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Early years

09th Jul 2023

Study finds that toddlers are happier with ‘fewer toys’


Toddler with toys

Well-meaning grandparents, godparents, aunties and unles – step away from Smyth’s Toys now.

Most of us with young kids are all in the same boat: Our homes are literally overflowing with toys.

Some we have bought ourselves (ever fell for all those ads about toys that’ll stimulate your child’s mind or language or whatever…?).

Many are gifts – birthdays, Santa, grandparents that drop by and seem to just have purchased an entire aisle in Smyths for their beloved grandchild.

The result? So. Many. Toys. Everywhere. Every fad is catered for (fidget spinners, anyone?!), every obsession represented in the doll to match (just how many different superhero masks can one child have?!)

The thing, though, and I am sure you have discovered much the same that I have: The more toys available, the less interested your kid seems in playing with any of them. And now it seems experts have figured out why this is.

According to a study, toddlers play longer and more happily when there are fewer toys to choose from. Better yet, the researchers say fewer toys mean more opportunities for creativity, imagination and skill development.

For the study, to be published in Infant Behaviour and Development, researchers at the University of Toledo set up children younger than 3 years old in rooms with either four or 16 toys.


As the researchers observed the play habits, they noted the toddlers with four toys engaged “in longer periods of play with a single toy, allowing better focus to explore and play more creatively.”

Even if you’ve already taken one too many trips down the toy aisle at the store, the researchers say it could help to just put the options on rotation. This, they say, provides “opportunities for novelty without creating the distraction posed by having too many toys available.”

As the amazing Allie Casazza said in her essay “How getting rid of stuff saved their childhood,” both parents and kids prosper when they aren’t weighed down by things:

“When I took away most of my children’s toys, I gave them the gift of imagination. When I let go of all the extra sets of dishes, I gave my kids the gift of an extra hour with them at the end of the day that would otherwise be spent rinsing plates.

“When I simplified their wardrobes, I gave them back the focus of a mother no longer drowning in laundry cycles. When I cleaned out our family room and turned off the TV, I gave them time to connect with me and one another.

“All the choices I made, everything I removed from our space, it all gave my children more minutes with their mama.”


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