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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    I love this article! I’ve been working towards minimizing our toys over the past few months. Have you ever seen a minimalist toy list? I would love to find one!

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  13. Gemal Adam says

    I am a new parent. I have a 1 1/2 yo boy. I was one of those who grew up without toys. To date, I have been having anxieties about doing the right thing for my child, whom I am very keen on having experience a much better life than I did. Before I read the article, I thought toys will be in his life extensively.

    But having read your article, I will seriously reconsider my stance. Instead, I am now thinking that I should find ways to nurture all of the twelve attributes you identified in your article.

    I reckon there is also a benefit to the parents, who decide to be minimalists in raising their children.

    1. They will save money.
    2. Will have less clutter in the house,
    3. Avoid child accidents caused during toy use.
    4. Live a more environmentally friendlier life as a result of less plastic toys in the home.
    5. Spend more time with the child playing and nurturing its development.
    6. Pay more attention to the child’s needs.
    8. Understand one’s child better.

    All this will culminate in to making the parent a very satisfied individual.

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  15. Bev says

    This is an excellent article.
    How many of our early childhood teachers are willing to take up the challenge to remove toys from your environments? Maybe start by removing everything plastic… See how that goes for a fortnight… I think you may find the outcomes to be very similar to what Joshua has written. Come on – give it a go!

  16. Stephanie Bernow says

    You make a lot of points. Some resonate, others don’t. Many poor kids who don’t have a lot of toys don’t develop many of the benefits you list. It takes more input from parents. Many toys really do help kids learn and develop their imaginations. Not sure if it’s the quantity of toys that’s the problem or the quality. Be thoughtful in what you buy and also in the quantity. Buy open-ended art materials, not coloring books, a set of unit blocks to encourage math discoveries and imaginative play.

  17. Nadia says

    Hit the nail on the head. My experience is mainly with Reggio (Italian) and Te Whariki (New Zealand) alternative education approaches and the most popular resources? Feathers, bobbins, plain wooden blocks, clay, gloop… Its amazing seeing parents reactions when they see their child so engaged with no sign of conventional toys.

  18. Ana Torres says

    We have 11 kids, and all the times our friends visited us tell to their children that our house would be full of toys for the number of children in the house. For their disappointment they would find 2 tubs with lego, a few random toys, some board games in the shelves, a few dolls, no video games.
    We just follow our instinct but know I understand why my kids are creative and good in art, music (they learn by themselves), caring and little mackguivers always with a clever solution, specially our 10 yr old. I never had to deal with tantrums in the shops and our Christmas or birthdays aren’t expensive. They are happy and humble. The older is 25 and the youngest 7 and many friends ask how we are still so together enjoying each other company, always looking to the next opportunity for family meetings (one married and others went to universities and work). We are in daily contact by internet family group.

  19. says

    This is exactly where we are at! I am tired of watching my kids not taking care of their stuff and sometimes some of the things they are interested in are things they want to learn, like cooking, making things out of wood, etc. They fight over toys and I keep thinking, “What really is important here?” Thanks for your article! :)

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