The case for having lesser toys at home
We have all been that parent who NEEDS to buy every new toy we see in the market. We have all been that person who says, "where did you get this from?" on an online forum. We have all been that person who rationalizes purchases of toys saying, "Bought only one this month".
Our houses are overflowing with toys. Of the light making kind, of the sound making kind, of the button and touch screen kind, of the blocks kind. Just name it, it is probably there.
We at the nestery believe that less is more. We believe in investing in a few well-made pieces preferably in natural materials as against filling bin-loads of toys. Don't take our word for it, here is the research behind it. Here we list two of the preeminent research in this space.
A research study by University of Toledo, Ohio conducted a study where toddlers between the ages of 18-30 months were presented with either 4 toys or 16 toys. They were allowed up to 30 minutes of supervised free play. The researchers found that there was a significant difference in how the toddlers reacted when there were fewer toys around. The toddlers played in a variety of ways with each toy and they switched less frequently between the toys.
"When provided with fewer toys in the environment, toddlers engage in longer periods of play with a single toy, allowing better focus to explore and play more creatively,"
In another study designed to identify and prevent addictive patterns in adults, two German researchers convinced a nursery school to remove all toys from the classroom for three months. At the end of three months, the teachers reported that while on the first day the children were thrown-off and confused, by the end of the third month they were engaged in imaginative play, and were able to concentrate better and communicate more effectively.
The video below is actually in German, you will see a lot of German text, but the result of this experiment transcends language.
Parenting is often-times a short term game, with the goal being "just go to sleep now", "stop the tantrum", "quit whining in public" etc. When we pacify kids in the short-term with technology and toys, we may be discouraging the development of the long-term skills like building attention span, lateral thinking. We are sending the message that boredom can be filled with instantaneous stimulation and that resources will be presented to you when you hit the first hiccup and that there is no need to figure out how to just make do with things at hand.
Here are some of the other benefits of buying lesser toys, but we know that this is really really difficult.
Developing longer attention span: A child's nature is to explore using their different senses, primarily touch. When there are many options by way of toys, they will want to explore most of those options. This results in lower time spent with each toy. This means that the child is not exploring each toy to its full potential. When there are esser toys, they are forced to spend more time with each toy and explore more ways to interact with or manipulate the toy.
Learning to take care of things in their possession: We have all been there, kids not using a toy with the care with which we purchased it for them, and it is heart-breaking. Having lesser toys gives them the incentive to take care of the toys that they have at hand.
Becoming more resourceful: Have you played that game where you are given a tray of limited items and are supposed to use those to come out of difficult scenarios. Having lesser toys kind of forces children to do the same, be more resourceful, to draw more out of the toy/game, to problem solve. Problem solving and resourcefulness are wonderful life skills to build in our children.
Developing an all-round interest in reading, art: Having lesser toys allows the child to develop newer avenues to channel their creative juices. These can be effectively channelled into art and reading. The benefits of art and reading are immense. They help the child understand abstract concepts like emotion, imagination, and communication along with obvious benefits in literacy and vocabulary.
Learning the art of persisting: Children, when they have multiple toys, are more prone to giving up on an activity they embarked on and move on to the next activity. IF they have limited choice they may work on any given task more.
All non-mainstream methods of education insist on lesser toys: All educational philosophies like Montessori, Waldorf, Emilio Reggio call for lesser, well-made, purpose-built, age appropriate toys arranged thoughtfully at a location accessible to the children. They are all against cluttered toy-bins and brightly lit or electronic sounds making toys as they over-stimulate children. If so many great educationists thought like this. There must be a reason to it right?
Learning to be more creative: As evidenced by the German "no-toy kindergarten" research, children start exercising their creativity after boredom set in, in the absence of any special toys, they used their surroundings and their environment to engage in imaginative play. This is why open-ended toys foster creativity.
Having cleaner, clutter-free homes: We will admit, this is for the adults. Who would not like a clean home where tripping over those impossibly pointy blocks is not a daily affair? It's easy to clean up after them as well.
Better for the environment: Majority of the toys manufactured are made out of plastic. It is almost impossible to repair a toy that has stopped working. Almost all of it goes into trash and then onto landfills. Mostly, the batteries remain inside because they are usually inside closed compartments that need a screw driver to open. They leach poisonous chemicals into the soil and water supply as they degrade. Also, each toy comes with an impossible amount of packaging. You are better off buying a few but toys made with natural materials or just becoming part of toy libraries that are fast becoming popular in India.
In our next part, we talk about things to consider while buying a toy.