Did anyone else panic-buy extra toys on Amazon as soon as this whole quarantine thing was announced?
It's totally normal to assume that kids need more toys to entertain them if they're spending all of their time at home, but is that really the case? There are actually some surprising benefits to having fewer toys, and they go far beyond not stepping on Legos every night after bedtime.
Here are 10 positive changes you might notice if you minimize your kids' toys.
1. Kids play creatively
Sure, you want to provide an enriching environment for your children, but a little boredom is actually a good thing for kids. Mild boredom, a lack of constant entertainment and novelty, is what inspires creativity.
If a kid has every toy known to man, how will they ever discover all of the creative uses for a stick—or how they can combine a set of blocks with a few model animals to create an elaborate zoo?
Fewer toys means kids have to get creative and use their imaginations when they play. And that creative thinking will benefit them for the rest of their lives.
2. Gratitude comes easy
When kids constantly get new toys, they grow to expect it, and it's understandably difficult for them to truly appreciate new toys, no matter how cool they are. A smaller number of new toys that are of high quality and really targeted to your child's interests are much more likely to be appreciated.
3. Siblings learn sharing
If you have more than one child, resist the urge to buy two of everything. It's actually a really great lesson when kids have to learn to share, in their own child-led way.
When a child has to wait to use the cool ride-on toy in the backyard or negotiate using the action figures together with their sibling, they learn valuable social skills that simply don't come up if there's two of everything.
It's important for parents to resist the urge to referee every conflict over toys. Establish a few simple ground rules—like whoever chooses a toy first gets to use it as long as they want—and encourage your children to negotiate the details from there.
4. Toys get taken care of
When there are toys everywhere, kids hardly notice if something breaks. Even if they love the toy, they assume a new one will quickly replace the broken one.
Next time a toy gets broken because it was left outside or someone was careless with it, don't replace it for a while. Let your child actually miss it, which helps teach the lesson to take better care of their things in the future.
5. More engaged playtime
While kids may truly believe they want all the toys, the truth is most children get overwhelmed by having too much stuff around. Having a huge volume of toys can become a distraction from deep play. Kids wind up going from activity to activity without experiencing true engagement and getting lost in their own play.
When kids have fewer options to play with, they're often able to more easily choose something to play with and experience deep focus without distraction. This kind of play is great for your child's developing attention span.
6. A tidier playroom
Many young children actually have a very strong sense of order and get great satisfaction from putting items exactly where they belong.
If there are too many toys though, enjoying that sense of order becomes really difficult for kids. They need to have a clear understanding of where each item goes and the level of mess needs to be manageable so it doesn't seem overwhelming.
Limiting the amount of toys makes it much easier to have a place for everything so that your child can be successful with cleaning up their own toys.
7. More outdoor playtime
When it comes to health, both physical and mental, kids basically can't get too much outdoor play.
Keeping fewer toys in the house will naturally lead to kids choosing outdoor play more frequently. They'll spend more time searching for acorns, riding their bikes, splashing in puddles and engaging in pretend play outside—and nothing could be better for them!
8. More money for experiences
Buying fewer toys, of course, has the obvious benefit of saving money. This may mean you have more funds to spend on family experiences like zoo or museum memberships, a family camping trip or an extracurricular class for your child.
Your child will notice you focusing more on these experiences than on stuff and will come to value experiences over things as well.
9. Boosted sense of self
When children only receive a few toys for birthdays and holidays, they very thoughtfully decide what to ask for. They think about what they actually want, what interests they want to pursue, what their hobbies are. This kind of introspection helps kids become aware of how they enjoy spending their time, and helps them develop their sense of self.
10. Love of reading
Having fewer toys means your child can be more likely to turn to books for entertainment. If there are toys everywhere, books can get lost in the shuffle, but if a kid's room has a few thoughtful toys and a basket of books in a little reading nook, they are much more likely to become little bookworms.
If you're intrigued and feel like doing a little experiment in your own house, give it a try! You don't have to go all-in, just pack away some toys in the garage for a couple of months and see what happens. Does your child miss them? Does the quality of their play change? Do they actually put away their toys when there are fewer of them to manage? With some adjustments, you will find the right balance of toys for your own home.