“A study has shown…” that having fewer toys is actually good for children. You’re probably wondering which study, and I will go out of my lazy way to share that information with you in a moment. If you are anything like we were before we moved into our small apartment, you could have gone swimming in a sea of children’s ahem…stuff…like toys in their play room every day. Just looking at the room stressed you out so you’d keep the door closed and try to pretend it didn’t exist. You’d clean it once or twice a week for about two hours, and then twenty minutes later you were crawling out from under yet another mountain of toys. And for what? So your kids don’t feel bad about themselves when they see everything other kids have? So they don’t get bored? Because giving them new toys brought them so much joy?
All of these excuses do seem reasonable to some extent, but, trust me, it is not worth the struggle it creates for you, and it is not worth the hindrances it creates for them. My children went from having that crazy mess of a toy room with too many objects to count, to having one laundry basket full of toys. Just one. Let me let you in on some awesome new findings:
According to Psychology Today, the University of Toledo in Ohio found that children actually become more creative and imaginative when they are not switching between multiple toys or games. This, in turn provides for “deeper cognitive development.” Essentially, studies found that children were more likely to have issues focusing when they had a myriad of toys to play with. When they had a smaller selection, they were much more likely to develop their social skills by playing with other children, and focus on any particular toy or activity for a greater amount of time. These develop into valuable life skills people…
Now, this particular study was done with a group of toddlers with only four toys to choose from and play with, and another group of toddlers with 16 toys. My husband is actually the one who presented this information to me months ago, and at first we tried to only have four toys out at a time from the kids’ basket. My 5 year old and my 2 year old each got to pick two things to play with for the week. Then they could switch them out at the end of the week. We failed at this after two weeks. Miserably. So my children are still playing with the basket of toys that probably does have more than sixteen toys in it. I have a goal of scaling back their toys even further in the very near future.
Despite my inability to follow through with this exact method of toy cutting, going from a room full of toys to one basket, has proven beneficial. For one, I don’t have the mess to clean up, and they don’t either. They appreciate a cleaner space to play. They have also developed their imaginations further, by creating things like rocket ships and telescopes out of toilet paper rolls, and having their few stuffed animals use their creations (sometimes “sheep” is strapped onto a toilet paper roll rocket about to launch into space). When they are missing a toy from a small set, they improvise and just throw something or someone else in there. They play together more often, and usually end up running around the room or wrestling and other shenanigans.
They go outside to play more, and honestly my kids really don’t care a ton about what other kids have. They are focused on themselves and what they get to do with us as a family. We have quality family time most evenings and all day every Saturday. We usually take them somewhere fun like to a children’s museum, the beach, or on other random short outings. They get bored sometimes, but I’d say their overall quality of life has actually improved tremendously upon dumping the toys. So, parents, go ahead and take the trash bag to your kids’ room, and don’t feel too bad. There are kids everywhere that will really appreciate those toys when their parents pick them up at Goodwill or get them for free.
P.S. It is best to let the kids fill up one basket of their favorite toys, and tell them that they’re giving the rest to kids that have no toys. This actually appealed to my 5 year old, who got to keep the things most important to him, and feel like he was really helping other kids out.
P.S.S. This was probably harder on me than it was on them. I tried to hang onto things for sentimental reasons and it almost hurt me to let them go. If they don’t mind, you shouldn’t either.