LESS CLUTTER, MORE LEARNING
What do you do when your toddler throws tantrums at a toy store? You feel embarrassed in front of everyone and buy that toy for him! Your child brings that toy home, plays for a day or two, and then that toy becomes a part of the clutter in your kid’s room.
Parents tend to buy toys out of love and to keep their kids away from boredom. We look for a playmate for our child, and that’s how we buy an endless number of toys, some of which the kid doesn’t even play with twice!
Too many toys kill the innate creativity of toddlers as they tend to get lost in that clutter.
Two German public health workers (Elke Schubert and Rainer Strick) conducted an experiment, ‘Toy Free Kindergarten’, in which they removed all the toys from a kindergarten classroom for three months. Although initially, kids started getting bored, they soon began to use their basic surroundings to invent games and use imagination in their playing.
Try to keep your kid exposed to ‘one toy at a time’ and observe the following impact on his learning and behaviour:
- FOCUS: Have you ever wondered how fewer toys will impact your child’s development? When provided with fewer toys, kids develop attention to detail, consequently improving their focus in whatever they do. Later in their lives, whether in class or sports, kids learn the art of focusing on a single task and doing it precisely. In addition, due to less distraction, they develop deeper engagement and display sustained play habits. For example, in research, toddlers were given either 4 or 16 toys for half an hour; the lesser the toys, the better engagement was observed.
- CREATIVITY: When given fewer toys, kids learn to devise new methods to play. They explore several ways by which they can make the best use of that toy. This improves their imagination, experimentation, and ideation ability, which consequently helps them create new things from their old toys. As they grow, they find opportunities to innovate by building models, designing prototypes and upcycling used materials. For example, some kids use abstract materials such as blocks, pots, dishes, plastic bottles, and anything else that can be used to spark their imagination and creativity.
- PROBLEM SOLVING: Research has proved that constraints lead the path to practical problem-solving. When kids are exposed to a ‘zero toy’ environment, they come up with their own solutions to solve the problem of boredom. Such children become resourceful by solving problems with only the materials at hand. They use the resources from their basic surroundings to invent new games and activities. For example, village kids mostly don’t have access to toys, so they use things around them to create toys like spinning tops, scooters, and clay houses.
- SOCIAL SKILLS: Kids with fewer toys have better social skills because they develop strong interpersonal relationships by spending more time communicating with friends and family. Also, they develop more interest in reading, writing, and interacting with the environment.
- VALUE: Kids learn many life lessons as they realize the importance of money and start taking care of their belongings. They learn to do more with less. Also, they develop a sense of appreciation and gratitude for what they have and learn to share their toys with siblings and friends. As they grow, they become balanced, responsible, and compassionate individuals.
How to Keep your kid happy and engaged with fewer toys?
Plan more outdoor activities
Plan your weekends as learning trips for your toddler. For example, you can take them to zoos, national parks, beaches, public play areas, and nature walks. During such trips, try finding opportunities to teach them the skills to make observations, ask questions and problem-solving.
Be smart in selecting toys
Don’t buy for the sake of buying! As parents, you need to know that toys are not just for fun but, more importantly, to LEARN! Choose toys that stimulate the brain development of your child. Be wise in finding the right toy that suits your child’s age, needs, and interests.
Keep rotating toys
When children get bored with a toy, please remove it from their collection, and bring it back after some time. This helps eliminate clutter while allowing children to play with a wider selection of toys. In addition, since the available toys are changed regularly, there is always something new and exciting to play with.
Create stuff from the waste
Please support your child in recycling household items to create a new toy or a gift for their friends. This will improve your child’s imagination skills and unleash his creativity. Also, teach them to reduce, reuse and recycle old toys. I still remember using old magazines and newspaper cuttings to make cards and posters for my friends and family; it was much more fulfilling!
Try other activities too!
Please don’t just give him another when your child gets bored playing with one toy. At home, involve them in simple kitchen experiments, science projects and making models whenever possible. Try to shift his focus to family activities, sports, picnics, theatre, dance, music, art, and all that help his holistic development.