By Ollwyn Moran, Child Development Expert
“An avalanche of toys invites emotional disconnect and a sense of overwhelm” – Dr. Kim John Payne (Child Education and Parenting Author & Counsellor)
Less is definitely more when it comes to toys in your little one’s playroom. It is a well-known fact that children play ‘better’ when they have less to choose from.
We now know that play is the work of children, so when they are given the opportunity to focus their attention on the exploration of a few carefully chosen toys, they will discover the learning potential of each toy.
By avoiding the toy overwhelm that comes with too much choice, you allow your child the time and space to really engage with their toys. They can become fully immersed in the activity and are ‘in the zoo’. As they get older, this will help to foster more creative play where they drift off to a made-up world or a fantasy land.
When your child has less to pick from, in terms of items for play, it actually helps them to play in a deeper way, allowing them to spend more time exploring their toys. It helps to foster sustained attention and allows your child to become engaged in their own play and creativity.
It’s also useful to remember that building key developmental skills and refining motor movements takes time, repetition, patience, and focus. And with less to be distracted by, your little one can now do this through their focused play.
When children have too many toys to choose from, their sensory systems become overwhelmed, and they find this chaotic and unsettling. A child’s developing brain is not mature enough to be able to handle all of the decisions of what to pick and play with. This leads them being constantly distracted by toys other than the one they have chosen to play with. That one will be abandoned to one side and the next one picked up.
Take a moment to observe this in your own home and watch the difference that just a few toys, no more than three or four, makes to the quality of their play. Think of the times they have visited grandparents and there are just a couple of toys saved for them to play with. Often you will witness them running to get these toys out on arrival and investigating these toys deeply. You may wonder why they love them so much compared to the choice they have at home. This brings me nicely on to the concept of toy rotation.
Too many toy choices ultimately leads to boredom and frustration. Your little one simply has too much to process, and they don’t have the ability to do that efficiently yet. That’s why it is important that parents and caregivers, try to simplify their child’s world for them.
A small manageable number of toys opens up a pathway to your child’s creativity. There is a lot of research out there to supports this, from child educators and psychologists and other health professionals, but probably the most familiar evangelist of this approach is Maria Montessori. She championed a minimalist approach to play and toys. The ideal scenario being to have just a few objects arranged at your child’s height, low and accessible, with space between each one.
In practice, this will mean that not all of your child’s toys will be on display at once. Of course, I am not suggesting that you throw out any of your current toys, just take a selection away from view. You can then rotate your child’s toys every month and they will fondly remember and engage with each toy when it is reintroduced, like it was brand new.
With less to choose from, your child’s imagination will have time to kick into gear and it will encourage independent play. See how their creative minds come to life when they begin to use one toy in multiple different ways.
Toy rotation also facilitates your child’s growth and development with a toy that is suitable for a wide age range. A child aged 12-months will play with a toy in an entirely different way than at 22-months. This shows you that they haven’t grown out of a toy, but rather their brain and physical being has grown and developed to allow them to have completely new experiences with this toy. In essence, toy rotation allows you to intentionally create learning opportunities as you re-introduce toys.
You can start introducing toy rotation with your child from around 6-months of age, rotating the toys more frequently at this young age and leaving longer gaps after 12-months. There are so many benefits to rotating toys, some of which include:
- Less wear and tear on the toys
- Reduced clutter and allows for a more regular toy purge
- More cost-efficient than buy new toys all the time
- Provides interest and excitement for little ones
- Allows for more space for them to play
- Facilitates the mastery of key developmental skills
- Promotes development of focus and attention
- Develops imagination and creativity
- Encourages ‘out of the box’ or lateral thinking
- Supports deep engaged play
- Reduces over-stimulation, overwhelm and frustration
- And for parents, it helps to decrease stress and anxiety around having toy clutter all around the house!
The Clever Tots Toy Club selection of toys are designed to target age appropriate cognitive development. It is an ideal solution for parents embarking on a new stage or routine with their little ones since it is designed for children from 3-months all the way up to 3-years. The optimum number of four toys are delivered to your child every month and within that selection, there is no toy that will over stimulate your little one. As an expert in child neurological development, I worked with Clever Tots Toy Club to specifically choose toys that were simple in their design and function, with no lights or extensive noises.
Each toy has a role for each stage of your child’s development to encourage thinking, planning and strategy. They are engaging and allow for open-ended creative play. The Clever Tots Toy Club toys are ideal for allowing your child to play independently, depending on their age, and to allow you to engage in the play also.