have friends who’s mere months olds infants get angry if their favorite tv show gets turned off. Personally, that saddens me. Tv should never be that important to anyone, especially not mere months olds.

  3. Abhijit says

    So, number of toys should be less.But what type of toys?Where to get reliable and researched out resources about them?

    But at this point of time my most urgent need is a way to reduce the TV time for my kids-one 9 years and 2yrs and 9 months.The fact is that I cannot keep my younger one outside home for long time because of his asthma.I neither can send him school because of the risk of asthma attack due to exposure to AC.So,being confined at home most of the time, he has developed a habit of viewing TV cartoons.I am in a dilemma.

    So,I request you all for suggestions please.

    • Jennifer says

      As far as what type of toys….Montessori inspired toys are the best. We didn’t allow any TV for my daughter until she was 2. Then I took a part time job and…well you can guess what happened. Now I am having to tame the TV beast:-). We have a set of wooden blocks, puzzles, dress up clothing, crayons and paper. When we can’t go outside we build or color. It wears on my nerves at times because it would be so much easier to get things done if only I would just turn on the TV. So we worked out a deal, I will take the time to begin an activity with her, then I tell her that mommy will go and do some things and she is welcome to show me what she has done. So I get some things done and then come back to play for a bit or take a story break. It has taken a couple of weeks but she has stopped asking for the TV. It takes time to break habits but kids actually enjoy imaginative play and interaction WAY more than TV, they just have to be exposed to it:-). Checkers and tic tac toe and other board games are fun for older children. Books are always a winner. Once they develop a love of reading, take them to the library and let them pick out what interests them. Hope this helps. Good luck.

    • mustangtali says

      i had the same problem with too much tv. i simply turned it off and made a rule that there would be no more children touching the tv. then i got my kids interested in books, toys, games, and anything else i could find that held their interest. family time is a great one to employ if your kids have a favorite game or book. the first week is so hard you think you will fail but after that the kids dont seem to miss the tv anymore.

    • KC says

      He still needs to go outside, even if he has asthma. You can’t make excuses for him, and if you continue to do so, he will grow up scared and weak and other children will pick on him. Going outside and playing builds self esteem.

      Give him the proper asthma medications, and employ locally bought honey as a natural alternative to allergy shots. Then make him get out and play.

  4. says

    This is actually a very interesting discussion for me. I am in the process of trying to embrace a more minimalist lifestyle for our family, and that includes paring down on toys. I wrote about it here: http://thegreatfulmom.wordpress.com/2012/08/26/way-more-than-i/

    What I’m struggling with is the comments about TV. While I do not think TV is good for children and I’d prefer that our kids learn from life and from us, we do let our children watch TV. Part of our simplifying process will include getting rid of our cable, which I’m excited about, because I know my three-year-old watches too much television.

    However, I know that he also learns from it. He picks up words and phrases from the shows he’s watching. Some days he’ll just start saying certain phrases, and we’ll have no idea where he got it from until we hear it on Dora or Cat in the Hat, and we realize that’s where he got it. He also answers the questions on educational children’s programming. The charaters will ask “What shape is that?” and he’ll answer. Of course, he learned his language skills and his knowledge of shapes, etc, from us, but I know he has definitely picked up knowledge from shows. He has even picked up whole new areas of interest from TV. From watching shows about space, he has become very interested in the moon, stars and planets. We’ve jumped in that opportunity to expand his knowledge by taking him to the Science Center, buying him books about space, etc, but I assure you, he has NO idea what the solar system was until he saw it on PBS kids.

    Yes, if I were a better mom maybe that wouldn’t be the case, but I work from home and sometimes the TV is a necessary evil. It is what it is.

  5. Estefy says

    Since last year, I started to donate my kids toys, so far I think 95% are out. I still keep getting free toys of people that wants to get rid of them, most of the time I accept them having in mind it will be temporary and I will donate in a few months. Sometimes I hear from the older girls (6 and 4 years old) “where are our toys?” Right there… and I point to the closet space with (very little space) for the toys and change the subject fast, just in case. I buy them a few used books at the library, some used board games and puzzles. They are fighting a lot less. They play pretend more. Last week we have an improvised party that lasted 45 minutes were we close the windows (we want the neighbors to still like us), light some candles, turn on the volume up (way up) and we sing loud, danced, jumped (no to kids music, but to something the kids can listen). And in all that time we did not have to stop to pick up any toys from the floor. To me too much means that they are in a fantasy world and they do not participate in the real life. I want them to be present, I want to teach them about the daily stuff and I want them to learn from reality not from a drawing in a card that shows them how the clouds are, I want them to see the clouds. I have seem the 6 years old face and the feeling of how proud she feels when she is able to make herself a grill cheese sandwich that I have not seen when she is playing. I have hear my 4 year old telling me she loves me right after I teach her something… that I can not buy in the store.

  6. Patty Dietz says

    I have always thought of this and knew that kids doesnt need too many toys.Plus toys are a waste of money once kids grow up those toys goes in the garbage or donated..Waste,waste of money.I rather my do different activity like drawing reading or putting them into sport,something that will keep their active..

  7. Joy says

    I’m wondering, if you only had 5 toys for your daughter age 5 and 5 toys for your son age 3, what would you have?

    • Lisa says

      A doll or stuffed animal
      A tea set
      A set of wooden blocks
      A box of dress-up clothes
      A set of nice hand puppets

    • Amanda says

      I would definitely include some kind of building blocks in there. We have duplos-like legos but a little bigger so they’re safe for kids who put things in their mouth. They’re great because they encourage imagination and they’ll probably be played with for many years.

  8. Lori-Anne Cunningham says

    If you believe toys and television further a child’s linguistic skills, watch the documentary “Babies”. Four babies from around the world are tracked throughout their first year of life. The American baby and the Japanese baby are inundated with toys and stimulus while the African and Mongolian babies have virtually no toys. They all appear to be at the same linguistic milestones by their first birthdays. The African baby specifically seems to interact well on a verbal level with his mother, yet his only playthings are old bones and sticks. Very interesting and may actually be a cause for concern that we in North America are overstimulating our babies. Perhaps this might explain the high numbers of ADHD kids?

    • Jen says

      I believe it. We told my parents and in-laws no toys when I was pregnant, because I was reading up on how they weren’t even necessary and kids derive more entertainment out of natural materials like sticks, pine cones, socks, whathaveyou. Of course, they didn’t listen. I don’t even open the toy box now; and am in process of boxing all his toys up to donate. Since our child is walking, he’s become much more interested in exploring and finding his OWN things to play with. I have a theory that “temper tantrums” are a child trying to say he’s bored and NEEDS mental stimulation. Our child walks around, finds something to entertain himself and actually sits down to play with it. If we take it away, he clings onto it and cries. I feel like he’s saying, “No! I’m learning about this! Please, don’t take it away! I’ll be bored without it again!!” All animals, human included, were designed to be born, and live, outside. To explore, learn, play, and interact with their environment with other kids their own age. Modern lifestyle has kids living in the same four walls day-in, and day-out, by themselves unless they have a young sibling, and we expect them to be completely entertained by handing them toys. ..It doesn’t appear to be working.

    • mustangtali says

      i blame tv. in the middle of a show it suddenly stop and jumps to a commercial, then another one, then a different one after that, then back to the show. it teaches kids to be scattered in their attention. i have cut out tv over the last 3 months and my boys have suddenly developed an incredibly long attention span. they can actually play with a given toy for hours when previously it was only a few minutes before they lost interest. i dont think its toys at all because my boys have loads of toys. and the kinds of toys matter too…things that stimulate creative play are best over battery powered things. as far as the verbalization, interaction does alot…play with your kids, not only is it fun, but they learn from you as well.

    • Lisa says

      I love “Babies”!
      It is completely fascinating and intriguing, and I thought the same as you did after watching it. I was completely taken by the African baby and their way of life.

  9. julie says

    Balance is key. Kids will watch TV, they will play video games but if you are an active parent that will play with them, take them outside and turn things off once in a while they will be fine. I am fortunate enough to be in that age group remembers 3 TV channels and when Atari first came out but when the internet first came to our school (93) . I love both worlds and I am trying to balance both for my boys. (7&4) Its harder today but a good parent can do it.

    • KF says

      I think this very possible to do, although difficult (if you find a way, please share). I would love to balance because unfortunately it is the way the world is going and there is a degree of acceptance that has to happen, because we have no control over it. I lean toward very minimal TV and NO video games right now (my kids are 7&8). I am waiting for when my children have more self control and can pace themselves too…..I find that the less I use TV and technology, the less the easier it is for them to walk away from it and do something else. I need to introduce the computer more…but they have that stuff in schools now.

  10. mom23 says

    I almost have to agree. I have a 5 year old boy for the first 3 years of his life he was spoild rotten we didn’t go into a store and come out without a toy. When he turned 4 I noticed he wasn’t playing with his toys anymore a lot of them was educational but never the less. I told my husband he said well he is bored with them I. Replied no I think he just has way too many and can’t decide. So make the long story short I filled 3 trashbags full took and donated them to womens abuse shelter and packed up two boxes to put in storage for younger siblings. Guess what he wasn’t happy about it but instead of running through the house screaming he sat down and played. Now I have an angel child and a lot more room. If only I could keep my husband from wanting to spend $800.00 per child @ christmas it might be alright.

  11. Angel says

    :) I believe that this here article and all of your comments and stories, have just answered my every question!! Thank-you all so much!

  12. Vikki Kay says

    Hmmm… I have to take exception to this comment: ‘Fewer toys results in a less-cluttered, cleaner, healthier home.’ In our home of little inventors, the house is covered in scraps of paper, boxes in various states of disrepair, bits of wire, pens, scissors, recyclable containers of all materials… Oh, they are ‘more resourceful’, for sure, without a lot of toys. But not less cluttered!!

    • Megan says

      Ha! I have to agree! i do have a few too many toys right now but my seriously inventive kids play with every single one, all at the same time, creating intricate imaginary worlds, and if they don’t have the toy they use something else. my 4 year old has recreated his own version of Big Ben (the clock in London) in our family room using a mini-trampoline turned on it’s side and a fly swatter and a drum stick and various other articles. Even without toys my house is a mess! i have several little inventions like this at different points all over my house. I am trying to declutter to prepare for a new baby and new stress but let’s be realistic: it’s always going to be a mess! Just, I hope, a little less of one :). Three boys, winter, seriously limited tv time, and imaginations…it’s going to be a mess!

  13. Michelle says

    I agree with everything said here. I’d just like to add my 2 cents about the television issue. While I do think that TV and pop culture can have a massively negative impact on children ( particularly memory and attention span, but also in increased aggression and decreased empathy.) It can have its place.

    My brother and I were homeschooled. My parents always made an big effort to make sure we socialized with kids our own age. The thing is that we already felt a bit like outsiders. The local kids didn’t really read, or listen to music, so TV was one of the things we had in common.

    It was great that we had the same reference points as our friends and we could geek out together about Star Trek, The X Files or whatever. I think it’s something worth thinking about if you homeschool. Especially slightly older kids or teenagers.

    • Rose says

      I do agree there is a place for it. you can go overboard with anything, including tv and lack of tv. for me being a homeschool mom going through a stressful time, i ended up going into tv too much, then I realized that once a week, as long as it’s not all day, is not a bad thing to help everyone relax. it’s not a babysitter when your son asks you to sit with him through the wiggles so he can enjoy it with you. tv can be a way to relate to people and share something, just don’t go overboard. but thank you for this article for those who are always tv and don’t realize the need for kids to be out in nature and have hobbies, etc.

      • KC says

        A little TV isn’t so bad, but I would prefer to record certain shows and then pop in the DVD instead of exposing my kids to ads.

        After all, you always hear about the occasional horror movie trailer that makes it onto a family program!

  14. Jo says

    I haven’t any of my own yet but I’ve always marveled at the joy they bring and how underrated the importance of careful parenting has become, particularly of young kids. Over the past few years and this Christmas, I’ve looked on in despair at the increasing number of computer based toys my nieces have received. No one can convince me of the benefits of allowing 1 – 8yr old kids to spend hours, in most cases the majority of their day, heads cocked in all sorts of awkward positions, fingers and wrists bent unnaturally whilst staring at a screen. And yet despite my fear of the addictive nature of these devices on my nieces’ developing minds, they surprise me time and again. I can’t tell you how much their eyes light up and they band so eagerly together when I suggest various arts and crafts. http://www.arvindguptatoys.com/toys.html —- this website has been an amazing resource and a great source of fun and learning for us.

    I was a kid just a few years ago and I remember learning to love reading, exploring, coloring and creating things on my own because my parents refused to use toys and the television as a distraction and a substitute for teaching/parenting. My resulting creativity continues to set me apart from my peers at college, even when it comes down to using the technology that they’ve been exposed to throughout their childhood. The more images and toys children are surrounded with, the more likely it is that their creativity will be suppressed. How are they supposed to learn to come up with their own ideas and develop independent thinking when they are bombarded and distracted by programs and toys carefully designed by others who in most cases have only one ultimate goal – to make your kid want to watch/play more and you, ultimately contribute to their pockets. I feel like I’m ranting so I will stop here.

    Anyways, your presence on this blog shows that you want to do what’s right and as a young adult I’m saying THANK YOU on behalf of the future adults you will have raised. Equip us with these vital building blocks so that we too can pass it along to our own children, your grandchildren… Think of the kids people, it should always boil down to what’s best for the kids.

    Check out the website and go re-learn the joy of playing.

    Shalom

  15. Nicole says

    Wow!!! My 20 month old son has a lot of toys, my friends 35 month old does not. My son plays by himself a lot when we are at home. He takes toys from one set and play with them with another set for about 20 minutes at a time (that’s about the normal attention span for a child his age) before moving onto the next thing. He never intentionally breaks his toys and I can assure you, if Bert or Ernie were to break, there would be NO moving on to the next toy and just forgetting about them. When he can’t figure a toy out, he brings it to his daddy or I and asks for help. He DOES NOT just move on to the next toy. He goes to daycare and plays very well with other kids. Before bed, we clean up his toys together. We do allow him to watch tv, however, the only show he will watch in it’s entirety is Thomas, and that’s only 15 minutes long. My son knows over 200 words and is eager to learn. He loves to be read to, is recognizing letters and learning to count. And now I’ll tell you about my friends son. He is in daycare as well, but he doesn’t play well with others. He is always grabbing toys from other kids and would much rather play on his mom’s iPod or watch tv. His main toys are cars and blocks. He’ll build a tower, knock it down and then complain about being bored. He has very little imagination and is more interested in watching tv than playing with the very few toys he has. He won’t play with his toys for more than about 10 minutes at a time. As for you saying kids will want to play outside more if they don’t have a basement full of toys, my little guy asks to go play outside numerous times a day and happily stops playing with toys if we ask him if he wants to go outside. A child having a good imagination and social skills has NOTHING to do with the amount toys they have!!! Instead of taking your kid’s toys away, try sitting on the floor with your kid and showing them that his dinosaurs can go for a ride in the school bus, or that his shape sorter makes a good hat, the animals from his toy zoo can visit sesame street, or that some blocks and empty paper towel rolls make a pretty cool place to play with cars. In other words, try parenting and interacting with your child, that’s how they learn!! And, for the record, I work full time, so don’t go thinking I’m unemployed and have a bunch of free time. I MAKE time for my boy!!!

    • Ali says

      I find your comments about your friends child very hurtful. We have different points if view but there’s no place in this world for speaking hurtful words about a child. I’m sure your friend would be pained to read your comments. I’m sure you could have got your point across without resorting to put downs.. Of a child

    • says

      Also keep in mind 3 is a really rough age. They usually have given up their nap, they’re on the verge of a big growth spurt in both size and ability, and they are learning about social interaction, so they experiment. My son at 35 months was a BEAR. Just willfully awful. I couldn’t figure it out. But now he’s three and a half and a delight. It probably has nothing to do with your superior parenting or your friend’s faulty parenting. Just the age, and the individual child’s personality.

      If your child is just like that at 35 months, I hope you remember to think better of your friend!

  16. says

    Toys and games can often enhance any child’s catalog involving emotional photos, people, spots along with activities. Toys and games help build vocab because the a lot more discussing a child is progressing greater they could understand.

    -x-x-x-x-

  17. Leah says

    LOVE this. Sad when kids lives are loaded with stuff, it’s nice to have a favourite toy and back ups but the more kids have the less valuable everything is. For me the real world is more exciting, interesting, mind-boggling and educational to a child then anything made in China, and it’s up to us parents to empower our kids by teaching them that!

  18. says

    We believe that less is better. We try to Donate at lease twice a year to maintain space.
    I am new to your Blog love it Thanks for sharing.

    • says

      Vanilla, are you questioning the idea that kids have too many toys? I can’t believe how spoiled kids are these days. The idea of giving children the tools to play with their imaginations is a far better concept in my opinion.

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  20. says

    I think it comes down to the quality of the toy. If you’re giving them nothing but mindless play then you’re teaching them to be mindless but if you give toys that inspire imagination, milestones and a love of education, I think toys are a vital part of childhood.

    I do agree though, some kids just have too much rubbish!

  21. KC says

    I’m one of those people who would buy my children the world if I could. However, I think it is best to limit their number of toys even if I want to spoil them. Number one- it’s easier cleanup. I want to teach my children to clean up after themselves from a very young age- asking them to put toys away as soon as they can walk. That way, they grow up knowing that it is normal and expected to clean up after themselves, though I plan to help them until they want to do it all by themselves.

    My kids won’t get any toys except on their birthday and Christmas. If we are in a store, I will keep a pen and paper and if they want a toy, I will tell them I will write it down for their Christmas list. Chances are they’ll forget about most things, except for the ones they REALLY want. It will teach them patience.

    I grew up with tons of toys. However, it was all things like dollhouses, stuffed animals, a toy kitchen, puppies in my pocket, barbies, and lots and lots of books. I didn’t get all those weird little Vtech games, toys with complicated assembly instructions, ride-on toys, or a playhouse. My toys encouraged imagination- which is probably part of the reason I ended up wanting to be a fiction writer later in life, and part of the reason that as an adult I never get bored. Being an only child, I had a lot of hours to fill by myself. I’d always choose to play outside rather than inside, but on rainy days it was nice to make up stories with all of my toys. There were days when I played outside and didn’t even need toys. I always used my imagination.

    I hope my kids can have a childhood like mine. I hope they are imaginative and fun and resourceful.

    I don’t plan to let my kids watch any TV until they’re older. Personally I don’t like that mainstream television is forcing Spanish down their throats and I’d rather them learn other languages. I want to be the one to teach them things and I don’t like the idea of using TV as a babysitter. Also, I don’t want them bugging me for toys and backpacks with whatever the fad character of late is.

    I think kids should only have the amount of toys they are able to reasonably put away by themselves without feeling overwhelmed. If the toys aren’t able to fit in a toy box, cubby, or closet in their bedroom, there are too many. I’ve seen way too many families whose toys take over the whole house. I had a special playroom for my toys because my parents got an excellent deal on a large house back in the 90′s, but these days the average young couple can’t afford a spare room because houses are way overpriced.

    Bottom line- keep it simple.

  22. Karen says

    TV is good. TV is bad. Toys can be good. Toys can be bad. Parents MUST be involved, and interact well with their child. They must pay attention to what is going on, with the child’s development and interaction with their world.
    So – Parents can be good or parents can be bad.
    “You can’t spoil your child with love.”

  23. says

    Fewer toys actually benefit children in the long-term. TV and toys are actually beneficial to children oral language development which is vital for reading and writing.

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  26. Casey says

    I have a 6.5 year old boy and a 2.5 year old girl. We have tooooo many toys and are moving into a home that’s smaller and has small kids bedrooms. I’ve always wanted to be minimalist but I overthink what toys to keep and what to get rid of. Does anyone have any ideas of what kinds of toys to keep? What toys would the most awesome “not a lot of toys” toddler and 1st grader have if they couldn’t have any more than say 15-20 toys?

    • Beebs says

      Hey Casey! I think it’s cool that you’re downsizing your home and your belongings. My suggestion would be to involve your kids in the process. Let them choose the toys they like best and want to keep (might be tough for the 2.5 y/o, but you can try!) and explain that the rest of the toys will be given to other children who don’t have any. Kids have generous spirits, so if they understand that less fortunate kids will have toys to play with, it might motivate them even more! Then moving forward, you can apply the one in/one out rule. Explain that every time they get something new, they’ll need to get rid of something old (again, donating the old item if possible). Make it a game, get them excited about having only their very favorite toys! Good luck to you!

      • Casey says

        We do that some. About twice a year my son wants something big (Lego xwing fighter or tie fighter or whatever ) and I say he has to choose x amount of toys to give to get it. He really is awesome about it. He may pout occasionally that I made him give his toys to the poor kids but he understands the concept and for the most part is happy to do so. At this point I’m just annoyed that we need $ and can’t find anyone to buy all the toys that I want to get rid of. Some have barely been played with but we hall have a yard sale and then give rest to the needy. Thanks for your reply and I may even get my son involved in the hard sale. Money talks!

  27. says

    Thx for the article! We keep our kid’s toys stacked in boxes in the closet. They can only play with one box at a time. If they want a new box, then they have to clean up the old box. We actually don’t rotate the toys very often, so they end up getting bored with toys and then start playing with other things. The only problem is that they start trying to play with things that we don’t want them to play with… and they verge on misbehaving. It is a fine balance… keeping your kids entertained is a full time job. Not every parent has the time or energy to lay out new projects constantly. This is why when a child is fully engrossed with a toy, the parents can relax for a moment.

  28. says

    Most of our son’s toys were given to us by people whose houses are swimming in a sea of toys. My parents had a technique that I’ll be using: put excess toys in a box and store out of sight for a few months. Then put the current toys in a box and bring out the toys from storage. The child will feel like he gets new toys every few months.

  29. Bailey says

    I have 3 boys ages 4, 2 and 9 months. I just recently packed away their toys and left only a few things out. In just a matter of days they are more interested in building things and reading which they didn’t care for before. So the fewer toys has been great. As far as the TV goes I let them watch it about an hour throughout the day. We have family movie nights where we watch a movie and eat popcorn. Our kids have been counting, learning colors and numbers etc. We don’t let the shows they watch do the work though, we reinforce those things by teaching them as well. I am very careful about what they watch on TV because there is a lot of garbage on these days. Just my two cents worth on the topic.

  30. says

    I don’t know so much that it is buying to many toys is bad, it certainly can be but as long as they are the right toys I think it is fine. There are many decorate your own toys which the child has to decorate before playing with it is fine but just burying them under a heap of action figures and racing cars is probably not the best idea. With everything there are limits. Just use your best judgement.

  31. says

    So, let me get this straight. If we simply lock our children up in an enclosed room, completely void of any outside stimulation for their little minds whatsoever, we are to believe they will become more “normal” in comparison to all the other children in the world. Idiocy has no bounds!

  32. Commenter says

    Someone above said words to the effect of; “there’s no way a child wouldn’t have access to books.” Well obviously you don’t know how badly the children of the poor and feckless are brought up, like myself, who was not only kept indoors at all times-when not going to the shops or school until well into my 9th year and even then was only allowed a few metres down the road for a few minutes at a time after which I had to report back to the internment camp officer mother (whose mental illness-induced behaviour of course at the time and even until recently had left me unable to see that this upbringing was perverse), until slight range increases and time increases culminated in freedom by the teens-but who had no books other than those from older siblings and consequently no books to read throughout childhood and no trips to the library for books and no trips to the library at all after six. In fact the only reason I don’t talk like a dribbling wreck and can actually read at all is because I have verbal abilities in the genius range according to an iq test, taken only recently so it offered no motivation for redress of childhood intellectual starvation which would have been all the crueller to one of below average intelligence as many would be who are brought up in such isolated and unfree circumstances.

    I am thus unusually able to speak from personal experience on how children are left behind in society without having been left totally unable to do so by the experience, in a way that the vast majority of people who actually understand the need for stimulation in childhood by having the same experience, will never do by dint of having been intellectually evacuated by the mental and physical deprivation of exercise.

    Which brings me to the point of this comment. You people talk of how to improve children’s upbringing by controlling this or that factor but as with everyone who focuses on how well-off parents can improve already satisafctory child-rearing, this angers me because it misses the glaring, real, pressing problem that affects so many children so disgracefully in societies that are so easily sufficiently equipped to eliminate that problem. That problem is that vast amounts of resources are spent on educating children, ensuring that even those brought up by wicked or stupid parents are prevented from falling totally by the way side, in a way that simply upsets and alienates further-for having been brought into contact with other children but in a way that exposes the difficulty of integrating even more to the neglected or abused child-those children who can’t cope with the insane experiment of directed task following that only yields results let alone edification, for those already rendered competent enough to master such wastes of time. Why not spend the damn resources on books, books for these listless waifs like I was, who can then be given precisely whatever education it is that people deem necessary to impart, in a way that doesn’t distress those many children who know nothing but watching tv and therefore can’t cope with the demands of self-righteous puffed-up Miss Mops, those children who could learn a damn sight more if books, to be permanently owned thus avoiding the encumbrance of relying on the library system, were given to them rather than orders to use time in a way directly contrary to real learning, directed or not. But I have never heard the argument proposing this obviously beneficial alternative to wasting resources on education that the neglected can’t possibly benefit from, from anyone ever. This is clearly because most people who are able to offer their argument on issues of child raising were not mentally crippled by the scandalous lack of direct and simple redress of neglect that society seems content to ignore because its politer, opinion-forming class have no idea from personal experience that perhaps a large minority of the population in school cannot abide its stifling of latent mental ability with job orders of meaningless tasks, when guided reading from books by authors far above the pitiful intelligence level of the average teacher, which would also build up libraries at home to aid the neglected, would allow children to learn as much as possible given their intelligence, leaving the play for the playground where teachers could give their ridiculous orders of time consuming tasks instead if they wish, and that politer, opinion-forming class see no problem with this when they know that once the system demands actual learning the stupid tasks are abandoned for work from books (so it’s probably just to satisfy their spoilt, melon-smiling moronic children, this system where the vital first few years of education are dedicated to providing fatuous exercises rather than reading and reference to ensure as much is learnt by those of least and most ability as is possible, in a way that would offer solace to the portion of the classroom who is deprived and needs to be taught how to use time entertainingly and constructively), and they don’t even seem to have the imagination to consider that their views are constructed based on the experience of themselves and others like them and that there is a need to consider the ‘marginalised,’ those children who are least able and least encouraged to defend themselves from monstrous wastes of the time in which it’s most possible for them to be helped, the time in which they are under the charge of institutions designed to ensure that bad or absent parenting is not the deciding factor in these children’s lives, institutions that ensure that the poor children’s lives remain unassisted all the while these institutions waste resources on trendy, disciplineless, irritating, time consuming classroom activities rather than injecting knowledge into those who will go on to be a drain on society’s resources, in the most important but also the most cost effective way. What kind of society spends so much on irritating neglected children with forced ‘projects,’ inane and time consuming, while damn well KNOWING that so many of these children lack books and the means to edify and educate themselves at home but assuming that to redress this is beyond the means of these hugely expensive and vastly time cnsuming institutions?

  33. Commenter says

    Imagine if the resources went instead into equipping these children with books to read at home and in a directed environment with help from well-educated adults, even if just one book a month, instead of directing children to complete tasks that frustrate all but the children of those controlling these laughably wasteful state attempts to ensure decent childhoods, those children of the now omnipotent opinion forming bien pensant class who have been raised from birth to handle fiddly tasks and t have concentration spans even while engaging practical and mental faculties? There are many who went through what I did as a child who will be in prison or who at least gained absolutely nothing from education, because they were only able to concentrate in thinking and found practical work draining of mental agility and insight because of toddlerhoods spent sitting alone in rooms with nothing to do and not realising they deserved better and would be better off in a bloody disaster zone for at least they’d have engagement and practice, many, who will not be able to say what I’m saying, who didn’t have reasonably clever or insightful mentalities to fall back on despite the neglect and the perverse opposite at school’s time wasting petty tasks completion years. But I’m here to say it; fewer classroom resources and teaching aids, classroom props that the parents should provide, and fewer teaching hours, and more books for each child so that they learn and learn how to think if they can, with which books they can continue their mental salvation at home. Put the children of the opinion-forming, statist, groupthinking directing, civilisation-wrecking fools in their stupid, historically barely tested pedagogical experiment and let the children who need the help go to schools where they will be given the means to engage their brains, books, and who will thus make exponentially better and longer term gains with far fewer hours and resources needed to actually go into the school system, to allow the book based teaching of how to learn, not how to do tasks that those who can’t learn easily can do all the less when they need, desperately, to be taught how to learn in the first place.

    But of course those who could effect these changes never had the small leap in mindset to consider how the current educational system actually effects those children who are not like them, which is like deciding to create a system to help those whom it previously could not, by thinking only of the whims of the type who did understand it and ‘gel’ with it. Clearly that system ossifies itself and generations are rendered voiceless thanks to it. Those who had a resilient intelligence but still went through the absurd system in full knowledge of its absurdity, need to speak out if those in power don’t stop to think of those many who need education all the more for reasons of bad background that leave them unable to cope with the fiddly, horrendous ‘active’ learning that they are enslaved into. Perhaps these educators should be forcibly put through something they not only can’t do but which only inflicts mental wounds not education, on them, even if they could overcome the difficulty. That sort of menial work designed to grind down prisoners of war or convicts being punished, whereby effort is not rewarded with constructive outcome, is exactly what early education is to those who can only learn passively due to practical abilities being suffocated by the bad parenting that it was the task of hugely monetarily expensive education to negate.

  34. says

    I think all the points here are valid, but i am not totally convinced that limiting number of toys is the only factor here. The type and quality of toys is also important.
    My kids have a lot of toys (and they also watch tv), but are still very creative, love books and love nature.
    I believe that parents can direct and manage the time spent with each type of activity in order to promote healthy habits (it’s really up to us if we take them outdoor or stay home all day…)
    also, In this materialistic world, I cannot ignore the social aspect of having “too few toys” compared to other kids. I still do teach my kids that the most important thing you need to have in your house is hour family, but I do not want them to feel they have less than others.
    However, I do have lots of “toy wars” between my three kids…. I do wonder if less toys is the solution for that… :)

  35. says

    I think its great to keep kids toys simple and minimal. When I was growing up we had plenty of awesome adventures outside and inside with little more then trees and pellows. Awesome read! keep it up :)

  36. Karad says

    Toys, not sure the best way to go about this. The extreme minimalist in me wants dd to have her toys in one basket in her room. The organized side of me wants her collections to be in each own basket, easier to access and keep nice. She keeps a tea set, a bug set, a basket with 3 cars, purse and a baby doll with a change of clothing in her room. That’s what’s she can handle at 2. She has a box of duplo and extra food in her closet. We have arts-crafts and wooden toys upstairs for her and ds. I stupruggle with having things spread out ( but then it looks like we have a bunch, putting more things together, leaving empty spots all over, or if its a pile having the kids dump it. So I would love a post on minmalism and kids toys easiest ways to have a clean look while still keeping children’s toys accessible. I’m sure I am overthinking it.

  37. Cat says

    My friend’s daughter and her grandchild had to move in with her for a week because their home was being fixed. My friend does not have a TV at home so they baked bread, played all sorts of games, went on walks, walked the dog, snuggled together and read, folded laundry, cooked dinner, took care of their garden, used the sewing machine, painted (making beautiful art) took photos… TV is not necessary but it is not “evil” either. There are so many ways to learn how to live in this world in a fun, loving and caring way towards others and ourselves; if people only took the time to stop and think.

  38. says

    ALL CHILDREN ARE DIFFERENT
    Hi, I’ve been studying child psychology for many years now & have NEVER come across conclusive evidence that there is ANY one right thing for children when it comes to toys. Although generally , LESS IS MORE.

    Any person adult or child become overwhelmed on a psychological level when presented with a lot of any one thing.

    Find what makes your child happy & what stimulates their creativity & thinking.

    The best thing you can give you child is genuine happiness. this doesn’t come in a box or packet. Play with your child with what ever you have already, don’t buy them a lot of toys for Christmas / Birthdays etc, put that money into a savings account & ask relatives to do the same, your kids will thank you when they’re older.!!!!

  39. says

    I just love this post! We are strict with the amount of toys and clutter as well. We have always been since birth so this is not a new phenomenon. What is happening now that my child is getting older is the family is giving more stuff. She is 4. With each new Christmas and Birthday, it is getting increasingly difficult to hide and donate these gifts before she remembers them. Also, I give a list of suggestions and ask that commercial items with specific examples such as Disney princess and Pink not be given. On 3 occasions to date, one specific family member simply ignored the Disney Pink Princess rule. Then, secondly, she got things that were similar to my list which all had to be donated. The items did not color match our existing homeschool material. At the end of the day, she spent around $80 and all of it was donated. I have tried to explain myself and why we are the way we are. She refuses to get it. My in-laws, who do understand quality versus quantity, seem to understand . Even if they don’t, they have not said anything and ask for approval or a list before buying anything.

    I made a similar post as yours today in my local mommy forum. After a few hours, the moderators had to pull it. The moms all made me out to be evil and atrocious. I could not get them to understand that it is not about control! I live with my children. I know them and what they play with. I understand that they do not need stuff but they need love. I also understand that all too often, the gifts that are given at birthday’s are not thoughtful, they were picked up along with the groceries at Wal-mart most likely in the “gender-pre-determined” toy area to fill the need of the buyer to give a gift.

    I just get so angry when the holidays and birthdays arrive now. If our future is anything like the last 2 Christmas and Birthdays, then the money that I throw away from the discarded gifts could have paid for their college. I am sure we have reached $500 in donated gifts in just a year.

    I even made very specific gift suggestions for the 4th birthday party, focusing on recycled and/or regifted if at all possible. The moms in my local forum reamed me a new one for that. “Who does that?” Look, I want my child to have the toys her friends and family give her. I want to keep them. I want them to have purpose. I want them to spend their money wisely.

    I am helping you out! Well, birthday still sucked as the amount of stuff that instantly disappeared was nauseating. No, my child does not see this happen. She is not even aware of how much stuff she got thankfully.

    I love this post on how it deals with the clutter after the fact.

    How about a post that prevents the extreme waste BEFORE the fact. How to go about getting friends and family, guests at birthday parties and any other occasion to, if they feel the need to spend money, spend the money on these gifts the way you suggest?

    The family member found out this Christmas upon visiting that nearly zero of the items she has ever given are not in our home. Needless to say, she was not happy. Now, she is playing the victim stance, “I cannot do anything right. I will never buy them presents again.” Please know, since the children were born, I have always made specific requests and a list with many approved options. Also, when she would make “sly” comments at the children to gauge interest, I would promptly and clearly say that those items were not needed. She made herself into a perceived victim.

    We spend hours together as a family with the toys we have, the puppets, the legos, brass bands with all our instruments, cooking, reading in her pvc pipe house. The other children that visit play so well together. I never hear any fighting. Actually, when she was in the toddler years and toddlers would visit, I would hide the toys for that very reason!

    Please write a post on how to deal with the gifts before they become an issue. How to make suggestions tastefully and tactifully (both things I lack!) to the friends and family to get them to cooperate (and not, with complete and utter disregard and lack of respect, ignore your request). Lastly, how to tell them that if you do not comply with the rules, please know the gifts will be donated. No, I do not do the return receipt thing. Your money will be wasted. You will have caused me unnecessary stress and wasted my time as well.

  40. says

    Yes, I agree with your post. Parents should only give their kids toys which will develop their motor skills. Educational toys are excellent choice too such as art toys. This will enhance the creativity of the children. Thank you for this informative article.

  41. Fiona says

    Polly, I would be less concerned with what you children get as gifts but more what characteristics you are teaching them. Your post appears as though you are controlling, demanding, ungrateful and negative.

  42. says

    Cool blog! Is your theme custom made or did you download it from somewhere?
    A design like yours with a few simple adjustements would really make my blog stand
    out. Please let me know where you got your theme. Thank you

  43. liz says

    I grew up with a stay at home mom until I was well into elementary school. She read to me for hours and hours in her deep SOUTHERN ACCENT. I also watched well over an hour of PBS every day. I barely had a southern accent until I stopped watching sesame street I got all the speaking parts in school. My mother has stated on numerous occasions that I learned to talk by watching sesame street. Now, my anecdote is no peer reviewed study, but I turned out great. Trust me; I’m a doctor.

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