Written by Alice Zsembery
Do you ever feel like you are drowning in toys? That it doesn’t matter how much you sort and store them, they suddenly reappear only to be strewn across the house and disregarded after less than a minute’s use??
You aren’t alone. In fact, some statistics estimate that Australian’s and British spend the most per child on toys, at a staggering $500 USD per year!
Sounds crazy, huh?
When we grew up in the 80’s, there just seemed to be less. Less toys, less advertising, less cheap plastic rubbish that broke after a minute’s use and less pressure on parents to ‘keep up with the Jones’.
And then somewhere along the way, globalisation happened. Suddenly, toys were more accessible and cheaper and, (helped along by the leaps technology) pushed in front of our face much more readily.
As parents, we don’t want our children to be disadvantaged and we don’t want them to feel left out, so we buy more… and before you know it, we are suddenly drowning in toys that your children ‘had’ to have, right before the next ‘had to have’ came around.
Stop. Right. There.
Researchers have shown time and time again that less toys IS actually more. For example, in a recent study at the University of Toledo, they examined the influence of the number of toys available on toddlers’ play. In particular, they were testing the hypothesis that an environment with fewer toys lead to higher quality of play for toddlers.
In the study 36 pre-schoolers were observed in two different individual free play conditions; one with 16 toys, and the other with 4 toys. The study found that when children were faced with fewer toys, this led to a higher quality of play for the toddlers. Specifically, the children:
- Engaged in longer periods of play with a single toy;
- Had better focus to explore; and
- Played more creatively. That is, they played with the remaining toys in a greater variety of ways and not so prescriptively.
This isn’t a unique finding. A similar study undertaken at a kindergarten in Germany in the 90’s took the toys away completely. After navigating through an initial moment of ‘boredom’, the children exercised their imaginations and began to create play out of items that they would never have previously considered.
Let’s face it. It’s nothing new. It’s the way we have been playing for centuries. It’s the way our parents and grandparents played.
So, let’s ditch the parenting guilt and stop placing the additional financial pressure on ourselves. There is a place for carefully selected, good quality toys but there are also so many quick and easy activities that kids can do at home using household items. Not only will it help them to think creatively and imaginatively but it will also help reinforce a sense of gratitude for the toys that they do get.
Honestly, you are doing them a favour.
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