Asking how many toys your 2-year-old needs is a bit like asking how many shoes a woman needs. The answer very much depends on who you ask.
At one end of the spectrum you have the women who have a pair of boots and a pair of flip flops. And the parents who believe children don’t need any toys at all. They need to play, they need to use their imaginations, they need to explore, discover and create but they do not need “toys”.
Then you have the middle ground. The women who have a smart pair of boots as well as a pair they wear on the weekends. They have a pair of wellies for wet weather dog walks and a pair of running shoes for going to the gym. They have a pair of ballet pumps for warmer weather as well as their flip-flops and they even have a pair of heels for special occasions.
In toy terms these are the parents who believe that when it comes to toys there is a strong argument for less is more. Some people follow the “20 toy rule”, some choose toy rotation, others focus less on the number of toys and more on making sure the toys they have are high-quality open-ended toys.
And finally there are the women who look at you like you’re insane to even be asking the question. How many shoes should you have? Umm… as many as you can afford? The same goes for toys. Parents wish to give their children all the things they didn’t have, they want them to have the best opportunities and they don’t want them to miss out by not having the latest toys, the best educational toys, all the role-play toys they could possibly want.
How many is too many?
Research suggests that when children have fewer toys in their environment they will play with each toy for longer. And that in fact they can become overwhelmed and not really learn anything from their toys if there are too many of them.
Is it possible to have too few toys? No, not really. Children need to play but they are remarkably resourceful and creative. Sure you could buy them a percussion set with drums and maracas, or you could give them some pans, a wooden spoon, and a few old bottles with rice or other grains in. And you only need to watch a child playing in a patch of mud to realise that discovering the world around them is just as engaging as the flashiest of toys.
Can you have too many toys? Maybe. It would certainly appear that you can have too many toys available at one time. And that buying them all the toys will not mean they play with all the toys. Setting up an invitation to play, playing with your 2-year-old, and rotating toys so that they don’t get overwhelmed or bored are all good ideas.
Certainly if you feel like you have loads of toys and yet your child isn’t playing with them then don’t immediately jump to the conclusion that you need more toys. Yes you may need a few more developmentally appropriate toys. But you also may just need to present the toys you have in a more appealing way.
Are there toys that every 2 year old should have?
Again this is a tricky question. Children all develop at different rates and change a lot during their second year of life.
What we really want for our two-year-olds is for them to be actively engaged in play, not passively entertained by their toys, and so choosing toys that inspire their imagination and creativity is a great place to start and much more important than the number of toys.
About this age is a great time to introduce drawing. By 2 most children should be able to hold and make marks with a pencil so having art supplies readily available is a good idea. This could be paper and pencils or crayons, or you could invest in an easel.
Children are learning to sort into categories at this age so toys that promote that skill are great, as are simple puzzles and stacking or building toys.