Children need space to be creative. Too much stuff can actually be over-stimulating to little ones.
A study from the University of Toledo observed 36 toddlers by inviting them to play in a room for 30 minutes with 4 toys or 16 toys. The researchers found that the children were much more creative when they had less toys available to them. These children also played with each toy for 2x times as long. The study suggested an increased number of toys may create more distraction.
“When provided with fewer toys in the environment, toddlers engage in longer periods of play with a single toy, allowing better focus to explore and play more creatively”. – Dr. Carly Dauch in the journal Infant Behaviour and Development.
I saw this repeatedly when providing speech therapy. Bringing too many options or toys would lead a child to jump quickly from one thing to another without focus. I would need to hide items until we were ready to use them. If everything was accessible, the child would be less attentive and productive than if only a few toys were available.
I myself feel over-stimulated when I am in a space with too much stimulation (i.e. a crowded indoor mall or electronic store)… Or even when there are lots dishes in the sink, music is blasting, and both kids are hyper. In my own family, I have found the fewer toys we have, the more my children play with them and the more creative they are with the ones they have.
Fewer toys means that you can be selective with the ones you bring into your home. You can possibly invest in quality items that will grow with your child, as you are saving money on not buying cheaper toys all the time. You will likely find that, in fact, you spend less money on toys overall as your child learns to play more creatively with non-toy items (i.e. kitchen measuring cups, egg cartons, dad’s hats, the dog’s food, etc.). Or you may find that you can thrift quality wooden toys (think blocks, wooden animals, baby cradle, etc.) at a fraction of the cost. And along the way be kinder to the environment by not using new resources.
Family counselor Kim John Payne was quoted in the book New Minimalism saying “Too much stuff deprives kids of leisure, and the ability to express their worlds deeply…We are the adults in children’s lives…we can expand and protect their childhoods by not overloading them with the pseudochoices and the false power of so much stuff.”
As the parent you are the one in charge over what comes in and what stays in your home. It is important to have open conversations with your children about your choices. For example, when choosing to donate unused toys, explain to your child that you are donating them so that another boy or girl can play with them. Explain to them that having less stuff means that you can play outside more. Explain to them that you want to spend less time cleaning and organizing and more time being with them. Also, explain to them that that if they find a “new” carefully-chosen item or toy, there will be a spot in your home for it. Remember to include your child in the process of decluttering if they can handle it (think maybe 4 or 5 years and up).
MOST importantly try to change YOUR buying habits to prevent too many toys from just “appearing” in your home.
The following quote really resonated with me during my decluttering journey whenever I felt overwhelmed: “It is better to own less than to organize more.” –Clutter free with kids by Joshua Becker
TIPs on toys to donate or rehome:
- Toys your child only dumps on the floor and never seems to play with (there goes half of your toys already, right?)
- Toys that, once completed, they are done. (Think building or craft sets that can only make one thing).
- Toys that are motorized and thus reduce your child’s creativity and physical play (think motorized ride on toys or remote control cars)
- Toys that your child has outgrown (store a few quality toys for younger siblings if you like, but the key words are a few)
- Electronic toys with loud noises and lots of buttons (kids have their whole adulthood to play on their phones…)
- Duplicate toys. If you have 40 stuffed animals… consider pairing them down to a few select loved ones. (I believe we currently have 3… all of which live in my daughter’s crib).
- Toys that reduce your child’s creativity (think plastic play food… it’s so much more creative to imagine there’s a pancake on your plate than to go searching through hundreds of plastic play food items to find it).
Remember childhood is a season. Lets try to enjoy our children as much as possible by reducing the distractions cluttering our thoughts and spaces.