Researchers at the University of Toledo published a study on the influence of number of toys on children’s play environment. The study concluded what many parents suspected all long – that little children don’t need many toys!
The researchers observed 36 toddlers aged between 18 to 30 months in their play. Each child was given either 4 toys or 16 toys. What they observed was that the children who had 4 toys played better and more creativity than those who had 16 toys.
The children with 4 toys began playing with exploratory actions: pulling, pushing, stacking, putting in, taking out. As they got more familiar with these toys, they played with these toys in more sophisticated ways such as pretending, calling, hammering - taking on actions that had to do with function.
Overall, children who had four toys engaged in more types of play and played for longer periods of time compared to children who had 16 toys. The children who had 16 toys, tended to bounce from toy to toy, exploring them in a superficial way before moving onto the next.
I don’t think every toddler needs only 4 toys, especially if you have more than one child. However, it does show that when creating a play space, it should be child-centred and contain a selection of simple, beautiful, open-ended toys. It does not need to be overwhelmingly filled with choice, particularly for toddlers who are not yet developmentally ready for it.
How many toys do you offer your child/children? If you could only pick four, what would they be?