Toddlers without too many playthings show more imagination and are less distracted, studies show
By Sarah Knapton, Science Editor
IT’S what parents have suspected all along. A study has shown that children who have too many toys are more easily distracted and do not enjoy quality playtime as much as those with fewer. Researchers at the University of Toledo in Ohio, US, recruited 36 young children and invited them to play in a room for half an hour, with either four toys, or 16 toys.
They found that youngsters were far more creative when they had fewer toys. They also played with each for twice as long, thinking up more uses for each toy and lengthening and expanding their games.
The authors concluded that parents, schools and nurseries should pack away most of their toys and rotate a small number regularly to encourage children to become more creative and to improve upon their attention spans.
Dr Carly Dauch, the lead author writing for the journal Infant Behaviour and Development, said: “The higher number of incidences of play in the 16-toy condition did seem to interfere with duration and depth of play.
“Other toys present may have created a source of external distraction.
“When provided with fewer toys, toddlers engage in longer periods of play with a single toy, allowing better focus to explore and play more creatively.”
Britons spend more than £3 billion annually on toys. Surveys have shown that a typical child owns 238 toys but parents think that they play with just 12 “favourites” on a regular basis.
It is not the first time that research has suggested that too many toys can be distracting.
In the Nineties, German researchers Elke Schubert and Rainer Strick conducted experiments where toys were taken away from a Munich nursery for three months. The children soon re-adjusted and their play became far more creative and social. The researchers published their findings in a book, The Toy-Free Nursery.
In his book Clutterfree with Kids Joshua Becker argued that fewer toys were better for children because sparse playrooms encouraged creativity, helped develop attention spans, and taught youngsters to look after their possessions.
“A child will rarely learn to fully appreciate the toy in front of them when there are countless options still remaining on the shelf behind them,” he said.
“When kids have too many toys, they will naturally take less care of them. They will not learn to value them if there is always a replacement at hand.
“Fewer toys causes children to become resourceful by solving problems with only the materials at hand. And resourcefulness is a gift with unlimited potential.” The research was published in the journal Infant.
Source: The Telegraph. London. 6th December 2017