“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 and practicing a minimalist approach 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. Better relationships as a child also tend to lead happier lives in 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. It’ll also keep them away from getting used to an unhealthy amount of screen time.
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.)
If you’re looking for a little extra help in this area, check out my book: Clutterfree with Kids and this article on our most creative decluttering tips.
Thank you for this! My niece
Is having her son’s 1st birthday and requests plants for the yard in lieu of gifts. I couldn’t understand it for the life of me & now I do. I love nature and was very creative as a child with few toys. I just hadn’t put the two together. Thanks again!
The Old Mom says
I am a minimalist parent and rotate toys to not have too many out at once. I also like the excitement of reintroducing our daughter to toys she’s maybe forgotten about. One thing I do notice about children with play rooms full of toys is that they more pushy, less inclined to wait their turn, and don’t share as well. They also tend to jump from toy to toy, taking things away from other children. It may be anecdotal, but I notice the parallel between kids with loads of toys.
When we were kids, our neighbours we played with had relatives who owned a toy shop. So they had every piece of Barbie furniture, cars, clothing etc. they wanted. Later when they moved, our new neighbours didn’t have all that, but loved making things. I would get so excited about finding things to make Barbie furniture from, and spent hours with them or on my own figuring out how to make beds, couches, tables, whatever I wanted for my Barbie. The 14 year old neighbour also taught me how to sew dolls’ clothes too. It was such fun and contributed to my interest in sewing and dressmaking for myself later. We also loved making paper dolls and their clothes. I kept half a shoebox full of these for when I had kids. As I didn’t end up having any, I gave them to my sister who was teaching Grade 3. She took them to school when they were studying ‘Toys in the olden days’ (!! – I’m not THAT old!). The little girls absolutely loved playing with them, and started making their own. Apart from that, the collection was like a history of 1970’s fashion!
Leanna Boyle says
Imagination should never be forced upon any child by parents deliberately taking away toys. This to me is emotionally abusive
He’s not saying no toys. He’s saying not a room full of too many toys it’s overwhelming to kids. I think you missed the point here.
Gail Harvey says
You can not force imagination 💭 and taking toys away is not emotionally abusive. Reread the article … taking toys away encourages other activities some of which includes their own imagination.
When my children were growing up, I was a stay at home mom. They had toys but not a lot of toys. They had bicycles and hot wheels and a few indoor toys. My husband built our daughter a doll cradle, table and chairs, hutch and dresser that were really cute and sturdy. She played with those and her dolls. I sewed all her doll clothes. Our son had some basic sports equipment and a collection of matchbox cars he played with when smaller. And they had a swing-set. I knew they had less toys than some kids but they seemed happy and we went swimming in the afternoons or to the park or they played with the children in our neighborhood and made great friends. I am thankful for those years. We don’t have grandchildren but I got to enjoy my own kids as they grew up.
Prof H.N.A.Wellington says
Reading your article set me thinking on an assertion a Medical Practitioner made from his observation of patients’ unconscious behavior in his clinic.
His assertion was that patients who might have fewer toys as their own while growing up as children, appear to be envious and greedy. Do you agree with my friend’s assertion or do you know any evidence-based study that can support or disprove this assertion?
Chelsea Childers says
I would love to see this discussed further!
When I was younger if I asked, I could have anything I wanted, but the thing was I didn’t ask very often, and my parents would often be like “do you really want it?” For example I had some jerseys and figurines from my favourite hockey teams, new piano books and things like that. I was very lucky but I knew I should not exploit it to fuel mindless consumerism.
It’s late in the evening on Christmas Day as I write this. It was a wonderful day. I am single with no children, which I very much like. But this year, with COVID in its second holiday season and my staying away from all the events for the holiday I like so well, I decided to check out the USPS’ Letters to Santa. I thought it would be wonderful to help fulfill a child’s wish list or at least one item on it.
But I was stunned and them shocked again and again as I read them and found that every one I saw each time I went back to read them over a couple of weeks had lists that were almost nothing but brand names items, especially electronic items. Everyone, it seemed, wanted iPads, XBoxes, Virtual Reality helmets, Jordan shoes, Barbie anything, store gift cards, cash, even cars and motorcycles, and so many other brand names I had to look up to even know what they were. Prices left me very discouraged; I think the cheapest I found was around $65 when I had planned to spend maybe $20-$25.
I ended up quite depressed at realizing I could do nothing. Unfortunately, our town doesn’t seem to have any organization doing a Giving Tree, though there are quite a few that do good. (We have a very caring town.) But now I am going to look into the possibility of offering to set up a Giving Tree for next year but instead of kids making it one for lower-income seniors. Maybe my discouragement can be turned into good. We’ll see.
Lydia Fleming says
That’s so hard. Letters to Santa are often our biggest, wildest dreams, I think because kiddos think Santa can make everything. My son asked for some wildly expensive things too and when I talked to him about it he said he knew they’d be expensive for us but Santa could just make them. It’s definitely difficult when you want to help out and be Santa for a kid but maybe cut them some slack in their unrealistic lists — Even kiddos without basics dream big sometimes.
So funny 🤣