6 Reasons Why Fewer Toys are Better for Your Kids

6 reasons why fewer toys are better for your kids

Play is a child’s work. Playing is how kids learn about and discover the world around them. Because children learn through play, the toys our kids play with are more than just playthings. They are the tools of their job! Carefully choosing what kinds of toys we provide for our kids is important. But equally important is being intentional about the number of toys our children have. Today I’m sharing why fewer toys are better for your kids and your whole family!

We live in a time when toys seem to be taking over many houses. In fact, research shows that kids own an average of 238 toys, but play with less than 5% of them! Kids don’t need piles of toys to be happy. In fact, too many toys can actually be detrimental to children’s ability to play. Are you sick of toys taking over your house? And tired of the overwhelming task of cleaning up the toys in your home? Read on to learn why fewer toys are better for your kids!

6 reasons why fewer toys are better for your kids
Photo by Melissa Russell

6 reasons why fewer toys are better for kids:

1. Fewer toys encourage more creative & imaginative play

Kids are naturally good at playing and using their imaginations. But too many toys often distract them and prevent them from using and developing their creativity and imagination. When children have fewer toys, they find ways to use them in creative ways. They use their imaginations and resourcefulness to create their own fun. Which helps them further develop and grow their creativity and imaginative skills.

Choosing fewer, but better, open-ended toys give kids the opportunity to use their imaginations and creativity to play with their toys in many different ways. Watching a child play can be fascinating. They build cities from blocks, then use those same blocks to make a pot of soup for their doll. Then the blocks become a race track for their car. And on they go.

So many toys today do the playing for our kids. The toys sing, talk, dance, light up, etc. The problem is these toys do the playing for our kids. Kids become passive observers with these kinds of toys. As opposed to active participants in their play, using their creativity and imaginations. These toys even interrupt and distract kids from play by constantly lighting up and calling out for their attention.

A German study is a wonderful example of the natural ability of kids to be creative and resourceful in their play. In the study, a kindergarten class agreed to remove all the toys from their classroom. The kids quickly started using their imaginations and creativity to create games, play and fun. Even with absolutely no toys!

2. Fewer toys encourage deeper, more focused play

Too many toys can easily overwhelm kids. Just like too many choices can be overwhelming for adults, too many toy choices can be overwhelming for kids. With so many toys to choose from, it’s hard to decide what to play with. Then it’s hard to stay focused with so many other toys vying for their attention.

Fewer toys let kids see their options, choose what to play with and focus on playing with it for longer. They aren’t constantly being distracted or overwhelmed by piles of toys. And instead engage in their play for longer, getting deeper into their activity and staying focused for longer.

In fact, a study by researchers at the University of Toledo found toddlers who were given fewer toys played longer, deeper and more creatively than toddlers who were given more toys. The children who were given more toys were too distracted by all the choices to engage in the same depth of play as the kids given fewer toys.

6 reasons why fewer toys are better for your kids
Photo by Rodolfo Mari on Unsplash

3. Fewer toys encourage gratitude and appreciation

When kids have fewer toys, but love and play with them all, they value and appreciate them much more than when they have an excess number of toys.

When they value and appreciate their toys, the learn to take better care of them. Toys stop being seen as disposable. Where it doesn’t matter if one gets broken or destroyed because there are so many others to play with. Or they expect a new toy right away. Instead, they value their toys more and take better care of them because they’re special and the amount of toys is limited.

Having fewer toys, but toys your kids play with often and love, help teach kids about gratitude. Teaching them to appreciate what they have, instead of always wanting more, newer, better, etc. This is a lesson minimalism can help anyone learn, not just kids. And is a wonderful quality to take with them into adulthood.

4. Fewer toys help kids become intentional consumers

We live in a time of excess consumerism, often showing up very obviously with toys. Overflowing toy bins and playrooms leave the house a mess, and kids endlessly wanting the next latest, greatest toy.

By purposely choosing to have fewer toys, you help teach your kids to become intentional and conscious consumers. Helping them learn to make thoughtful choices when buying or asking for new toys. And learning to look for toys that will add long-term value to their lives, not just clutter.

5. Fewer toys create a calmer, less chaotic home

Any parent can attest to the way toys seem to take over the house in no time at all. Choosing to have fewer toys helps limit the chaos and the mess, leading to a calmer, less stressful home.

When there are too many toys, it’s hard for us as adults to tackle the mess and clean it up. It’s no wonder kids feel overwhelmed and don’t want to clean up their toys. Having fewer toys means there is less to clean up and clean up is easier. Resulting in a tidier, less chaotic and a happier home for everyone. Less mess = less stress, for kids and parents!

Toys taking over the house was and is one of the primary reasons I started decluttering and simplifying our home, to begin with. When the number of toys in our house was out of control, it made me a cranky, yelling mom and no one enjoyed that, myself included. Fewer toys mean even after a full day of playing, the mess is quick and easy to tidy up again.

6. Fewer toys encourage different kinds of play

When you have fewer toys, it encourages kids to play in different ways. They play outside more. They engage in more active, free and unstructured play. Fewer toys encourage them to use their imaginations to make up games to play and scenarios to act out. For example, our couch cushions are more often used as stepping stones to avoid hot lava, or as their swimming pool, than they ever are to sit on!

Fewer toys encourage kids to sit down and draw, write, color or read as well. Giving them space – both physical and mental – to use their creativity!

6 reasons why fewer toys are better for your kids
Photo by Melissa Russell

Fewer toys give your kids the space and freedom for an awesome childhood

Simplifying and minimizing the toys doesn’t mean getting rid of all the toys. It simply means becoming intentional and selective with toys so you and your family can play, learn, grow and connect without all the clutter and distractions.

Reducing the number of toys isn’t about being restrictive or “mean”. In fact, it’s the opposite! It’s giving your kids a gift by giving them space and freedom to have an amazing, creative, imaginative, fun childhood! Kids are naturals at exploring, discovering, playing and learning. Removing the clutter, excess and distractions gives them the time, space and freedom to do what comes naturally to them!

If you’re hesitant about having fewer toys, here’s a great experiment to ease into it. Try boxing up the majority of the toys and putting them out of sight for a while, at least a couple of weeks or a month. It’s not a permanent change, but it’s a great opportunity to see how having fewer toys changes the way your kids play and your home functions.

Have you ever tried minimizing your kids’ toys? Do you find fewer toys are better for your kids? If you’re hesitant to minimize the toys, what’s holding you back?

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  1. Hi Melissa, I so agree with your opening statement that play is a child’s work. When I taught Kindergarten WAY back, that was my philosophy. Back then, Kindergarten was learning to play together, sharing snacks together, resting on mats, reading to the children and singing. That was my students’ WORK for the half day they were in my classroom. I know this is so foreign to Kindergarten today but it worked and we turned out happy, less frustrated children, and good students! Just say’n! Thank you for sharing. You are right on! Less is more!

    1. Thanks, Patti! It’s so great to hear the idea of “less is more” confirmed by a kindergarten teacher. I wish kindergarten today was more like it was when you were teaching. I feel like we are pushing our kids too fast now. There is such a short time in their lives when they get to play and be kids, I want my kids to enjoy that time as much as possible! Thank you for reading and for sharing your insights and experiences. I really appreciate hearing your perspective!

  2. I am in the process of sorting and getting rid of toys. We have accumulated way too many and i totally agree that less is better for many reasons!

  3. Love this! I recently wrote about the same concept and after decluttering our space of the “filler” toys, I’ve seen a tremendous difference in the way my daughter plays (and learns). I think taking this lesson into account in our own lives and letting the lesson sink in (1. through what we are showing our children in our own collection of “stuff” 2. that simplicity is really a deeper enjoyment and appreciation of what we already have) will benefit the whole house, even beyond the playroom.

    1. Thanks! Those are great lessons and I couldn’t agree more!! It really is a lifestyle that benefits us in all areas of our lives just like you said. Thanks for reading and for sharing your awesome insights! I love what you shared!

  4. I totally agree with this article. Kids need to have creative play and understand that things in this world are not simply handed to them.

  5. This is great! My older sister developed her creativity when we were growing. Now, she is an event planner, decorator, and more. I enjoyed my childhood in the 3rd world country where we don’t have that much toys but rich in nature and lots of playdates in the street. Now, living in America with so much, this article reminds me to teach my child more values with less things. Thanks!

    1. Thanks, Cathy! I’m glad you enjoyed this post. I think there is a lot of value to be found in a simpler childhood with less stuff and less business. Thanks for reading and sharing your experiences with us!

  6. I am 7 months pregnant with my first and havent bought any toys yet, save for 2 oballs, an ‘activity centre’ for her to sit/play safely in while i heat up a meal, and books. I am so terrified of having all the rooms in my house overflowing with horrible light up cheap blinking ringing plastic toys that ill have to clear a walking path through like some families have (i totally understand how it gets this way! We want the best for our kids and love seeing the joy in their eyes with new toys). But my money is tight and so my families tend to spoil us around holidays with so much cluttering stuff that they know i wouldnt buy for myself. I dont want a house full of toys that dont truly contribute to my babys life (and that actively take away from mine!). This is a great list and ill be using some of these to drop subtle hints about constructive toys and experience/lessons gift ideas for my loving family members to spoil my girl with.

    1. I love that you are being so intentional about toys right from the beginning. I wish I had been more mindful of the toys when my kids were babies! Good for you! I totally agree toys can get out of control so quickly. I’m glad you found this post helpful and hopefully it will help give your family members some ideas of ways to show their love through gift giving without filling your home with clutter! Thanks for reading and congratulations on your upcoming arrival!

  7. It’s interesting to learn that fewer toys can give kids more space and freedom to be creative and imaginative. I’m wanting to get my niece a special toy for her birthday next week and I want it to mean something. I’ll be sure to find a special toy store that might have what I’m looking for her.

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