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Why fewer, better toys encourage more creative kids

It can be easy to buy into the marketing hype that our children need more stuff to stay busy during playtime. But when it comes to toys, scientific research is finding that less is so much more.


A world of childhood imagination awaits with just a few simple, beautiful toys.Lizzy Williams


As a result, mamas are turning to products made with high-quality craftsmanship that allow them to last and designed in a way that fosters creativity. Rather than stifling ideas with clutter—fewer, better, more beautiful toys can bring a child's imagination to life.

Here are four reasons why minimalism encourages more creative play:

1. It encourages story-making over storytelling.

For so long, parents provide the primary narrative in their children's lives. Many parents begin reading to their babies from day one (or even sooner), and this storytelling provides an invaluable service in developing their child's budding vocabulary. And today, technology often plays a prevalent role in the stories children are told.

But as children grow into toddlers and beyond, their playtime should also inspire them to tell their own stories. Parents can help by providing toys that foster open-ended play. For example, an electronic car will always be a car, but a beautifully made toy can star in any number of stories your little one invents.

2. It eliminates stress in the household over clutter.

If the site of a messy living room sends you into an anxiety tailspin, you're not alone. Research has confirmed that prolonged clutter triggers a release of cortisol in our brains, resulting in stressed out mamas everywhere. And all that stress has a tangential effect on our children.

But by decluttering our homes from excessive toys and replacing them with fewer, better-made options, we encourage more peaceful play (and bedtimes...and meal times...and all times) all around.

3. It fosters better focus.

It may seem counterintuitive, but toddlers are actually more likely to play for longer and more happily when they have fewer toys to choose from. Think about it this way: If you were trying to read a book but your phone kept buzzing with new text messages, how likely are you to get through that chapter with a deep understanding of what you read? It's the same for toddlers.

With fewer options, they are inspired to be more creative with their prolonged play. And with less to clean up, you are free to be more present in the time you spend playing together.

4. It inspires innovation.

By providing your child with toys that aren't necessarily limited to a single age group or style of play, you create an environment where creativity can flourish. The result? Quality toys that last and will be played with in ways you might never have imagined.

This sets the stage for a lifelong creative thinker who has learned to view problems and experiences from different perspectives to find better solutions. (AKA, a child who will conquer whatever roadblocks that land in front of her.)


Maileg toys can grow with a child and lead to calm, creative play in the meantime.

When you show a preference for toys that are designed to last and quality over quantity, your children are more likely to adopt the same habits when they start making purchasing decisions. Just one more reason to embrace a fewer, better approach at home.

Without camps and back-to-school plans still TBD, the cries of "I'm bored!" seem to be ringing louder than ever this summer. And if you're anything like me, by August, I'm fresh out of boxes to check on my "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys.

With that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite wooden toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

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One of our main goals as mothers is to encourage our children to learn, grow and play. They start out as our tiny, adorable babies who need us for everything, and somehow, before you know it, they grow into toddlers with ideas and opinions and desires of their own.

You may be hearing a lot more of "I do it!" or maybe they're pushing your hand away as a signal to let you know, I don't need your help, Mama. That's okay. They're just telling you they're ready for more independence. They want to be in charge of their bodies, and any little bit of control their lives and abilities allow.

So, instead of challenging your toddler's desire for autonomy, we found five of our favorite products to help encourage independence—and eliminate frustration in the process.

EKOBO Bamboo 4-piece kid set

EKOBO bamboo 4-piece kid set

This colorful set includes a plate, cup, bowl and spoon and is just right for your child's meal experience. Keep them in an easy-to-reach cabinet so they'll feel encouraged (and excited!) to get their own place setting each time they eat.

$25

Puj PhillUp hangable kids cups

Puj PhillUp hangable kids cups

Before you know it, your little one will be asking (okay, maybe demanding) to fill their own water cups. This amazing 4-pack of cups attaches directly to the fridge (or any glass, metal, tile or fiberglass surface) making it easier for your child to grab a cup themselves. Just be sure a water pitcher or dispenser is nearby, and—boom!—one task off your plate.

$29

Wise Elk puzzle tower blocks

Wise Elk puzzle tower blocks

These beautiful blocks, made from sustainably-sourced wood and water-based, non-toxic, lead-free paint, will keep your little one focused on their creation while they're also busy working on their fine-motor skills. The puzzle design will encourage patience as your kiddo creates their own building, fitting one block in after the next.

$18

Lorena Canals basket

Lorena Canals Basket

This *gorgeous* braided cotton basket is the perfect, accessible home for their blocks (and whatever else you want to hide away!) so your kiddo can grab them (and clean them up) whenever their heart desires.

$29

BABYBJÖRN step stool

BABYBJ\u00d6RN Step Stool

Your kiddo might be ready to take on the world, but they might need an extra boost to do so—cue, a step stool! An easy-to-move lightweight stool is the must-have confidence-boosting tool you need in your home so your growing tot can reach, well... the world.

$20

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Our list of 100 baby names that should be on everyone's list this year includes more choices than in the past of names that are obscure and surprising. That's because there are so many more unusual baby names coming into widespread use and baby namers have become a lot more adventurous.

Expectant parents do not need to be told to move beyond Jennifer and Jason. Their thinking about names has evolved to the point that the most useful thing we can do is offer a large menu of intriguing choices.

Here are our picks for the 100 best surprising + unusual baby names now.


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