Holiday Hazard: Too Many Toys?
If you have a tendency to go overboard with gift-giving during the holidays, you’re not alone. According to the National Retail Foundation, the average person spends more than $600 on holiday gifts. While we know a less-material holiday season can save time, money and stress in families, recent research suggests even greater benefits for children: Giving kids just a few toys can actually help them developmentally.
For decades, child development experts and educators including Maria Montessori have noted that playing is “the work of children,” and playing is how children learn and grow. Contrary to the idea of enriching children’s learning with dozens of playthings, children are often overwhelmed and distracted by too many toy choices from birth to age 5. “Toy overload” gets in the way of their engagement and discovery. In fact, according to research from ZERO TO THREE and Oxford University, children with few toys and games actually played more and were able to stay engaged longer than those with many more toys.
Some experts also believe that too many toys limit a child’s ability to create and imagine. Studies show that when children have fewer things, they are more likely to invent new games and entertain themselves. The old joke about a child enjoying playing with the box a toy comes in as much as the toy itself may hold true. While the toy may just be able to do or be whatever it was designed for, the box can become anything from a house to a car to a drum!
But regardless of the number or variety of toys a child has, spending time playing, singing and reading with a child has the greatest impact on growth and development. So this holiday season, skipping the mall in favor of talking, playing or reading a book with your child at home can be the best gift of all.
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