We’ve all been there and thought the same thing, “These kids have too many toys!” Whether after a “quick” visit to Target or a long day of picking up toys, today’s parents find themselves struggling against the never ending onslaught of toys and their no-so-subtle marketing minions. Whether spoiled by grandparents or the recipient of countless hand-me-downs, a new study funded by the US government, scientifically proves that our kids do in fact have too many toys. In the study, Claire Lerner, a child-development worker, studied the effect of inundating children with toys. She found that too many playthings can restrict development and may harm children. ”They get overwhelmed and over-stimulated and cannot concentrate on any one thing long enough to learn from it so they just shut down. Too many toys means they are not learning to play imaginatively either,” she says. Additional studies in Europe add fuel to the toy fire. At the University of Stirling they recently concluded that expensive, hi-tech toys are a waste of money as children learn just as much from playing with an old mobile phone. In Munich, they found that nursery school students actually became more imaginative and content once all their toys were taken away, leaving only basic school supplies to “play” with. Those same kids also learned to communicate better and integrate more within groups. So what’s a parent to do? In the real world, simply chucking out all the toys and starting over isn’t an option, but here are a few options that might work for you.
1. Rotate your existing toys. If your child(ren) have to a room full of toys, simply pack half the toys into plastic containers and haul them away to storage. After a week or so, swap out the existing toys for the stored ones. Rotating toys greatly reduces the number of accessible toys which prevents kids from being overstimulated and requires them to more “quality time” with the ones they have.
2. Limit the amount of toy storage in your house. Rather than buy new storage bins for new toys, make room for them by getting rid of old ones. This system of “one in one out” is an easy way to keep the number of toys in check. The lack of space is also an easy concept for kids to grasp as they can visually see that there are too many toys to fit in the given storage space. To decrease overstimulation, also consider putting toys in opaque containers rather than clear. By doing so, only a limited number of toys can be seen at a time, thereby allowing kids to think about what they want to play with rather than react to what they see in front of them.
3. Create an exchange box. If your child doesn’t use a toy but isn’t willing to give it up, create an exchange box. An exchange box is kept in storage and when a child wants a toy out of the box, a different toy has to be put in to take its place. Overtime, “out of sight, out of mind” goes to work and many toys in the box become forgotten and can be donated or given away.
4. Convert small, unused toys, into decorations. Kids meals toys are notorious for being small and useless, yet kids quickly become attached to them. An easy solution to turn them into “art.” By creating a wreath or create a wall collage the toys can be out of play, but not out of sight. Some other idea include, turning them into Christmas tree ornaments, using them as bath or sand box toys or simply throw a couple away each day.
5. Donate toys. Teaching kids the gift of giving is one of the greatest gifts you can give your children. Whether it be taking kids to a thrift store to see where other kids shop for toys or having them personally give toys to a friend in need, kids learn to give to others by doing just that, giving to others.
6. Rethink the term “present. Now that you have limited the amount of toys in your house, prevent the problem by becoming proactive. Instead of giving toys as presents, give experiences instead. A trip to the amusement park, a favorite restaurant with a friend or a camping trip often create memories that last much longer than toys. Come the holiday season, ask family to donate money to help fund their dance or art lessons or sporting activities.
7. Think simple. When purchasing toys, the more basic the better. As a general rule kids (not parents) should do at least 80% of the work, including set up and take down. If a kid simply watches a toy to be entertained, stay away. Another great tip is to ask yourself if your grandkids will know what to do with the toy and will it be around long enough for them to play with it. If yes, your on the right track. Good quality toys are generally basic and free any current trend or fad.
For more information on playtime studies please read the following articles:
Tips for Choosing Toddler Toys, www.zerotothree.org (a US government sponsored organization)
Too many toys can have a negative effect on children by Elizabeth Fletcher, The Signal, Feburary 24, 2010.
When toys take over by Liz Hollis, The Guardian, January 20, 2007.
Hi-tech toys offer no education gain, says researchers by Lucy Ward, The Guardian, November 14, 2006.
Does the kid with the most toys really win? by Donna Randol, ArticleSnatch.com