Study suggests giving kids too many toys stifles their creativity

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(Medical Xpress)—A team of researchers at the University of Toledo in the U.S. has found that children are more creative when they have fewer toys to play with at one time. In their paper published in the journal Infant Behavior and Development, the group describes their observational study of toddlers at play, what they learned and offer some suggestions for parents.

Parents have long been subject to the opinions of others, some of which include judgments regarding the number of toys they should provide for their . Some suggest more toys show children they are more loved, while others argue more toys is overkill and a poor substitute for parental attention. In this new effort, the researchers have conducted a simple experiment meant to test creativity in toddlers playing with toys.

In the experiment, parents were asked to bring toddlers to a play area where the little ones were given either four toys or 16 toys to play alone with for 30 minutes. Each of the 36 toddlers who participated was observed by the researchers who were on the lookout for activities that could be counted as creative.

The researchers found that the toddlers playing with four toys engaged in more creative activities than did the toddlers who had 16 toys to choose from. They also found, unsurprisingly, that toddlers with fewer options tended to play with each of the toys available to them for a longer amount of time. Much of that additional time, the researchers noted, was taken up with finding news ways to play with them.

It should be noted that the are not suggesting that children should have fewer toys overall—instead, they are suggesting that children demonstrate more creativity if they only have the option of playing with just a few of them at a time. They believe would do well to keep most of a child's toys locked away while their plays with a small subset at any given time. An abundance of toys, they further note, may present a disruption factor, making it more difficult for the child to get the most out of any one toy—fewer nudge them towards resourcefulness.


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Dec 06, 2017
I think this study is flawed in setting a unrealistically short time limit. Of course, toddlers will try out more new stuff if they only have 30 minutes and spend less on using each one creatively. The real test would be to provide them with 4 or 16 toys and have them play for a few weeks with them - and THEN check if they use toys creatively.

In any case: from my own experience during civil service years in a kindergarten: Kids are most creative with non-specific toys (sand-and-water combination being best, followed by stuff like LEGOs or simple building blocks). The number of toys doesn't seem to matter. It's all about how much added imagination must be put into a toy to make it something 'real' in the kid's mind.

A simple stick can become 100 things in a kid's hands. A toy dollhouse with 100 dolls only one thing.

Dec 06, 2017
AA, a simple stick ALWAYS becomes a sword.

Dec 06, 2017
Only toy parents need these days is a smartphone.
Probably not what you are looking for when it comes to generating creativity though.

Dec 07, 2017
"AA, a simple stick ALWAYS becomes a sword."

I dunno...when to me, as a kid, it mostly became the handlebar of a motorcycle.

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