Every year, toy
companies across the globe come up with new ways to educate children and keep
them entertained. The problem, however, is that there are so many to choose
from, parents end up buying more than they need. But the real cost isn’t money—it’s what having too many toys does to kids.
Other than the
stating the obvious, that toddlers are easily distracted, scientists are now saying
that children are far more creative when they have fewer toys. They also tend
to play with each other for twice as long, while inventing new ideas and
imaginative uses for each toy.
In a recent a study,
researchers at the University of Toledo recruited 36 toddlers and encouraged
them to play in a room for half an hour, with either four toys, or 16. Note:
All toys were three-dimensional and few were battery-operated.
which sought to determine if the number of toys in toddlers’ environments
influenced the quality of their play, confirmed what parents already knew—that
giving kids more toys created a source of external distraction. On the same
token, less was more. Boys and girls who chose the room with fewer distractions
were more engaged for extended periods with a single toy.
According to the
study, children's cognitive development flourishes through sensory and motor
exploration throughout toddlerhood, causing playtime to be very distinctive.
For example, some kids are happy just running around, climbing on furniture or
kicking balls, while others prefer to use their hands, fingers and mental
agility to stack, build and draw.
children engage in play—an activity that is controlled by the child and allows
them to pretend, imagine and express who they are as a person—because they
want to, and the more we can do to promote their creativity, the better.
To keep kids
focused, authors of the study urge parents, schools and nurseries to pack up their
toys (or, at least, the majority of them) and rotate a small amount on a
regular basis. Doing so will encourage children to exercise their full
imaginations while strengthening relationships with others. Best of all, it
will improve their overall attention spans so you don’t have to keep snapping
to address repeated exposure to the same toys, home environments and children
with developmental disabilities in future studies to demonstrate further how
giving kids fewer toys can equate to healthier play.
In the meantime,
when you find yourself getting sucked into toy advertisements this holiday
season, take a second to reconsider the importance of quality, not quantity.
Created in 1951, this kit included a Geiger counter, a miniature cloud chamber, an electroscope, a spinthariscope and, shockingly, four types of radioactive uranium ore. Widely considered one of the most dangerous toys of all time thanks to the inclusion of real radioactive materials, the set now sells for 100 times the original price on auction sites.