The question we get most from young parents is “How many toys and what types of toys does my child need?”
Realistically, the kids don’t need any toys. Let me share a study done in the late 90’s by Strick and Schubert in Germany. The study took toys out of the kindergarten classroom then observed what happened to the children. At first, the kids were a bit rambunctious and not sure what to do with their time. But soon the kids were playing more peacefully, using their imagination and playing with a purpose. The kids ended up with developmental benefits. They could “concentrate better when they work, integrate better into groups, and communicate better than children who didn’t take part in the study”
Now I completely understand the challenge of making a “no toy” house a reality. Our kids accumulate toys for many reasons. Below are some of the tops causes we have so many toys in our homes plus some ideas to help you prevent the overabundance of toys as well as challenge the status quo.
Reason #1: The toys were a gift. Oh, how our kids love their generous grandparents and the gift extravaganza birthday parties. We can’t take that away from our kids, but we can modify it. Encourage grandparents and other big gift givers to give experiences or the gift of time. Take the kids for a weekend. Go camping with them. Bake cookies with them. These experiences are what kids will remember. As for the birthday party, find something your child is passionate about and ask for funds to make a donation. Does your child love the lions at the zoo? Raise funds to adopt one. Maybe they are a huge fan of Disney or have a favorite restaurant, raise funds to buy a couple of stocks. These are not just gifts, but memories.
Reason #2 The toys are educational. There are so many educational toys on the market and new ones come out every day. I do not know how we adults did so well with out them. Educational toys are great. Learning through play is kid’s work. But, that doesn’t mean we need to buy all the educational toys on the market or any for that matter. If you are buying toys, Alexis Necessary, Registered Play Therapist of Necessary Play in Bentonville, Arkansas recommends you “Go for toys that allow for creativity and imagination. For example, great toys are blocks, art supplies, a ball, dollhouse, etc. Seriously, sticks, boxes and rope are about all you need, ”
Reason #3 The kids begged. There is a whole industry of marketing and selling products to our kids and teens. This makes our kids want stuff. And if we have the means to provide it, then many times we do it or we don’t have the means, we might feel guilty for not doing it. Is this what we want to this teach the kids? The marketing will not go away. Our kids will continue to want items. That is ok. There are so many lessons here. We all go through a phase of wanting things that aren’t good for us, health wise or budget wise. And we have learned that doing without works or that the item doesn’t bring happiness. Embrace the fact that kids will want items. That’s ok. Role model for them how to live without the things we “want”. If they really want it, then teach them to be resourceful in getting the item. If they have to work for it, it may not be as important. Plus the time it takes to work towards something, maybe just enough time for them to shift focus.
How do we answer the top questions we get as professional organizers from young parents “How many toys and what types of toys does my child need?” Need? None. Have? You get to decide that. Let your space dictate what a child can have. There is no magical formula. Kids can thrive without toys but they can also do good with the right toys. You get to find your happy place.