Parenting comes with many inevitable by-products, such as toys. While these playthings contribute to your toddler's growth and development, having too many may be counterproductive. Thus, while your child may be happy seeing their play area resemble a toy store, you, as a parent, may be concerned about getting less value out of the toys you bought.
According to a study from the University of Toledo in Ohio, providing your child with too many toys may reduce the quality of their play. This is backed by another study published in the Infant Behavior and Development journal that states having fewer toys leads young children to engage more in imaginative and creative play.
The study researched 36 toddlers who had access to either four or 16 toys and found a significant difference in the quality of play between the two groups; kids who received the former played more creatively, were more engaged and interacted with their playthings in more various ways, for much longer. Ultimately, fewer chaos prompts increased focus and greater joy in children, leading to healthier play and deeper cognitive development.
In conjunction, simpler toys are also better for your kids to play with. The American Academy of Pediatrics also published a recent report stating that non-electronic toys are the best for children and parents to interact, pretend, and play together, which a tablet or screen simply cannot compare. And when babies play with their parents, the real magic happens, whether it's building blocks, solving puzzles together, or playing pretend with one another.
With that said, it doesn't necessarily mean parents should do away with most of their children's toys immediately. But if you spend more and more on your kid's playthings, it is worth pausing and asking if your child needs a particular toy. Will it enrich their playtime or be used for several weeks until they get bored of it?
Memories are more precious than toys and presents
Since it's every parent's goal to make their children happy, it is best to consider moving away from the tried-and-true method of buying toys and gifts and instead create bonding traditions and rituals that your little one can look back on and cherish once they're older. From game nights to weekly movie marathons of their favourite cartoons, you can create these memories in plenty of ways.
Plenty of research supports this notion of investing in activities with your kids over material goods. Thomas Gilovich, a psychologist from Cornell University, discovered that people look back on their past experiences far more than they do when they receive material gifts or make material purchases. He states that people who think about upcoming experiential purchases, like a long-awaited movie screening or concert viewing, have higher happiness levels than those anticipating material purchases.
There are many ways to improve your child's play to ensure they get the most out of it beyond joy. Providing them with fewer toys is one such method, along with providing the optimal environment for independent play. In this case, parents should also sit back and observe at times instead of always actively entertaining their child if they want to promote satisfactory, intrinsically motivated, and higher-quality playtime.
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