We love our kids. But in our love, are we showering them with one too many things? And other than possibly encouraging materialism, are we also reducing their attention spans (which can set them up for disappointment down the road)?
Your floor squeaks, your cupboard shelves whirr and when you sit on your couch, it tends to speak out. What are we talking about? A home overladen and overburdened with one too many toys. As parents, we want the best for our children in every way. But is buying them every new toy that hits the shelves a good idea?
How Much Is Too Much?
If your child tends to grab a toy and barely play with it for a minute or two before casting it aside and reaching for another one, it’s a sure fire sign that s/he has way too many toys. Children with too many toys tend to have shorter attention spans. Also the more the toys, the more the siblings fight over them – the overabundance leads to reticent sharing (instead of the opposite).
The Toy Free Nursery
Two public health workers in Munich – Rainer Strick and Elke Schuber –started a project that loosely translated as ‘The nursery without toys.’ The project was literal – they took away all the toys from a nursery and all that was left were tables, chairs, and a few blankets. For the first day the children were bored and sort of wide-eyed – but by the second day, they had managed to gather the tables and chairs, put the blankets over them and start to “pretend” play. And that’s exactly what having a few toys does – the toys then become a child’s creative outlet. It’s more about what a child can do with a toy than what the toy in itself can do.
Tackle One Too Many Toys
We all read such articles and studies, and somehow still end up with too many toys – so what’s the solution? Limit buying new toys to things children can get creative with. Pack up existing toys into separate bags or boxes and rotate them so that kids play with all the toys, but not all together. Get more of books and kits, blocks and bricks and things that can be adapted creatively to let your child have the best childhood possible. And remember, this will not stress your kids, for they are masters at stress busting.
If You Have To Buy, Buy These
Of course, childhood is about toys – so no parents can or should put a total embargo on toy shopping. But, there are things you can do to satiate your child’s playtime while also sparking creativity and imagination. So, the next time you go toy shopping, these are the ones you should keep a look out for…
1. Brick Blocks: Get the plainest ones you can lay your hands on and watch children get creative with these – they really don’t care about the colors or shapes – it’s inspiring to see them create imaginary things out of literally nothing.
2. Stud Blocks: So okay, technically we are using Lego terminology but Legos and any of their spin offs are good toys for little children. Hours of creative, imaginative play and fine-tuning of their motor skills is a joy to watch.
3. Crafty: Pencils and crayons, paints and sets, play dough and sand – buy these in bulk. Anytime the kids are driving you up the wall, sit them down for some crafts fun aka Mister Maker. Recycle crayons and such afterward.
4. Role Play: Doctor sets, kitchen sets, tool kits and toys such as police kits or firefighter tools let children play for hours. Don’t get hung on gender specific stuff though – encourage your boy to cook or your girl to play cop – the world is getting more and more gender neutral, and that’s a good thing!
5. Rubber Animals: Not only will they learn about animals and perhaps make their own games around them – these sets will let them have many minutes of happy play.
6. Scaled-down Vehicles: Little hands love to have something that goes vroom-vroom on the floor – don’t be surprised if your preschooler sits on a tiny car and pretends to drive it. Plus they will learn about things that go so these are good toys for little children.
7. Physical Exercise: This cannot be stressed enough – so get balls, jump ropes, Frisbees, tiny racquets and bats and even trampolines to ensure they have their day under the sun. And of course, outdoor pools are good toys as well, as are bikes, kick scooters, skateboards, roller skates and more…
8. Age-appropriate puzzles & board games: Jigsaw puzzles of their favorite character, stuff that teaches them about letter and number recognition, and any other age appropriate board games are a great way to improve motor skills and overall intelligence.
Remember that childhood needs to be all about creative learning – and toys that are too pretty, too fulfilling, or too perfect will not make them strive to learn or do any problem-solving. A less number of toys will also keep them in tune with nature – and ultimately, let kids be kids! Happy childhood to your children.
Have any other creative games you play with your kids? Please share in the comments section below!