Time to cancel Santa? But seriously, science says toddlers need less toys

Excited boy Christmas

Oh dear. Right in the lead up to our kids being showered with Christmas presents, a new study has found that toddlers need less, not more toys for their development.

Someone better tell Santa

According to the research, toddlers play longer and more beneficially when they have fewer toys to choose from. Whereas an abundance of toys reduces the quality of our toddlers’ play.

This means the plethora of toys coming your kids’ way this Christmas may be doing them a disservice. 

Girl sitting on Santa

Less is more

The researchers behind the University of Toledo study also found that fewer toys gave way for more developmental opportunities. This was especially the case around creative and imaginative play, as well as skill development.

Play habits reveal all

How the researchers came to discover their findings was pretty cool. They set up two play rooms. One room had only four toys in it and the other had 16. Then the researchers observed how toddlers played in each room. Interestingly, the toddlers with just four toys engaged “in longer periods of play with a single toy, allowing better focus to explore and play more creatively.”

Quick! Cancel Christmas

I don’t know about you, but right now I’m shuddering to think how many new toys are coming into my house this Christmas.

While I don’t think we need to panic and go cancel Christmas, I do think we can take some learnings from the study to better support our toddler’s development with toys and promote healthy play.

One way of doing this is to limit their toy options. This could be as simple as rotating them so they only have a few to play with at a time 

Christmas toy action plan

As for me, although my hubby and I will just be giving our boys one present each, I know everyone else in our family will be showering them in gifts. Not to mention the truck Santa picked up from Aldi the other week.

It’s probably too late in the Christmas game to do a Mila and Ashton who aren’t buying their kids Christmas presents and have begged their family to not go crazy with gifts, but I do need a present action plan.

Toddler Christmas presents

Time for a toy cull

I’ve known for a good while that my boys have too many toys – it’s pretty obvious when I can’t confidently walk to the bathroom at night without stepping over them. So here’s what I’ll be doing:

  • It’s too much of a crazy time of year for me to do any thoughtful culling (there are things to do!) but I will be packing away all the old toys and putting them out of sight before the new ones arrive.
  •  I will let my boys have HALF of their Christmas gifts for a period of time after the novelty of Christmas Day. Then, when they have exhausted playing with these I will bring out the other half in a few weeks time and hide the others. 
  • I will get around to giving their old toys to charity once the silly season is behind us and I have some time to go through them.
  • I will politely say ‘no thank you’ to hand-me-down toys from friends this year and restrict myself with buying toys. My boys have more than enough.
  • I will suggest a kids Kris Kringle for next year to the family at Christmas. Surely everyone else wants less toy clutter? Also, now I have a study to back me up! 

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