I have always been an ‘over thinker’ and now I’m a parent too. This has given me a whole host of new things to overthink, probably one the most prevalent (but least important?) being whether my toddler has the right amount of toys.
How many is too many (or too few)?
On one side of equation, there’s my frugal nature, desire to make environmentally friendly choices and aim to raise a child that isn’t spoilt or materialistic.
On the other side of the equation, there’s my desire to provide him with a range of development opportunities (and there are so many fun toys that help them learn so many things) and to be quite honest, it’s fun finding something that my toddler will get joy from.
I don’t know the answer to the question of how many toys is too many and it’s likely to be different depending on what is important to you and your family, how old your child is and what their interests are and, as is the case at the time of writing, whether you’re stuck in the same four walls for 10 weeks+ during a pandemic and rolling the same vehicles across the living room is making you turn to drink, refined sugar or another vice.
I don’t subscribe to the idea that a child should have a set amount but I do notice that my toddler gets distracted if he has too much available at one time, which suggests there is such a thing as too many.
Too many AND not enough
My toddler has too many toys, and at the same time not enough. Maybe that is a sign that he actually has the right amount?
There seem to be toys in every room of the house. A ball here, a car there, a dinosaur here, a teddy there. They get picked up by him and put down. I try to gather them back together on a regular basis, but somehow these inanimate objects are more difficult to herd than even cats and there is often a stray.
He has toys that he doesn’t show much interest in and therefore seem superfluous BUT he hasn’t got the full developmental benefit from yet. Has he not yet ‘grown into’ them fully, or has he grown out of them? How long should I hold onto them? When should I bring them back into rotation (if ever)?
He has several of various items; does this mean he has too many? Several peg puzzles, several fire engines, several types of blocks. In my mind, it seems as though one would suffice, but then I consider kids collecting lego sets and dolls and sylvanian families and… you get the picture. And he plays with them all, some at the same time and some in different ways (such as the blocks).
On the other hand, he likely has fewer toys than most kids his age because we have deliberately kept the size of his toy collection down. Partly for the reasons I talked about before- frugal tendencies, environmentally conscious, not cultivating a spoilt brat- but also the set up of our life means we can get away with having fewer. Toddler goes to nursery 3.5 days per week usually, and when he’s not there, we like to go to the park, go to the library, visit family and occasionally visit germ centres (aka soft play). He doesn’t usually need a huge variety of toys to entertain him at home.
Kids don’t need toys, only their imagination
This is one of those things that people say to you which has an element of truth but also WHAT??? What year are you living in?
Early in lock down, toddler discovered the snack cupboard. For around half an hour one day, he marched back and forth between the snack cupboard in the kitchen and our living room, carrying a cereal bar one at a time and carefully lining them up along the sofa. Ignoring the fact that some cereal bars were converted to a muesli-like consistency in this manner, it was beautiful to watch him absorbed in his little task, with not a toy in sight (if you were sitting at the right angle in the room).
There have been lots of times when he has played with random things around the house.
But there are three problems to this ‘kids don’t need toys’ mantra. When he plays or claims items as toys, I can never find them when I need them (looking at you, dustpan… or I would be if I knew where you’d been left). Some stuff isn’t safe for kids to play with. And honestly, I don’t know what cool stuff you guys have in your houses, but we don’t have enough to keep him entertained indefinitely.
So toys aren’t always the answer but also sometimes they are.
And so along came a pandemic, in which the majority of us did our best to stay home as much as possible and I thought we had plenty of toys. But I soon realised that we had:
- Blocks- duplo, megablocks and wooden blocks
- Vehicles- including a big box of Wow toys I got for a bargain off ebay at the start the year and which have been a LIFESAVER during lockdown
- Animals – Mostly duplo animals and a few soft toys
- Puzzles- Peg puzzles, a shape sorted and ring stacking toy
- Books- A reasonable selection but that we had already read to death
- Some musical instruments
When you have 11 hours to fill every day, I can tell you that doesn’t feel like many toys.
So I’ve bought a new tea set (made of recycled plastic and therefore not frugal but at least environmentally conscious) and some more Wow toys off eBay, books and flashcards (he LOVES to sprinkle these about the place), a table and chair for him to sit and draw at* and been gifted a pirate ship, ‘happyland’ house with figures, ninky nonk and yet another fire engine. And this is still too many but not enough.
*There is less sitting and drawing, and more standing going on than I was hoping for.
What is the conclusion?
I’ve been thinking about this since when I was pregnant. It regularly runs through my head, and even more so during lock down when I am trying to fill the day with things that aren’t watching paw patrol.
I’m sorry if you were looking for an answer to this question too; when I look at (or for) a new toy for my toddler, AAAALLLLLLL of this goes through my head. I don’t come to a conclusion. And quite often I don’t buy (but maybe I should?)
I’m more than happy to have your help with my ongoing conundrum, so please weigh in in the comments. And thanks for reading this far 🙂