Kids need less toys. Less toys make room for more creativity and happiness. It’s that simple. You can read many articles out there about how toys are the building blocks of how children understand the world, and how they teach children about themselves and others. It’s true that some toys are good. But, truth be told, our kids are constantly being marketed to and not all toys are valuable to a child’s development.
Nearly everywhere you go, there is a toy being advertised to your child. It is only natural for a child to ask for a toy when they see one available. If they are told “no,” they will continue to ask for it anyway. You may give in, and then it is added to the pile of toys at home that they are only interested in for a few minutes before tossing it aside and looking for the next random toy at the post office, or grocery store, or wherever you may be.
It’s been proven that when poised with too many options, children tend to feel stressed. As we discussed in our post about building a Minimalist Playroom, children become distracted and have a hard time making a decision with an excess of choices. This can be true for adults as well, but for a child that is constantly growing and whose brain is constantly forming, it can lay the foundation for a pattern of stress. Not only that, but when your child is constantly given things, or has too many things, they will continue to want more. It becomes an endless cycle.
Parents fear boredom in their children, and toys can seem like an easy fix when parents are tired, or aren’t sure how to interact with their kids, or don’t want to after hours of playtime together. We are told we must constantly keep them entertained, and what will entertain them is another playset you spot when you’re out buying laundry detergent at a Big Brand store.
It may be hard to wrap your head around at first, but boredom in children is good. We promise. Touching on Kim John Payne’s book, Simplicity Parenting, boredom is the instigator of creativity. It’s okay for kids to be bored. They should get bored. It’s how they learn to come up with things to do. In today’s world, playtime is all about “things” rather than activities. It shouldn’t be.
Children are incredibly curious and imaginative. They want to discover and learn, push their boundaries and interact. By taking away the heap of toys, sure, they will get bored. But from that boredom, they will truly become themselves. There are 3 key components (and many others) to the value of a simplistic playroom.
1) Fewer toys teach kids gratitude.
With a mountain of toys, you can never truly appreciate or care for each one. In a typical playroom, a child barely knows how many toys, or which toys, they really have. With so many toys available, there may be no incentive to care for their belongings since there are so many others to play with should one become damaged. When you make toys a special thing, instead of a deserved, everyday thing, children will also become grateful for the addition to their playroom if they’re given something new to play with.
2) Fewer toys teach kids to use their imagination.
As we stated before, boredom is the spark for creativity. You may remember from your own childhood, countless hours spent outside with friends and siblings. There were no complicated play sets with 1 million pieces, just the outdoors and people to play with. With less options, and with simpler options that leave their purpose up to the child, children are forced to learn how to be imaginative. They also play for longer, because there are less options for them to move on to. They have to commit and be resourceful with the items they have.
3) Fewer toys makes kids happier.
Children have not mastered the skill of controlling their attention span. With so many toys, their brains become spastic. They never fully enjoy a toy because out of the corner of their eye, they see another one they must touch. With less, you eliminate that stress. When children are aware of all of the toys that are available to them, when they are intentional about the toy they choose to play with, there is no stress involved in their choice. The change in demeanor in your child will be noticeable. You’ll see them become more creative and more focused. A few toys is fine. And there are many toys out there that facilitate creative play. Toys that do not lay out exactly what your child is supposed to do with it, that allow for space for their imagination, exist and are nourishing for young and older kids alike.
You may be wondering how on earth you’ll get rid of all of your children’s toys, or you may be thinking that this is all great but it would never work for your kids. Stop right there! It can work for any kid, and you can do it. Sometimes it takes baby steps, and that’s ok.
1) Remove your child out of the house (temporarily!).
If they see you tinkering in their playroom, perhaps putting something in a bag and carrying it out, they won’t be happy. At this point, your kids are still in the “more, more, more” mindset.
2) Take inventory of their toys.
Ask yourself “what is essential?” Are there toys that were a gift that you wouldn’t have bought them if you had the choice? Get rid of those. Are their toys that teach them nothing? Get rid of those, too. Only keep what holds value to you and your kids, such as building blocks, an activity gym for smaller children, and art supplies. While you’re at it, you should consider getting rid of your plastic toys as well. You can read about why plastic is harmful in the playroom here.
3) Complete one round of purging and see how your kids react.
Do they notice that anything is gone? If they do notice, let them sit in that uncomfortableness. Let them figure out how to play. Let them adjust and later on, when they're comfortable, you can rinse and repeat.
There may be temper tantrums and brief moments of boredom. Remember that the emotional aspect of getting rid of toys is temporary, and boredom is good! It may force you to interact more with your child, which is also a good thing.
Once your children adjust to their reduced amount of toys, you’ll see how creative they can truly be.