Why kids shouldn’t have lots of toys – and what to do when yours has too many

The holidays reaffirm what parents and caregivers already know – many children today have lots of toys.

In the United States, children ages two to twelve are given toys valued at more than $ 6,500 ($ 9,073). Here in Australia, the toy industry is worth more than $ 3.7 billion annually. Lockdowns caused online toy sales to grow 21.4 percent in 2021, with the online toy industry now growing faster than the online retail sector as a whole.

The number of toys in Australian households is likely to increase once Christmas gift giving begins in earnest.

Environmental concerns aside, having many toys can negatively affect children, parents and carers.

Here are some ideas for dealing with existing toys as well as the upcoming influx of new toys.

The problem with too many toys

Rooms with lots of toys are over-stimulating and affect babies, toddlers, and younger children’s ability to learn and play creatively.

Much like cluttered pantries or office spaces making it difficult for adults to concentrate, having too many toys around the house can make it difficult for children to concentrate, learn, and develop key play-related skills.

The more toys, the more confusing for children.(Unsplash: Xavi Cabrera)

Research shows that fewer toys lead to better playtime for toddlers at the same time, allowing them to focus on one toy at a time, develop concentration skills and play more creatively.

The other problem with many “in-game” toys is that we tend to place less value on them. By reducing the number of toys, adults can help children develop appreciation and gratitude.

What to do when you have too many toys

Tidying up is easier said than done, but organizing toys has many benefits for children and adults alike.

Less well organized toys result in a calmer, less stressful environment, which also reduces overstimulation in children and contributes to better behavioral regulation.

Reducing the number of toys can also increase the chances for children to develop tolerance for frustration, and focusing on one or two toys at a time can improve problem-solving skills and develop independent gaming experience and creativity.

Organizing toys can also help parents and caregivers improve the general structure and routine around the house, which is great for everyone!

How do you organize toys?

A good first step is to take an inventory of all the toys in your house. Divide toys into “Keep and Play”, “Keep and Store” (toys that are sentimental, family heirlooms or part of a collection that can be stored) and “Give-away or Sell”.

“Store and Play” toys should be organized so that children can see them clearly and easily access them.

One photo shows a child looking at a colorful robot toy on wheels
Toys that help a child develop and keep them busy don’t have to be expensive.(Unsplash: Robo prodigy)

Store two thirds of these toys in storage. Change the number of toys available every month to make sure you have an interesting selection of “social” and “solo play” toys and try to include some “good” toys.

Rotating toys can help with space problems, and most importantly, keep the novelty alive.

Is there such a thing as “good” toys?

With so many toys to choose from, the choice can be overwhelming. However, when you are thinking about buying toys, there are some features that make certain toys better than others.

“Good” toys are those that correspond to the age and level of development of the child. If you are unsure whether a toy is suitable, seek advice from a toy store staff or check out child development websites such as raisingchildren.net.au and Earlychildhoodaustralia.org.au.

Toys should stimulate learning while keeping the child interested, and they should be safe and durable. In addition, toys should stand the test of time (think Lego) and ideally be versatile over the years.

We know that with more than 17 percent of Australian children living in poverty, there are also many families who don’t have the problem of having too many toys.

Good toys don’t have to be expensive. While Australians spend millions on toys each year, remember that simple, everyday household items – boxes, pots and cooking utensils, buckets and tubs, cardboard tubes, plastic containers, and stackable cups – are excellent toys for younger children.


Categorizing “good” toys

Parents may find it useful to categorize good toys. This ensures that when organizing toys, children have access to a variety of toys suitable for different types of learning and game development.

Here are five ways to categorize toys:

  1. 1.Manipulative / functional toys – this includes construction and construction toys, puzzles, stacking and nesting, brain teasers, dress up toys, beads, blocks, bath toys, and sand and water toys. Manipulation toys are essential for developing the fine and large motor skills, dexterity, and coordination essential for drawing, writing, dressing, and more.
  2. 2.Active toys – including various outdoor toys, climbing equipment, sports equipment and toys to sit on. Active toys are ideal for general physical activity and motor skills development.
  3. 3.Educational toys – this includes board and card games, books and toys for special skills such as letter recognition and shape and color sorters.
  4. 4thCreative toys – such as art and craft supplies, musical toys and instruments, including digital music and drawing apps.
  5. 5.Fantasy – including disguises and role-playing games (costumes, clothing, hats, masks and accessories), stuffed animals, dolls, puppets, transport toys.

What to do with toys that you don’t need

It can be hard to part with beloved toys, those that were part of a special collection, or just trying to clear out toys that have accumulated over the years. Many people find it emotionally challenging to give away toys and prefer to keep them and give them to children and family members.

There are many charities excited to find new homes for quality toys – The Salvation Army, Save the Children, and Vinnies – all of which are happy to receive toy donations, especially this time of year. Also, look for “toy donations” in your area to find local organizations and to make sure that what you donate is in good condition (if it’s a puzzle, make sure it has all of the pieces!).

Online platforms for used items or second-hand dealers are further ways of giving your treasures a second life.

Finally, when it’s the holiday season and Australians are spending more than $ 11 billion on gifts, it pays to have the list of “good” toys on hand so that you can easily answer friends and relatives when they inevitably ask, “What for.” we the kids get “Christmas?”.

Louise Grimmer is a Senior Lecturer in Retail Marketing at the University of Tasmania. Martin Grimmer is Professor of Marketing at the University of Tasmania. This piece first appeared on The Conversation.

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