Your three small children are quietly playing side by side with a transformer, plastic pony, and a set of plush blocks, respectively. They’re focused and quiet, happy to enjoy their activities, occasionally sharing in an imaginative transformer+pony+block merger.
Now open your eyes and scan the kids’ actual toy room. The horror! Toy boxes overflowing with dozens of dolls, trucks, and buzzing whoozawhatsits long since forgotten, broken, or traded in for the latest favorites. A fresh fight breaks out as you attempt to clean up battle wounds from the last one. Another child cries out in boredom because there is NOTHING TO PLAY WITH IN HERE!
Okay, okay…maybe it’s not that bad at your house. But that first image we conjured? Looks like it’s a real possibility according to research done at the University of Toledo.
In the study conducted, researchers observed 36 children in a room where some were given 16 toys and others were given only four. They observed that the toddlers with fewer toys played longer and with more creative exploration with a single toy than the kids who were provided with 16 toys. The study further noted that extended focus on one toy allows for a variety of ways to play with that toy, which reflects cognition, perception, coordination, and ideation—all important developmental qualities.
The discussion of the study also stated that “an environment that presents fewer distractions may provide toddlers the opportunity to exercise their intrinsic attention capabilities.” And in a world where an increasing number of children are being labeled with attention deficit disorders, it may be worth noting that attention is a muscle-like quality with the ability to be strengthened based on a more, shall we say, boring play room.
It’s never too late to pare down and let the kiddos focus on more fun! Plus, you can always gather up some of those toys for donation and kill two birds with one perfect stone.