Too many toys for tots
Do you remember when you wined and threw a fuss about some toy or toys you thought you couldn’t live without ? The folks at the University of Toledo did an interesting study posing the question of whether the quality of play would be enhanced with more or fewer toys.
Did you know that toy sales are $24 billion /yr, with $3.1 billion specifically for infant and preschool toys ? Families spend an average of $240 on toys and games each year, and grandparents spend $500 yearly for gifts for grandchildren. These figures are from a really interesting book titled, “LIFE AT HOME IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY: 32 FAMILIES OPEN THEIR DOORS” by Jeanne E. Arnold, Anthony P. Graesch, Enzo Ragazzini, and Elinor Ochs. Our families lives as illustrated by some California families is radically changing.
Now as adults think about the quality of your own interaction when your presented with a plethora of things to occupy your senses. Do you find the time to really evaluate and work diligently when working with a single or limited number of projects or do the distractions of multiple interruptions break this cycle. Think of the oncoming e-mails and the phone ringing and….. can you image if you were presented with numbers such as this 10 yr study of 32 middle class American families which found a average of 139 toys visible to researchers. Hmmmm the new study was based on a fraction of these numbers. How many toys do you have at home for your child ?
The UT study was based on offering the ~18-30 month olds either 4 toys or an array of 16 toys. Four groups of toys were chosen which included educational (toys that may teach a concept such as shapes, colors, or counting), pretend (toys that suggest themed play scenarios for ‘as if’ play), action (toys that can be activated through manipulation or toys that encourage exploration/activity on the part of the toddler i.e. building, stacking, opening, twisting), and vehicles (toys that have wheels that promote play through the toddlers ability to push the toy)
The conclusions were not surprising but the numbers are telling. The toddlers had a 108% longer duration of play, and 63% more manners of play when having 4 toys vs the 16 present. Their attention span challenged at that age, did appear with multiple other tests to clearly document a higher quality of interaction, when presented with fewer choice. The kids has ~150% as many manners of play when presented with the 4 toys than with 16.
Take Away: From the conclusions the level and depth of exploration is substantially enhanced by the less vs more approach. A well done article by Candice Galek is below with 6 really good suggestions: