By Rindala SEMAAN
MSc. Psychomotor therapy - Mental health and development specialist - Child, youth and family care.
Play is essential for a healthy child development as it allows children to develop the needed skills for learning and socializing. In the past century, when our grandparents and parents were growing up, toy manufacturing used to be limited and less accessible which encouraged children to play outdoors and make use of different objects and elements that they could find around them. Games were diverse and creative, allowing them to move, enjoy their senses and learn from each other.
Toy manufacturing has changed greatly with the change of our society. Today, plastic toys are being made in huge numbers and they’re sold for affordable prices which may sound nice, but is in fact stressful for parents and children alike. Attractive colours combined with lights and sounds, make children wish for more toys and so begins a never ending loop of buying and stacking toys beyond what is considered normal and healthy.
THE PROBLEM OF HAVING TOO MANY TOYS
Too many toys in a household is not a good idea. In fact, young children have a limited ability to make choices and decisions. Overwhelmed with many options, they start developing avoiding behaviours which means they stop playing with most of the toys they own. Having too many options will trigger a certain anxiety in your child, which would make them disengage from the activity of playing altogether. Also, based on my work experience with families, children focus better and become more creative and organized when one toy that they like is offered to them. Tens of toys around them will eat up their space and distract their visual attention with too many details and stimuli.
Moreover, buying too many toys puts more financial pressure on parents who also have to clean up, sort and store all the different toys on shelves, cabinets and so on.
Bottom line, having too many toys means creating more mess while stressing your child and yourself. A stressed child becomes very active, irritated, easily bored and less independent during play time.
YOUR CHILD DOESN’T NEED TOO MANY TOYS, THEY NEED THE RIGHT TOYS
If you give a toddler a spoon and a cup, they will come up with different play ideas. They might roll it, make some sounds with it, stick it to their face etc… Children have it in them to be creative and playful and literally everything could be turned into a fun activity. Having few toys that are age related and that your child likes, is good enough for them to develop so many important developmental skills. Ideally, your child needs this kind of play:
Motor activities including: jumping, running, rolling over, cycling, etc.
Sensory activities including: colours, sounds, textures, smells, etc.
Language activities including: sound and word production, imitation, repetition, story time and singing, etc.
Fine motor skills including: play dough, painting, crafts, self-help skills, etc.
Multi objective activities like puzzles, building blocks, drawing, board games, etc.
The activity is more important than the toy and I will explain how. Give a child a car and a track, they will play happily for sometime and then, they will grow bored with it. However, the car itself could be “driven” on carpet lines, on shapes traced on paper, sent back and forth between two people, etc.The less limiting the activity is, the more interesting and engaging it becomes.
GO GREEN AND TRY SHARING
Balance is needed in all aspects of life. If you are a new parent, I suggest you buy a few toys for your child and of course try your best to limit the number of toys they get for the holidays. This mindful behaviour will allow your child to develop their imagination and creativity and most importantly to spend time playing outdoors. If you are already stuck with too many toys, encourage your child to help you sort all the unneeded or unwanted ones and explain that donating will make other children happy. Also, renting toys for a limited period of time is an idea that I personally find amazing for these reasons:
Your child has the opportunity to explore more toys without stacking it indefinitely at home
Your child will give their full attention and engagement to the activity without the risk of being overwhelmed by too many options
Your child is less likely to make a mess in their room or around the house
Sharing the same toys within the same community gives your child a feeling of belonging to a group of friends who share the same play experiences. This allows them to have more things in common to start conversations and build friendships
Sharing and renting toys is eco friendly as less purchases means less production and lower carbon footprints. Reusing and reducing are good habits that precede recycling.
My professional advice for you today is to buy less and give your child more space to learn while being creative. Introduce them to the concept of renting and sharing toys and they will be proud for being eco-friendly and responsible. Engaging your child in sharing their toys will help them develop stronger attention skills, more confidence and better decision making.
If you have more questions or if you’d like to be part of the conversation, join us for our monthly parental support session.