Is your house overflowing with toys? More isn’t always better, and can even have adverse results. Here are the downsides of having too many toys.
Birthday parties and play dates have given me a glimpse into just how many toys other kids have compared to my own. Tall shelves filled with action figures, floors strewn with stuffed animals. I began to wonder what these kids might think coming into our home.
The holidays have also made me wonder whether I give them enough gifts. For his first Christmas, my eldest didn’t even receive a toy from us—I figured he was too young to even notice.
These days, I’m a bit more generous, but I’d still say our home is still far from overflowing with toys. But my guilt was quickly squashed when I learned that too many toys can actually be bad.
If you’ve felt guilty that your kids don’t have enough toys to stimulate creativity and keep them occupied, you likely have little to worry about.
Do they need more toys to stimulate creativity and keep them occupied?
A BBC article “Are Children Given Too Many Toys?” says they don’t:
“Most children need a transition object—their first teddy bear that they take everywhere. But everything else is a socially generated want.”
The downsides of having too many toys
Apart from a comfort item and a few toys to play with, kids apparently don’t need too many. That then begs the question: If they don’t need all these toys, could there be a downside to piles of toys?
I’ve found that there are a few downsides that often go overlooked when you have too many toys at home. Gathered from various articles and books on child development, here are some of those reasons:
1. Inability to play with everyday objects
Everyday objects give kids the chance to develop their creative potential. Without an overwhelming amount of toys, your child has more opportunities to see and turn random things into “toys” to play with.
Cardboard boxes and kitchen spoons turn into a drum set. Balls of yarn get tossed like a ball, and an empty water bottle collects dried leaves and flowers outside. With too many toys, kids aren’t as able to explore non-toy materials and expand their creativity.
Many toys also have pre-determined characteristics and story lines. For instance, the Elmo doll comes with its personality long before your child can decide for herself how she wants to play with it.
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2. More sibling fighting
Many parents mistakenly assume that providing their kids with many toys prevents fighting. They might think giving each of their kids their own balls, sets of dominoes, and kitchen sets will keep the peace.
But with too many toys, they miss out on learning to cooperate. They “mark their territory,” refusing to part or share with their toys.
It turns out, scarcity leads to better cooperation. With limited toys, kids are forced to share and create their own system of turn-taking. They’re also more likely to share in general, having had more practice in doing so with their toys.
Of course, having their own special toys is also important, from bedtime loveys to their own Bey Blades. But for the most part, communal and shared toys encourage turn-taking rather than a possessive mentality.
3. Shorter attention spans
I needed to buy myself some time in the kitchen, so I placed several toys in front of my eight-month-old. “That should keep him occupied,” I thought, hoping he wouldn’t get bored.
But the more toys I offered, the less time he had to explore each one. I assumed he’d be bored with only one toy—instead, he couldn’t focus on even one.
More toys doesn’t always translate to more play time. In fact, a fewer selection of toys allows for more time to explore each one. Your child is less likely to jump from one toy to the next when only a handful are within sight. He can examine what he’s holding, observe how it works, and find new ways to play.
4. Less care for toys
Want your child to take better care of his toys? Limit the number he owns.
With limited toys, kids invest the time and care into the ones they have. They won’t waste art supplies knowing they only have one set of paints, or mishandle a truck if it’s the only one in the house.
Fewer toys are more precious, with more chances for your child to find something special about the ones he owns. Any more than a few special stuffed animals, for instance, can diminish the special bond he has with them. Given too many and he wouldn’t develop deep attachments to them.
5. Too many toys can spoil kids
Giving too many toys isn’t the only way to spoil kids, but it can lead to entitlement. We create the norm in their lives and set the standards for what they should expect. If we present them with 10 gifts for the holidays, it’s natural they’re upset if they receive five the next.
Giving toys all the time will also prevent them from understanding the concept of “enough.” Without limits, they’ll want more, never satisfied with what they already have. It’s a cycle—what they have can’t be good enough if they’re always pursuing more.
6. Inability to find joy in simplicity
Rewarding your child’s good deeds with toys sends the message that satisfaction is in material items. Rewards don’t have to involve yet another new toy ordered online. A simple praise, a hug, or spending time with each other would make her happy.
7. Sensory overload
For many kids, everything is new. A trip to the park—a place many adults would breeze through—is a stream of new things to process.
The same is true with too many toys. With a living room chock-full of toys, kids and babies might feel overwhelmed with so much information to absorb. Rather than enjoying downtime after a long day, they’re wound up from too many choices and can’t focus on just one toy or activity.
“Too much” or “too little” is relative. What seems like enough for me can be over-the-top for some, just as our toys can be a small collection compared to others’.
Still, having too many toys may not be a good idea. For one thing, your child will be less likely to turn everyday, household objects into toys. He and his siblings might fight more often, especially as they “protect” their possessions.
With so many toys, he has a shorter attention span to focus on each one, much less take the time to care for them. Expectations are set higher the more toys he has, while the ability to find joy in simple pleasures can fall. And lastly, a gobble of toys can feel like sensory overload for kids of all ages.
All that to say, try not to place too much focus on gifts and toys. They’re tools to have fun, learn, and spend time with others—not a mountain of stuff that will be long forgotten about.
Get more tips:
- How to Respond when Your Child Makes a Mistake
- How to Raise a Bright Child
- Characteristics of a Resilient Child
- Can Praise Be Harmful and Impede Your Child’s Potential?
- Why Technology Isn’t Necessary for Kids (Even In These Modern Times)
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