How Many Toys Does a Toddler Really Need?

Is having a lot of toys good?

With a seemingly unlimited number of toys for toddlers to choose from it can be easy to become overwhelmed and question whether your toddler has too many or too few toys.

Even as toddlers it’s very hard to stop children being bombarded with toys they feel they must have. Pretty much every high street will have a toy shop window that’s designed to capture their attention, every supermarket has aisles full of toys, and media, whether it’s TV, Youtube or magazines offers a seemingly constant sales pitch.

There is pressure from all sides to ensure we give our children the best we possibly can and in a consumerist culture that can often mean buying them lots of stuff. However, it may please you to know that research shows less can actually be more when it comes to toddler toys.

The journal of Infant Behavior and Development, published a study showing that children play more and were more interactive and engaged in an environment with fewer toys.

How fewer toys can lead to more play

Fewer toys encourage better play as children are less likely to get overwhelmed. The fewer toys there are to distract their attention the more they will explore and investigate each item and the more imaginative their play is likely to be.

For toddlers repetition is also an important way for them to learn. They don’t get bored doing the same thing over and over again in the same way we do as adults, in fact, this is how they perfect their skills. Whether its posting shapes into holes or building a tower and knocking it down again and again.

What toys should a toddler be playing with?

The evidence also suggests that simpler toys are better. Children derive more benefit from passive open-ended toys than they do from crazy all singing all dancing electronic toys. Why? Because the toys with all the flashing lights and buttons are designed to entertain them and if children are not taught to entertain themselves they will come to rely on this type of input.

Open-ended toys are purposefully designed to allow children’s imaginations to give them form. The same building set for example could be a safari park, a playground, a fancy hotel, a hospital or a volcanic island depending on the adventure your child is acting out.

Passive toys also require more interaction. Children get more involved in manipulating their toys, making noises, building and creating, and parents can get more involved too. A tea set or toy kitchen, for example, is so much more fun when you have mum or dad there to make never-ending cups of tea for.

With this in mind the best toys for toddlers are those ignite their imaginations, require them to get involved and encourage essential skills such as fine motor skills, problem-solving and role play.

You could aim to choose toys that can be used in lots of different ways. For example, a blue play silk could be the ocean for small world play, a cape for a superhero, water to boil pasta, and a portal to a magical world or a great sensory experience.

Next up: How to declutter and organise baby & toddler toys

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