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Toys, Sometimes Less is More

Seeing as it has just been Christmas, it’s likely that you may be experiencing toy overload.

I know as a parent I always think we haven’t gotten the kids enough, but in reality, it turns out to be much more than I anticipated. That and you can’t control what others buy for your children and then before you know it, you have your very own toy shop.  

Now I hate clutter and I don’t like seeing lots of toys. Firstly they can be unsightly, my sitting room is for relaxing in, not a place to be overstimulated by wild colours which you’ll find is the norm for many of today’s toys. Secondly, too many toys are too much of a distraction. They end up getting trampled on rather than actually being played with.

So less is more and I’ll tell you why. Over my childcare career of 14 years, I have come to realize that we don’t actually need lots of toys for children to play with. Much like when new parents buy all the latest gadgets, loads of clothes etc for their newborn and then don’t actually end up using even half of it (been there myself). I have developed the same mentality with regard to toys.

I’ll give you an example that you’ll likely be able to resonate with, seeing as adults we don’t necessarily play with toys in the same way children to. Imagine you’ve walked into an old school sweet shop, you know the type with penny sweets, big jars of your favourites and weighing scales. Now, where on earth do you start? There are so many of my favourites, but which is my favourite of favourites, which new ones do I try. There is just too much choice, which is overwhelming. This is the same for small children when they have open access to everything they own. Thing playroom, how many of the toys actually get played with or instead just pulled out and not really played within a purposeful way?

I’m not a Grinch and don’t remove my children’s toys, bin them or not allow them to play with them. Instead, I give them a selection, by cleverly hiding toys not in use and by using rotation. We have a dedicated shelved cupboard in our sitting room which has doors, so that at the end of the day the toys can be tucked away tidily away from view. Many people use Kallax units in this way. I place the majority of the toys into basket types. So in our house, we have an Octonauts basket, Paw Patrol basket, dolly basket and cars basket (just to name a few). This makes the toys easier to manage as it acts as an inventory and makes getting them out and away much easier. 

Marlowe and her cog wheel

I choose to get out 2-3 baskets at a time. In the example of Marlowe above, she has 5 items, as these are individual items and not baskets full of multiple toys of the same type. She has –

  • A small wooden stacker
  • A wooden cog wheel puzzle
  • A wooden pull along duck
  • A teddy dog and its carry case.
  • A mini beads maze.

That may sound to some like a lot of toys, however if I let Marlowe & Parker just help themselves then they would get EVERYTHING out of the cupboard. Transport it about and not really play with it. 

Less is more because it allows the child to actually sit and engage with those toys. If your lounge floor is covered in toys all over then, you aren’t really going to get much playing done.

Less is more because it makes the toys noticeable. Children take notice of what is available to them, rather than one toy becoming a blur among the surrounding jumble.

Less is more because it doesn’t overstimulate children, thus allowing them to use their imagination and creativity to actually play with the toy. 

If you haven’t already then do give it a go, try using baskets and limiting it to a few at a time. If you want to rotate toys then that’s fine but then the others need to go away first. This is a good time to implement ‘tidy up time’. 

We’ve implemented a similar philosophy with less is more within our play centre. I occasionally have doubts of ‘what if it isn’t enough and they get bored?’ but in reality that rarely, if ever happens. I see child after child interacting with the toys in a way that just sees their imagination flair, their role-playing skills come to life, and they develop their narratives. It’s such a lovely sight to see.

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