Navigating the world of toys and wondering just how many your child should have? You’re not alone. In our consumer-driven society, it’s easy to accumulate a multitude of toys for children, but many parents and educators are now questioning the ideal number, considering factors like overstimulation, clutter, and genuine engagement.
While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, research and expert opinions shed light on the benefits of a more curated approach to toys.
Drawing from my expertise in child development and mindful parenting, I’ve prepared a comprehensive guide that delves into the optimal number of toys for children, balancing variety, purpose, and simplicity.
Let’s embark on this exploration together, aiming to strike a balance between offering enriching play experiences and fostering deep, meaningful engagement with fewer, more purposeful toys.
- Quality Over Quantity: Opt for a few high-quality, educational, and durable kids toys rather than accumulating many that don’t offer meaningful engagement.
- Cognitive Development: Having too many toys can overwhelm a child and potentially limit their creativity. Fewer toys promote deeper, more imaginative play.
- Toy Rotation: Rotating a limited set of toys keeps the child’s interest alive, offering a sense of novelty without increasing the number of toys.
- Clutter and Organization: Limiting the number of toys reduces clutter, making it simpler for children to maintain organized play spaces and instilling positive habits early on.
How Many Toys Should A Child Have?
The number of toys a child “should” have varies greatly based on individual preferences, cultural practices, and space constraints. However, it’s beneficial to provide age-appropriate toys that cater to a child’s developmental stage. Below is an informative table suggesting a general guideline for the number of main toys a child might have at different ages, along with examples:
|Suggested Number of Main Toys
|Soft rattles, cloth books, teething toys, hanging mobiles, sensory balls.
|Stacking cups, soft dolls, musical toys, push-pull toys, textured blocks.
|Simple puzzles, building blocks, ride-on toys, crayons and paper, soft dolls or action figures.
|Play kitchen items, larger puzzles, tricycles, dress-up clothes, simple board games.
|Art supplies, more complex building sets, pretend play sets (e.g., doctor’s kit), more advanced puzzles, beginner craft kits.
|Construction sets, board games, basic musical instruments, educational toys (e.g., science kits), action figures or dolls with accessories.
|Legos or other intricate building sets, more advanced board games, hobby kits (e.g., model airplanes), basic electronics (e.g., walkie-talkies), sports equipment.
|Books, more complex craft kits, electronic games, collections (e.g., stamps, coins), specialty hobby items (e.g., remote-controlled cars)
It’s essential to note that these numbers are purely indicative and can vary widely based on individual children and family preferences. The key is ensuring that toys foster creativity, critical thinking, and physical activity appropriate for the child’s age and developmental stage.
Also, regular rotation and decluttering can help maintain engagement and reduce toy redundancy.
Research on the Number of Toys a Child Should Have
According to a study conducted in 2012, middle-class American families had an average of 139 toys visible to their children in their homes. While having a variety of toys can be fun and engaging for kids, too many toys can actually have negative effects on their development.
A study found that toddlers who were given fewer toys (four toys) were more focused and engaged than those who were given more toys (16 toys). This suggests that having fewer toys can actually benefit your child’s development.
While there is no specific number of toys that is ideal for every child, it’s important to keep in mind the 20-toy rule. This rule suggests that children only need 20 toys to play with. However, this may not be accurate for every child.
The number “20” isn’t strict but serves as a guideline. For children aged 1-2 years, considering the 20 toy rule, here’s a breakdown of a diversified toy set:
|Textured balls, sensory mats
|Building & Stacking
|Blocks, stacking cups, nesting bowls
|Push & Pull Toys
|Pull-along animals, push cars
|Dolls, toy animals, play kitchen items
|Music & Sound
|Rattles, toy drums, musical books
|Motor Skills Development
|Simple puzzles, shape sorters
|Board books, interactive touch-and-feel books
|Sandbox toys, bubbles
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 – one toy is sufficient. They need to play, they need to use their imaginations, they need to explore, discover and create but they do not need “toys” so to purchase toys is definitely not on their agenda.
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 children’s 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. Give easy access to toys children will play with what they see.
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 and toy shopping in the toy store is a regular trip in their house.
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.
Of course if you ask toy companies… they will have a completely different answer and their marketing will be to convince you your child needs everything for toddlers play. Remember independent play is vital for children and more likely with less toys on show.
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.
How to Declutter and Manage a Toy Collection
As a parent, it’s important to keep your child’s toy collection under control. Too many toys can lead to clutter and disorganization, making it difficult for your child to find and play with just what they want. Here are some tips to help you declutter and manage your child’s toy collection:
Stop Buying Toys
The first step in managing your child’s toy collection is to stop buying toys unnecessarily. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of buying new toys, but remember that your child doesn’t need every toy on the market and their old toys are just fine. Instead, focus on buying toys that your child will truly enjoy and play with regularly.
Regular decluttering is essential to keeping your child’s toy collection under control. Set aside time every few months to go through your child’s toys and get rid of anything that is broken, unused, or no longer age-appropriate. Use three bins: toss, keep, and donate. This makes it easy to go through your child’s collection quickly.
Having all toys available simultaneously can be overwhelming for kids. Rotation ensures they have a manageable selection, reducing clutter and making cleanup easier. When presented with the other toys after a break, children often approach them with a fresh perspective, exploring new ways to play and mastering different aspects of the toy.
Buy Fewer Toys
Buying fewer toys is another way to manage your child’s toy collection. Instead of buying lots of small toys, consider investing in a few high-quality toys that your child will enjoy for years to come. Look for toys that encourage creativity and imagination, such as building blocks, art supplies, and dress-up clothes.
Repurpose Household Items
You don’t need to buy expensive toys to keep your child entertained. Many household items can be repurposed as toys, such as cardboard boxes, plastic containers, and kitchen utensils. Encourage your child to use their imagination and come up with creative ways to play with everyday objects.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are some good toys for toddlers?
When choosing toys for your toddler, consider their developmental needs and interests. Some good options include blocks, puzzles, dolls, cars, balls, and art supplies like crayons and play-dough. Simple toys that encourage imaginative play and creativity are often the best choices.
At what age should kids start having their own toys?
Kids can start having their own toys as early as six months old. At this age, they may enjoy toys that are easy to grasp and manipulate, such as rattles and soft toys. As they grow, their interests and abilities will change, so it’s important to choose toys that are appropriate for their age and stage of development.
What is the recommended number of toys for children?
There is no set number of toys that is recommended for children. Some studies suggest that having fewer toys can actually be beneficial, as it encourages children to be more creative and focused in their play. However, it’s important to provide a variety of toys that meet your child’s interests and developmental needs.
How can I avoid giving my child too many toys?
To avoid giving your child too many toys, consider setting limits on the number of toys they receive for birthdays and holidays. Encourage family and friends to give experiences or practical gifts instead of toys. You can also rotate your child’s toys regularly, so they have a smaller selection to choose from at any given time.
How often should I rotate my child’s toys?
There is no set rule for how often you should rotate your child’s toys, but it’s a good idea to do it every few weeks or months. This can help keep their toys fresh and interesting, and prevent them from getting bored with the same toys all the time. You can also use toy rotation as an opportunity to introduce new toys and retire old ones.
What are some alternatives to traditional toys for kids?
There are many alternatives to traditional toys that can be just as engaging and beneficial for kids. Some examples include books, puzzles, art supplies, musical instruments, and outdoor play equipment like balls and jump ropes. You can also encourage your child to use their imagination and create their own toys using materials like cardboard boxes and fabric scraps.