A child to many

Table of Contents

These are the only plastic toys we have, other than LEGOs. Titus has the moose & turtles and Naomi has the horses.

Many people want to know about minimal toys. Whether they are minimalists or not, people want to know what their children should own. That is going to look different for each family. But I ask:

Wooden blocks with dollhouse people

Do they need 50 different colorful, plastic, electronic, flashy, Disney, toys? A matching bedroom set? Decor that needs to be updated every couple years?

I’m here to tell you no. They don’t. They can be content with very little in fact.

Remember reading the Laura Ingalls Wilder books? Laura and Mary each had a doll. That was their only toy. In the summer they played house under trees and watched animals on the prairie. In the winter they played “find the thimble” and sewed a quilt.

Were they poor?

I don’t think so. I think they were an average American family at that point.

Desk/child sized table

That makes me think of my own life, my own children. Aren’t they capable of being content with less?

We have a smaller house. The 7 of us live in 1100 square feet, 3 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, with a small garage and an unfinished basement. This is by choice.We do not wish to have a huge house. The only convenience I ever find myself wishing for… is another bathroom.

But, many large families have lived with only one bathroom and survived… or so I tell myself…

Dolls/stuffed animals

Since our house is small, we really can’t have an excess amount of toys. Where would we put them?? They would take over the entire house! Oh the chaos!

I would go insane.

Thinking back to Laura Ingalls Wilder… My kids do have an abundance. Perhaps not compared to other children in America, but really, is it healthy to compare?

I know families with quite a lot more toys, which works for them. Some people rotate, some people have play rooms, dedicated to toys.

Large Lego Blocks

And my children have a great time when they play at their house.

And yes, sometimes come home wanting Barbie and Transformers. But I just tell them, we don’t have toys like that in our family, and that’s okay, we enjoy our friend’s toys. They are satisfied with that.

I am not a fan of plastic. So we avoid plastic toys, though not religiously: we do have Legos and some high quality animals from the farm & ranch store.

We have found, pleasantly, that the kids are more content with less toys. There aren’t so many that it overwhelms them. And in the case of the cooking supplies- once all the fake food and unnecessary utensils were removed, their imaginations took over and they played with it all day.

Kitchen and minimal cooking toys

All our toys are pictured in this post, except for craft/drawing supplies and the older boys’ toys:

  • Stack of Kids Books
  • Wooden blocks with dollhouse people
  • Coloring, paints, homemade playdough
  • Dolls/stuffed animals

    A Cajon Box Drum

  • Desk/child sized table
    Naomi will sit for hours coloring in her room.
  • Horses, moose, turtles (Other than LEGOs, these are the only plastic toys we have.)
  • Large Lego Blocks
    These we store in the basement and bring out when friends are visiting.
  • Kitchen and minimal cooking toys
    Plates, bowls, cups, silverware, 1 pot, 1 wooden spoon.
    This is stored in the basement and played with if I am working there. My sewing machine is set up in the basement and if I go downstairs to use it the kids always want to go with. This is wonderful for keeping them busy while I work.
  • A Cajon Box DrumMade by a friend. The kids put on concerts- one sings and dances, the other drums.The older boys have a large bin of regular LEGOs and a large bin of Hero Factory (Lego). Both stored in the basement until they feel the urge to build.

What does your child’s toy collection look like? Do you limit it?

Limiting Toys Gives Children More Ways To Play
What Toys Should My Baby and Toddler Have?
How To Get The Kids On Board With Decluttering the Toys

Decluttering The Kids Rooms:

Subscribe to get your FREE 6 day walk-through to create a Clean & Organized Child’s Room

Children love their toys and most parents will do tremendous efforts to satisfy their playful desires. But even when it comes to kids and their relationship with toys, there are limits. Most of these limits are subjective to each family and what they consider important in terms of children’s needs. When it comes to How many toys does the average child have, there is no straight answer represented by a certain number.

But there are certain aspects that will help you satisfy all your child’s needs and desires when it comes to toys. And I will touch all these aspects so you can find it easier to find the answers that you need

Quick Answer

Most kids will have at least 2 toys of each category. For instance, they will have 2 different games to play with their friends, two cars or two dolls, two interactive toys, etc. The reason why most parents tend to purchase 2 toys of the same category is that children seem to break them fairly easy. And you want to replace the damaged one as fast as you can if the need arises.

What types of toys does your child really need

Nowadays you can find everything you can imagine on the market. Manufacturers come up with new and interesting toys every year. But that doesn’t mean you have to spend your salary on all of them just because your child is attracted to those items. If you think about it deep enough, you realize that all toys are made to capture a kid’s attention and get them hooked on them. So if you go by these criteria alone, you will end up buying toys every month because your child will always want a new one.

But in the endless commercial ocean of toys for children of all ages, there are some that might actually be a good investment. Here’s how to choose the best toys for your baby and why you should consider the following aspects when you start shopping!

1. Find educational toys

Toys are meant to entertain children and there is no doubt about that. However, you can choose toys that do just that or you can find toys that come with one or more educational aspects. For instance, you can find a toy that requires your child to sort different objects by size, color or category.

Or a toy that comes with different sounds in order to teach your kid the letters, numbers, animals or simply different songs. Such toys will entertain your child and teach them useful things at the same time. And all children should have at least an educational toy to play with for a harmonious development.

2. Make sure you purchase toys that are age appropriate

Manufacturers split different toys into different age categories. There are several reasons for this and it is more than a simple marketing strategy. The most important reason why you need to choose a toy that is appropriate for your little one’s age is safety. Toys for young toddlers will be free of choking hazards and other types of risk. This makes them safe to play with for your child and easy to maintain since they usually come in big pieces and soft materials.

Another reason why it is important to choose a toy made for kids of a certain age is the educational function. Children at 2 years old need to learn different things and develop different skills than children at 4 years old. However, this doesn’t mean that you are stuck with certain toys dedicated only to certain ages. If your child is at a different level than others, you can choose a toy that will suit their needs. Just keep in mind the safety aspect as that is truly the most important one.

3. Stay away from toys that can break easily

Sure, toys break in general and children exploit them to such a rough level that it is impossible to keep a toy for long. Or is it? The truth is that if you pay close attention to certain toys, you can choose the ones that are at least made to last longer. For instance, toys that are made of wood will not break as easily as toys that are made of plastic. And if you invest in wood toys or toys made of a long-lasting material, you have all the chances to save some money for the long run.

If you neglect this aspect, you risk to end up with a living room full of broken toys that you will constantly try to repair or replace.

4. Consider your child’s talents and points of interest

The toys you are purchasing for your child are strongly connected to their interests and dominant skills. Or so they should be. If you have a boy who loves to build things, the best toy to buy him would be a Lego set. However, if you get him a car that he never had any interest in, you might not obtain the same benefits. Try to observe your child’s areas of interest and see what sparkles their curiosity before actually pulling your credit card out.

Buying toys that your child likes will help them develop certain skills and even perfect their native talents. For instance, if your child has a talent for painting, there are plenty of painting sets you can get to motivate that talent and support its development!

5. Never get a toy just because you like it

Many parents look at potential new toys from their perspective. Others buy toys for their kids that they wish they had when they were young. Or they simply get a new toy because all the educational benefits it can bring. All these approaches are less than perfect however and they will only make you happy but not your child. Even if you know as a parent which toys are better for their development, try to find a common path between your functional point of view and their childish interest in certain products.

If you purchase the toys that seem the best in your eyes, you will end up needing to purchase more because your kid will not be as satisfied as you expected them to be.

Kids don’t need a lot of toys to have fun

The idea that children need to have as many toys as they desire in order to have a good time playing is rather false and a form of overreaction. But parents want to make their babies happy and while there is nothing wrong with that, buying a lot of toys is not exactly the best way. Let’s see why buying your child too many toys can actually work against their best interest and you should consider limiting those options.

  • Children who have too many toys are easily distracted

    There were many studies made regarding children that can play with as many toys as they want. And the conclusion seems to be the same: these kids develop a certain level of distraction that doesn’t work in their benefit. First of all, your toddler’s brain will develop over the years according to the things and experiences that you expose it too.

    They are like a sponge, absorbing everything around them. If they are exposed to a variety of toys and games since they are fairly young, their brain will develop in a chaotic way. If this doesn’t seem like a big problem at first, think about how hard it will be to get them to be organized later in life. Plus, a child that is easily distracted will develop other problems such as concentration issues, memory issues and even understanding issues. To what degree these unfortunate events will develop along their life, it is hard to tell. But it is always better to avoid them in the first place.

  • They don’t appreciate their toys as many other kids

    If toys come easy to them and in a generous number, children will not understand their value at all. They will look at their toys as a never-ending resource which will teach them to be greedy and ungrateful. And the first victims of such a selfish behavior are the parents who will have to keep supplying for them. But this type of behavior doesn’t remain trapped in the childhood phase. More often than not, such children become grown-ups who don’t appreciate their goods or the work that others put in for them.

    It is very important to consider these consequences when you are so excited to invest in a new toy each week just because you couldn’t resist. Sometimes, less is better!

  • They don’t take the time to profoundly understand each toy

    Getting back to the educational purpose of certain toys, a child needs the opportunity to explore them. If they have 5 different toys at a time, they will simply jump from one to another without paying much attention to either of them. And with this behavior, you will not only waste a lot of money on toys that will never fulfill their purpose, but you will also indirectly teach your child to be superficial. These are two consequences that no parent wants to face!

    To avoid this, introduce one toy at a time to your kid and see how they react to it. Make sure you explain them all the features of that toy and also leave some space for their curious spirit to explore it. Once your kid will understand how a certain toy functions, they will develop their skills and discover new interests while playing with it.

Try to have your kids make their own toys

If you are intrigued by this suggestion, you are on the right path. Once your child reaches 4 or 5 years old, you can combine playing time with creative time and help them make their own toys. You will need to provide the basic materials like crafting paper, colors, glue, stickers maybe some washi tape or other types of accessories. But that doesn’t require as much money as you would spend in order to purchase brand new toys regularly. Plus, you can help your child develop their imagination and dexterity by creating whatever they want.

Start with season toys such as snowmen made of cardboard or decorations for Christmas and Easter. Once you see your child interested in these practices, you can invest in more complex crafting guides and projects. When it comes to creating their own toys, there is no limit to what they can achieve. And you might be surprised by their ingenuity and talent over time. Not to mention that you will support their ability to create different and unique things. This will make them feel independent and more confident in their own skills and capacities.

Look online for different projects that you can create with your child and find new ways to have a great quality time together! This is an amazing way to bond with your kid and increase your intimate connection by creating new toys for them to play with. And the memories you also make together are priceless.


Your child doesn’t need so many toys to be entertained and you should consider satisfying their desires in a beneficial way. Spending a lot of money on toys can be tempting for a parent who wants to make their child happy. But try to avoid the traps in this process and consider alternative methods of playing like the ones above. As important as toys are for the development of a child, their quality should always be superior to their quantity.

Try to decide what your kid really needs and don’t follow social stereotypes in order to create a perfect childhood for them. This means you will have to spend quality time with your child as well and make sure to understand their interests before investing in them. In the long run, you will end up with a kid that will appreciate both the toys you get for him and you as a parent. And this is priceless so it is worth the emotional and time investment in the process!


binge reads 

“Leave them. They’ll have some there. Let’s travel light,” said my husband, referring to our son’s set of buckets and spades.

Thirty-six hours, two plane trips, a ferry ride, two shuttles, and a taxi later, jet-lagged but beyond excited, we arrived at our island in the middle of the South Pacific.

I’d been dreaming of returning since my husband proposed here a decade ago; visualizing the joy of sharing this happy place with my then three-year-old son.

We wasted no time; dropping our bags in our room and heading straight to the beach for a dip in the ocean before heading to the dive shop to collect some snorkel gear.

They’ll have a set of buckets and spades, I thought. Nope.

So, we headed to the gift store. Nope.

The next day, we went to the local market. Buckets and spades? Nope.

Shoot. We messed up.

How was my son going to play all week? How were we going to entertain him? What kind of parents don’t bring toys to the beach?

I felt like a failure…only my son wasn’t bothered.

Without skipping a beat he started playing in the sand with shells. He used his snorkel to dig holes and build caves and castles and tunnels. He found sticks and drew dinosaurs. He gathered empty coconuts, filling them with sand and water to make mud. He played with hermit crabs, floated leaves in the waves and spotted fish from the shore.

A few days later, we found a set of buckets and spades. We decided not to buy it.

Our son was having too much fun, his imagination running wild. We felt as though we were witnessing his creativity expanding with each passing day.

They say that the fewer toys kids have, the more they play. It seems that they were right. So, let’s dig a little deeper to understand why that is.

Remove the toys and kids play more

Two decades ago, a German project called, “Der Spielzeugfreie Kindergarten” (the nursery without toys) wanted to see what would happen if they took toys away from kindergartens. All toys from participating classrooms were removed for three months.

One of the teachers, Gisela Marti, said: “In these three months we offer the children space and time to get to know themselves and because they are not being directed by teachers or toys, the children have to find new ways to master their day in their own individual way.”

The aim was to nourish self-confidence, imagination, creativity, problem-solving abilities and socialization.

Their days were deliberately unstructured to avoid children being rushed from one activity to the next. Instead, they were free to do what they wanted and how they wanted to do it.

A video of the children was taken each day. On the first day, the children appeared confused and bored as they peered apprehensively around their big empty classroom.

But, by the second day, the kids were playing with chairs and blankets, making dens by draping blankets over tables and weighing them down with shoes.

Soon they started running around the room, chatting and laughing excitedly. By the end of the third month, they were engaged in wildly imaginative play, able to concentrate better and communicate more effectively.

Stages of toy discovery: exploration versus play

Kathy Sylva, Professor of Educational Psychology at Oxford University, concluded after studying over 3000 children aged three to five that “when children have a large number of toys there seems to be a distraction element, and when children are distracted they do not learn or play well.” Her research shows that children with fewer toys whose parents spend more time reading, singing or playing with them surpass those from even more affluent backgrounds.

Dr John Richer, Pediatric Psychologist at John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford explains that when children receive a new toy they go through two stages: exploration followed by play.

During exploration mode, a child asks: “What does this toy do?”

And in play mode, a child asks: “What can I do with this toy?”.

It is during play mode that creativity, imagination, initiative, and adaptability thrive. When children are confronted by too many toys, they spend more time exploring and less time playing.

Ironically, it seems that by providing fewer toys, we provide more time for play.

The potential impact of too many toys

Claire Lerner, Psychotherapist and Director of Parenting Resources at Zero to Three specialize in early childhood development. Claire conducted a government-funded study into the potential impacts of excessive toys, reporting that children, “get overwhelmed and over-stimulated and cannot concentrate on any one thing long enough to learn from it so they just shut down. Too many toys mean they are not learning to play imaginatively either.”

Christopher Willard, Clinical Psychologist and Author of Child’s Mind, reminds us that repetition has a purpose; reading the same books, singing the same song, playing the same games. Repetition serves to cement learning while enhancing cognitive development. After all, play is the work of childhood.

“Play is the highest form of research.” Albert Einstein

On the flip side, fewer toys help children use and develop their imagination, lengthen attention span, promotes taking care of and valuing the toys they do have more while creating greater opportunities to explore nature. As a benefit to parents, fewer toys results in less clutter in our homes, helping us to feel more grounded, have more time to play with our kids and more patience to extend to our kids.

What type of toys invite more play?

If our kids have fewer toys we want to make sure that the toys they do have provide the greatest play value. I’ll dive into this topic in more detail in an upcoming post, but in short, when assessing a toy, always be mindful that the play is in the child, not in the toy. If a toy lights up or makes noises, and all the child needs to do is press a button, that toy holds very little play value. These types of toys provide an immediate dopamine rush, make the child and the giver excited, but they are short-lived. On the flip side, toys like wooden blocks or magnatiles or silk scarves don’t dictate the play to the child – they hold greater play value as the child is free to use their imagination for endless play possibilities.

“As you decrease the quantity of your child’s toys and clutter, you increase their attention and their capacity for deep play.” Kim John Payne

Another way to choose toys is to determine if they are OPEN or CLOSED toys. Closed toys are generally defined as those that serve one purpose, once they’re completed, they’re done. Whereas, open-ended toys can be used for many different purposes. For example, coloured blocks can be used to build a castle, a bridge or for counting, sorting or balancing. Open toys ignite a child’s imagination. Having said that, some closed toys can also be wonderful – like puzzles and shape sorters. We aim for a ratio of 75% open toys and 25% closed toys.

Let’s simplify our kids’ toys together

The great irony is that, as a modern parent, it feels as though it is more difficult to have fewer toys in our homes than more. Having fewer toys, just as reducing our kid’s schedules, screen time or simplifying their lives, takes an intentional approach in our “more must be better” society. It’s hard to swim against the tide of the mainstream, but the juice sure is worth the squeeze.

In our own home, our family is very much still on this journey. As our son grows older new challenges present themselves and I find myself constantly evolving and explaining why he can’t have everything he sees. But the more we reinforce our family values, the easier it seems to become.

“Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts us from it. It is a life that forces intentionality.” Joshua Becker

When we say no to more toys, we say yes to more important life lessons. We give our children the opportunity to be able to learn to truly value what they have. And we communicate that they don’t need to look to external sources of materialism to bring them temporary happiness or reassurance.

Here’s How Many Toys Your Toddler Should Have, According To Science

Once you come out of the sleep-deprived haze of the first few weeks of parenting when all your baby does is sleep and eat, toys become a big deal. You start to realize that they’re not just for fun (for you to play with your kid with). They’re actually important for your child’s development, and you start packing your living room full of them. By the time they’re a few years old you’re bound to be wondering how many toys your toddler actually needs, because surely they don’t need all that they’ve accumulated.

When it comes to children’s toys, quality trumps quantity. “Many parents often ask how many toys are too many toys for their child,” says Jennifer Cervantes, social worker at Texas Children’s Developmental Pediatrics in an interview with Romper. “Generally speaking, it’s not the number of toys that is most important, but how engaging and stimulating the toys are for your child.”

But finding the best toys doesn’t necessarily mean you need to search the internet for ones with the most bells and whistles. “The best toys available are those meant to encourage engagement, inquiry, experimentation, communication, joint attention, and social interaction,” explains Cervantes. Thankfully, toys don’t even have to be expensive in order to be stimulating and engaging for toddlers, either. Cervantes says, “Depending on your child’s age, toys can be made out of everyday household items such as wooden spoons, containers, pots, pans, old clothes with zippers/buttons, boxes, or old remote controls. Objects such as these allow your child to not only use their imagination during play, but may also help them develop communication and fine motor skills as well.”


In fact, having too many toys can overwhelm your child, causing them to skip from one toy to the next without fully engaging with the toy or using their imaginations. “Sometimes when children have too many toys, they may easily move from one toy to the other, having little quality interaction with each toy,” said Cervantes.

Margaret Sheridan, PhD, chair of the human development department at Connecticut College, in New London, echoed Cervantes sentiments about limiting toys for toddlers. In an article on Parenting, she said “They pick up one toy, drop it, and move on. They can’t focus on using any of their things to the fullest.” With just a few toy options, toddlers are instead encouraged to use their imaginations to create new scenarios for them.

A recent study in Infant Behavior and Development looked at just that topic and the authors concluded that “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.” They compared two groups of toddlers: one group was offered 16 toys, and another was offered only four toys. The authors discovered that “an environment with fewer toys will lead to higher quality of play for toddlers.”


Similarly, limiting toys can help toddlers and children learn to take responsibility for their belongings. “As children get older, limiting the amount of items they have allows them to find more value in their belongings, as there may not always be a replacement readily available,” said Cervantes. This is an important life lesson better served earlier than later!

If you’re searching for toys that will encourage engagement, Cervantes recommends “classic toys such as balls, blocks, stacking cups, and dolls,” for their positive impact on your toddler’s development and stressed that “when it comes to the amount of toys your child should have, quality over quantity is really the most important thing that parents should keep in mind.”

Check out Romper’s new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.

I have a picture from my daughter’s second Christmas that I cherish. She’s sitting among poinsettias, in her fair isle holiday jams, with what looks like just a few, carefully curated toys in front of her. It looks like a classic Christmas morning.

What an appropriate amount of toys! Marisa LaScala

What you can’t see, just out of the frame, is the giant mountain of other toys her relatives bought for her. My daughter is the first grandchild on both sides of her family, and, well, she has very generous grandparents (and aunts and uncles and acquaintances and well-wishers). And every year, when her birthday and the holidays roll around, I get a knot in my stomach about the amount of stuff she gets. I think about sending out the word to ask everyone to tone it down, but I worry that I’ll be labeled a Grinch who’s ruining the fun of being a grandparent.

As it turns out, I’m right to feel queasy about the amount of gifts she’s getting — and not just because of a lack of storage space and organization in my home. According to a study published earlier this year in the journal Infant Behavior and Development, an environment with fewer toys is better for kids. The researchers studied groups of toddlers, and gave them either four toys or 16 toys. According to Psychology Today, the kids who were given fewer toys focused more, were more engaged, played more creatively, and interacted with their toys in more varied ways for longer periods of time. “There was a significant difference in the quality of toddlers’ play between the two toy conditions,” the study concluded. In other words, less chaos can lead to increased focus and more joy. Makes sense.

So. Many. Toys.

And simpler toys are better, too: The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently put out a report saying that the best toys are non-electronic ones (read: no screens or apps). “The best toys are those that support parents and children playing, pretending, and interacting together,” said Alan Mendelsohn, MD, FAAP, in an AAP statement. “You just don’t reap the same rewards from a tablet or screen. And when children play with parents — the real magic happens, whether they are pretending with toy characters or building blocks or puzzles together.”

“We know experiences can be much more meaningful than adding more toys to the pile.”

That sounds like exactly what I want: a small collection of quality toys, just like in my photo. So, how do I get my family to sign on? I decided to enlist some professional help, and here’s what the experts told me to do (besides forward those studies to everyone in my family):

Clear some space. To prepare for the incoming deluge of toys, I need to get rid of some old ones she doesn’t play with anymore. I should ditch anything with broken or missing pieces — why do I hang on to those, anyway? — and consider passing on the toys she’s outgrown developmentally. “When she’s old enough, have your child help you decide to give away to children who are less fortunate,” says social psychologist Susan Newman, Ph.D. “Be sure to let her know — or take her with you to see — where her toys are going. It’s a good way to start building caring and empathy for others.”

Don’t keep everything for fear of blowback. Not that my resolve ever weakens for fear of toddler tantrums (ha ha), but my daughter might not mind parting with some of her toys if I’m upfront about it. “Although it probably seems like kids will be upset when parents put some toys away, many actually find it a relief,” says Katie Hurley, LCSW, author of The Happy Kid Handbook. “Too many toys can feel chaotic. A simple explanation, ‘We have more than we need right now; we can save some and share some and still have plenty of fun toys to use,’ goes a long way toward helping kids learn an important message: It really is the thought that counts.”

Ask for non-tangible things. I don’t need another My Little Pony, but I’d be thrilled if someone picked up the tab for my daughter’s soccer classes. “A great alternative to the massive number of presents that can accumulate is to ask relatives for the gift of experiences, like a museum family membership,” says Emily Edlynn, Ph.D. “You could also ask for a gift that’s spread out over the year, like a kids’ magazine subscription, or a monthly activity subscription box. We know experiences are more gratifying than objects, so it can be much more meaningful than adding more toys to the pile.”

Outings are even better. “Ask your gift-giving relatives to take your daughter to the zoo or park, or sled with her, or take her out for breakfast, and make it a standing date until her teen years when she will object,” says Dr. Newman, the author of Little Things Long Remembered: Making Your Children Feel Special Every Day (“You don’t do that with an excessive amount of gifts,” she jokes.)

Just give up. Did I mention my mother-in-law works at a toy store? She’s not really going to go for experiences no matter how solid of a case I make. In the end, I think I might just have to suck it up, accept the gifts, and pack some away for a rainy day, doling out her gifts over the ensuing months. Dr. Newman says the secret is just to not be sneaky about it. “What often works is asking a child which toys she wants to play with now and which ones she wants for later,” Dr. Newman says. “If it’s an unruly amount, a young child is apt to forget some items in the ‘enormous’ pile — you can hope for that.”

Gift Experiences Kids Would Go Nuts For

Paw Patrol Live Paw Patrol Live


Classes at The Little Gym Classes at The Little Gym


Minor League Baseball Tickets Minor League Baseball Tickets


Foodstirs Baking Subscription Box Foodstirs Baking Subscription Box


Marisa LaScala Parenting & Relationships Editor Marisa LaScala covers all things parenting, from the postpartum period through empty nests, for GoodHousekeeping.com; she previously wrote about motherhood for Parents and Working Mother.

Toy overload is a real thing and it can affect your toddler’s creativity and imagination. By Kim Bell

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Children need to play, but this doesn’t require a vast amount of toys. According to the latest research published in the February edition of Infant Behaviour and Development, the researchers found that an abundance of toys can actually reduce the quality of your toddler’s play, which in turn affects creativity and imagination.

The study tested the theory that an environment with fewer toys would lead to a higher quality of play. The researchers found that only putting out a few toys at a time helped the toddlers to focus better and play more creatively. The best number of toys out at a time was four, and with the fewer toys, the toddlers being studied had longer durations of toy play and played with the toys in a greater variety of ways, compared to when there there more toys out.

Toy overload means your toddler will pick up one toy, drop it and move on. She won’t be able to focus and will be overwhelmed and distracted.

ALSO SEE: 6 tips to help you stock the ultimate toy box for your child

Deborah MacNamara, clinical counsellor and author of Rest, Play, Grow, says that along with toys, you can use household items to keep your little ones entertained while boosting their imagination and creativity. “They will explore their environment and examine objects that are interesting to them – from pots and pans to blocks.”

As your child grows and develops, her relationship with toys will change. Babies like to explore things with their mouths and hands, while toddlers want to explore the object themselves. Offer your tot toys that will build her imagination, such as stacking bowls, and pots and pans.

MacNamara recommends that when it comes to toys themselves, building blocks, nesting cups, dolls and stuffed animals are all good options. Allow your child to show you what toys or objects interest her.

ALSO SEE: Tips to encourage your toddler’s imagination

Tips to ovoid toy overload

Limit the number of presents

Remember that your toddler will probably enjoy playing with the paper and boxes more than the presents themselves. Go through all the gifts your toddler has been given and put a few away for another day, or to keep her entertained when travelling.

Rotate toys

Keep a few favourites and a few newer items and put the rest away. When your toddler is bored of the toys she is playing with, bring the stashed items out and put the others away. This keeps the toys fresh and her imagination strong.

Give toys that grow with your child

Things like Lego, building blocks, train sets, Play-Doh and art supplies grow with your child.

Try something different

Suggest to family that they gift an experience rather than a physical toy. Go for an outing or do an activity that is age-appropriate.

Have a toy box at granny’s or a family member

Create a toy box at your parents’ home or other frequently visited relatives or friends with some of the overflow. This saves you having to pack extra stuff when you visit.

If your toddler has a toy that she doesn’t play with or has lost interest in, put it in a box to donate to a church group, children’s home or even your child’s school or preschool. Making this into a family routine will help to teach your child about sharing and generosity. Doing a toy-in, toy-out exercise during Christmas and birthdays will also help keep things focussed – for every toy your child keeps, she needs to let go of one.

Kim Bell is a wife, mother of two teenagers and a lover of research and the way words flow and meld together. She has been in the media industry for over 20 years, and yet still learns more about life from her children everyday. You can learn more about Kim Bell here.

Does My Kid Have Too Many Toys? Here’s How You Can Tell

I love my kids dearly and I’d do anything for them. So when they ask for the latest and greatest toys, I usually give in and buy them. But when spring cleaning comes around and I am forced to prepare multiple bags of barely used toys for donation, I realize just how much junk my kids accumulate and how much I’m to blame for giving in to their every whim. Does my kid have too many toys? Obviously, but what’s the limit and how can you tell? If you have mounds of toys laying around the house, you might want to know how to tell if your kid has too much junk to play with, too.

There are a few factors that could hint that you’ve overloaded your home with toys. If your child gets bored easily, asks for new toys regularly, expects you to promptly replace broken toys, or doesn’t play with one toy for more than 15 minutes, it may mean that they have way too many toys, explained teacher turned play therapist Becky Mansfield. On her blog, Your Modern Family, Mansfield noted that having too many toys can be overwhelming for kids, so it might be beneficial to scale back when you can.

Along with costing you an arm and a leg, it turns out that having too many toys may actually negatively impact a child. In a recent study published in Infant Behavior & Development, researchers concluded that when children have fewer toys around them, their playtime tends to be healthier and happier. The study also suggested that fewer toys in a child’s environment can lead to more focused and creative playtime behaviors.


For the study, researchers observed 36 toddlers, ages 18 to 30 months, and placed them in separate playrooms for 30 minutes each. One playroom had four toys in it, while the second had 16 toys. Researchers found that when the children were in the room with more toys, they tended to have shorter attention spans and less focused than the group with less toys. The playroom with only four toys produced kids that were more actively engaged for longer periods of time and played more creatively than the other group.

In a report by Psychology Today, social psychologist Susan Newman, Ph.D, explained that parents need to ask themselves whether or not their child really needs the new toy they are asking for, and gauge whether or not the child will play with it or just toss it away. She suggested that parents invest in activities with their children, rather than material things, because they can provide an opportunity to create a bond, tradition, and memory that kids can look back on and cherish when they are older.


When I was a kid, it felt like my parents kept a reign on how often I could get new toys. A shopping trip to Toys “R” Us was a privilege and a reward, and this approach led me to treasure and appreciate every new toy I got. Now that I have kids, I’ve found that my parenting style is completely different from that of my parents and I tend to buy my kids almost everything they want because I enjoy seeing them smiling and happy. But I do notice occasionally that despite having tremendously kind hearts, sometimes my kids view getting things they want as a right, rather than a privilege. This attitude is what sets off alarm bells in my head, telling me that I may need to reign in my own overly-generous behaviors.

Everyone’s parenting style is different, so no one can tell you what’s right for your family. Whether your kids have too many toys or too little, what matters is that you provide your child with love, nurturing, and quality time, while teaching them how to be kind, helpful, and respectful human beings. (And maybe how to clean up their playroom.)

Check out Romper’s new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.

Are children given too many toys?

Retailers are starting to gear up to sell the latest generation of Christmas toys, but some campaigners are advocating a change in attitude. Do some Western children have too many toys, asks Joanne Furniss.

I stood in the playroom holding an empty suitcase. We were emigrating and could only pack a few toys to keep us going until the rest arrived by ship months later.

In went the Story Cubes – ingenious picture dice that inspire stories, drawings or full-scale theatrical productions. Both kids are “crafty”, so in go pom-poms, pipe cleaners and paper punches. Next, a kingdom of animal figurines marches two-by-two into the case.

I subject the rest to an eligibility test before I transport them half way round the world from Switzerland to Singapore – has either child shown the slightest interest in the toy in the past month?

An ancient game of Pass the Pigs passes muster. A bucket of unisex Duplo and then, after a tantrum, a second bucket of pink Duplo. At the last minute, I spot a “snakes and ladders” game that my son enjoys (provided he gets to take all the turns).

Image caption A selection of toys in Joanne Furniss’s home

But the rest has not been touched in a month – and the shelves are still packed with dolls and jigsaws and trains and kazoos and knitted muffins and the emergency vehicles of several nations and enough wooden blocks to build a bridge to Singapore.

So why do we have so many toys?

Psychologist Oliver James, author of the parenting book Love Bombing, believes children don’t “need” a vast panoply of toys.

“Most children need a transition object,” said James, “their first teddy bear that they take everywhere. But everything else is a socially generated want.”

It seems we are keen to generate our children’s wants – the Toy Retailers Association reports that the British alone spend £3bn each year on toys.

Image caption The V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green, London

At London’s V&A Museum of Childhood, Catherine Howell oversees a collection that includes a 400-year-old rocking horse and Buzz Lightyear. She agrees that children typically have far more toys than any previous generation.

But while spin-off merchandising has been a huge hit ever since Star Wars figures appeared in the 1970s, Howell says traditional toys like dolls and building blocks have retained a consistent popularity. “A child always comes back to a set of bricks because it allows them to use their imagination.”

Certainly, my own three-year-old is a marketer’s dream, desperate to adventure with the Octonauts (an animated series). And yet, when his much-anticipated Gup-B arrived last Christmas, his underwater enthusiasm had ebbed by Boxing Day.

According to James, toys that pre-determine play – and this is especially true of merchandising – offer limited possibilities for fun. So while Buzz Lightyear can only ever be a space ranger, a doll might become a hungry baby, a tea party guest – or a space ranger – depending on the child’s desires.

These prescriptive toys could even be damaging, says James. “Young children discover their identity through fantasy play. If their toys offer a limited repertoire, this process is eroded.”

It is the “play value” that is most important, says Liat Hughes Joshi, author of Raising Children: the Primary Years. “There are enormous benefits to toys – they bring joy, creativity and learning.”

Image caption Joanne’s son likes to play with sticks

She sees three factors that make a brilliant toy: “Social value – a dolls’ house allows children to play together, versatility – Lego bricks can be made into anything, and durability – such as a wooden train track that the child will use for years.”

But James says it’s even better for children to “colonise objects”. A quick glance into the bedroom shows me that my two have recently colonised my baking trays (drums), towels and pegs (den) and a large plastic storage box (my son’s ark, decorated with a portrait of God). It also explains their fascination with sticks, the Swiss Army knife of the imaginary world.

The sheer creative potential offered by found objects is a force that toymakers do try to harness. That old favourite, Meccano, recently won an award that recognises the traditional value of toys.

Thierry Bourret, the founder of the Slow Toy Awards, says there are many ways that well-designed products surpass “colonised objects”, but one in particular is crucial. “How do you know an object is safe? Every toy we recognise has been safety tested and develops life skills.”

Other 2013 Slow Toy winners included a stylish Danish-designed dolls pram, a set of ecological building blocks called TWIG, and a classic trike.

But how many toys is too many?

Those who advocate fewer toys say it is not just the nature but also the sheer number that threaten to overwhelm our children. And for parents who think that sibling rivals will bicker less if they have a wide choice of novelties – more toys could actually make them more selfish.

Joshua Becker, a father of two who writes about how to simplify both home and lifestyle, says: “People co-operate better and share when resources are limited, and the same is true for children.”

This minimalism extends to the whole Becker family, with the kids given a confined space to store their toys, forcing them to adopt a “one in, one out” policy.

He sees his kids “filling their time with creativity” – taking their scooters to the park, practising baseball and football, inviting friends over to play with dolls, and devising art projects. In addition, he says, they develop longer attention spans, take better care of their possessions and grow more resourceful.

Crucially, Becker hopes these habits will last a lifetime. “The children realise they don’t have to conform and be consumed by consumerism.”

In his book Affluenza, James outlines how the populations of the UK and the US suffer a high degree of emotional distress related to the kind of materialism that Becker rejects. Meanwhile, residents of continental Europe are only half as likely to be plunged into misery by their frustrated desire for more stuff.

Is it a coincidence that the educational cultures of mainland Europe promote real-life learning experiences? The forest playgroup – or Waldspielgruppe – is a rite of passage in Switzerland, where I lived for seven years.

Starting at age three, my kids toddled off to nail their lumberjack skills with normal-sized hammers and saws. They built fires, cooked food and collected soggy pine cones. There was not a toy in sight. Just contented children – and a wealth of pine cone-themed ornaments.

Now that Swiss cold-snaps have been replaced by Singaporean monsoons, I’m grateful I didn’t leave all the toys behind. Maybe the kids don’t need them – but their busy parents do. The move forced us (willingly) to minimalise, and with all those empty packing boxes waiting to be colonised, we’re not short of ways to play more with less.

What’s the most imaginative toy your child has made out of an everyday object? Tweet your photo with #whatmychildmade.

Follow @BBCNewsMagazine on Twitter and on Facebook

For Better or For Kids is about remembering that children may join you in marriage, but they don’t have to come between you in marriage! We can make a vow to love our spouse with kids in the house.

For Better or For Kids is a book packed full of our personal stories of marriage and parenting over the last 18 years. The truth is the transition from “married” to “married with children” can be tough. We have less alone time. Busier schedules. Tighter budgets. As much as you love your children and work hard to nurture and train them for the future, the challenges that come with parenthood can make the “for better or for worse” promise a hard one to honor.
For Better or For Kids will enable couples to:

• Build a God-centered marriage instead of a Child-centered or Me-centered marriage
• Avoid the dangers of spouse-neglect and self-neglect
• Effectively communicate in the chaos
• Explore ways to parent together as one team
• Find balance in the busyness

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10 Commitments That Will Make You a Better Parent

Being a parent is tough. Most of us feel like we could do a better job, but resolving to be more patient rarely works. That’s because sometimes the first step to being a better parent is actually about how we treat ourselves. We can only give what we have inside. And if we can’t manage our own emotions. we can’t expect our kids to learn to manage theirs.

But if you want to become a more inspired parent – and a happier person – that’s completely possible. I’ve seen countless parents do it. How? Step by step.

  • Start by committing yourself.
  • Envision what your life will look like when you keep this commitment, and how you’ll feel. Notice how much closer you feel to your child. Notice how much happier your child is, and how much more cooperative.
  • Revisit your commitment daily, including your image of how keeping that commitment makes you feel. (You’re programming your subconscious.)
  • When you mess up (and you will, if you’re human), offer yourself total compassion, apologize to your child, and take a positive step in your desired direction. Two steps forward, one step back still takes you where you want to go.
  • Make a small positive change every day. Find support (like my free daily emails) and give yourself constant cheerleading. At first you’ll see small changes. But sooner or later, small changes add up to big changes.

Wondering where to begin?

Here are 10 Commitments that will make you a better parent – and a happier person. Start with one, or commit to all ten. I’ll be here to support you each step of the way.

1. Commit to taking care of yourself and staying centered

Commit to taking care of yourself and staying centered so you can be the happy, patient, encouraging parent your child deserves. That means integrating daily sustainable self-nurturing into your life: Go to bed earlier so you’re better rested, eat healthfully to maintain your mood, transform any inner negative voices into encouraging ones, and slow down your pace so you can enjoy your life. Most important of all, commit to managing yourself. When your emotions are dysregulated, you’re in fight or flight, and your child looks like the enemy. Calm yourself before you engage with your child.

2. Commit to loving the one you’re with.

The one thing we know for certain about child development is that kids who feel loved and cherished thrive. That doesn’t mean kids who ARE loved – plenty of kids whose parents love them don’t thrive. The kids who thrive are the ones who FEEL loved and cherished for exactly who they are. Every child is unique, so it takes a different approach for that child to feel seen and loved. The hard work for us as parents is accepting who our child is, warts and all – and cherishing him or her for being that person, even while guiding behavior. The secret? See it from his perspective, use a positive lens, and celebrate every step in the right direction.

3. Commit to staying connected.

Separation happens. That’s why we have to repeatedly reconnect. Remember that quality time is about connection, not teaching, so it’s mostly unstructured. Hug your child first thing every morning and when you say goodbye. When you’re reunited later in the day, spend fifteen minutes solely focused on your child. (What do you do in that 15 minutes? Listen, commiserate, hug, roughhouse, laugh, listen some more.) Stop working before dinner time so you can devote your evening to your family. Eat dinner together. Have a chat and a silent snuggle at bedtime every night with each child.

4. Commit to role modeling respect.

Want to raise kids who are considerate and respectful, right through the teen years? Take a deep breath, and speak to them respectfully. Not always easy when you’re angry, so remember the cardinal rules of managing your emotions with kids: You’re the role model, don’t take it personally, and this too shall pass!

5. Commit to teaching emotional intelligence.

In addition to modeling emotional self management, we help kids learn to manage their emotions by:

  • Teaching them to self-soothe. Contrary to what you may have heard, little ones don’t learn to self-soothe by being left to cry. (That just creates an over-active amygdala and panic response later in life.) As anyone who has ever tried to calm herself down knows, soothing is a physiological process. When a baby cries and we soothe him, his body responds by sending out oxytocin and other soothing biochemicals. What you see is that he calms down. What’s happening biologically is that he’s solidifying the neural pathways for these self-soothing hormones. That’s how he develops the ability to soothe himself when he’s upset.
  • Giving them the message that their full range of feelings is understandable, even while their actions must be limited. (“You wish you could have a cookie”)
  • Empathizing with their emotions.
  • Listening to them when they have feelings to express. Occasionally this will take the form of words, and it helps to give kids words for their feelings: “You’re so mad!” But more often, children just need us to give them the safety of our loving presence while they cry or rage to vent their feelings. Often they won’t be able to articulate what they’re upset about, and it isn’t necessary. But this helps kids learn to accept and process their emotions, so they can move past them rather than having to act on them. (That’s what “acting out” means — we act on our feelings rather than simply tolerating them as they sweep through us and dissipate.)

6. Commit to looking for the needs behind your child’s behavior.

Your kid has a reason for whatever he’s doing that displeases you. It might not be what you consider a good reason, but it’s what’s motivating his behavior. If yelling at him about his behavior were going to change it, that would have worked already. Only by addressing the underlying need do we change a person’s behavior. Parents who address kids’ need pre-emptively by noticing problem areas (“Hmm….looks like she wants to choose her own clothes, even if they don’t match!”) are rewarded with kids who cooperate.

7. Commit to guidance rather than punishment.

Kids only behave to please us. When we constantly criticize and discipline, they harden their hearts to us. Parents who lead by loving example, address needs rather than focusing on misbehavior, redirect pre-emptively rather than punish (“You can throw the ball outside”), and set limits empathically (“You’re mad and sad, but we don’t hit. Let’s use your words to tell your brother how you feel”) end up with self-disciplined kids who WANT to behave.

8. Commit to remembering what’s important and an attitude of gratitude.

Stay positive and choose your battles. Every negative interaction with your child uses up valuable relationship capital. Focus on what matters, such as the way your child treats her siblings. In the larger scheme of things, her jacket on the floor may drive you crazy, but it probably isn’t worth putting your relationship bank account in the red over. Be grateful for every single thing she does that you like, and you’ll find her doing lots more of those things.

9. Commit to radical self-acceptance and compassion.

Want to feel more love in your heart? Give it to yourself! Love is a verb. Yes, love can just happen – but we only make more (and feel more) by giving it away. And we can only give our children as much love as our own hearts can hold. Go ahead – stretch your heart. Every time you feel bad, for any reason, offer yourself love. You’ll be amazed how your life transforms.

10. Keep Perspective.

Sure, your kids will make mistakes, and so will you. There are no perfect parents, no perfect children, and no perfect families. But there are families who live in the embrace of great love, where everyone thrives. The only way to create that kind of family is to make daily choices that take you in that direction. It’s not magic, just the hard work of course correction to stay on the right path. But if you look for it, you can always find trail marks and support to beckon you onward to a more rewarding life. Just keep taking positive steps. Before you know it, you’ll find yourself in a whole new landscape.

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