Today's children have playrooms stacked to the ceiling with plastic, battery-operated toys of every size, shape, and color. These same kids can watch up to eight hours of TV per day, a number that would have shocked the parents of yesteryear.
Growing up I was obsessed with Barbie dolls, My Little Pony, and Lincoln Logs which I pronounced as "yikin yogs" because I couldn't get the letter L just right. However, as we lived on a tight budget I didn't always have all the fun accessories that were sold separately. My mom got my creative juices flowing, by teaching me how to make the best of what we had available. We built a stable for my ponies out of a cardboard box and even turned an old shoebox into Barbie's spacious convertible.
I credit growing up this way for my ability to problem solve and think creatively now as an adult. In business (particularly running your own business) it is a valued skill that many have difficulty learning later in life.
A study by the University of Toledo on the influence of the number of toys in the environment on toddlers' play, suggests not only limited screen time for toddlers but fewer toys as well. The study shows that toddlers had greater quality of play when presented with four toys as opposed to having 16 options. Here are six reasons why limiting the number of toys your child has may actually benefit them in the long-term.
1. Kids with fewer toys have better attention spans.
With hundreds of toys at their disposal, kids jump from one activity for another, never immersing themselves completely in one activity. Kids develop focus when there are fewer choices and fewer demands on their attention and their time. Compare this to how distracted you get when trying to multitask at work, and how many are now saying it's actually more productive to single-task.
2. Kids with fewer toys are more creative.
Having too many options keeps kids from fully developing their imagination. Kids are more likely to use what they have to invent games with their imagination when they have fewer choices for toys and materials. For example, blocks become a dollhouse, railroad tracks, or a construction site. I remember coloring my Barbie's hair with markers to create new characters, and getting yelled at for cutting their hair too.
3. Kids with fewer toy choices have better social skills.
When not distracted by endless entertainment, children are more likely to focus on the people around them, both adults and kids. They learn conversation skills and to interact with others, rather than new toys and gadgets. It is imperative at this age to begin building relationships with those around them.
4. Kids with fewer toys learn to appreciate what they have.
Kids with fewer toys are less likely to take them for granted. They know they have limited possessions, so they are more likely to clean, keep track of and appreciate the few things that they do own.
They should also be taught to share what they have with the less fortunate, so around birthdays and Christmas when you know more toys are coming in, do a purge and give toys away to your local shelter. Let your kids know how much they will be appreciated by those who have less.
5. Kids with fewer toys can be taught to focus on books, art, and experiences.
When kids have fewer things, it is easier to interest them in going out to a museum, to the park to get fresh air, or to sit down and read a book and create a painting or a drawing. They get more varied experiences, if they aren't constantly buried under a mountain of colorful plastic and light up gizmos at home.
6. Kids with fewer toys learn problem solving and perseverance more quickly than children who have tons of toys.
When kids have a ton of toys and can't figure out how one of them works (a puzzle, for example), they may be more likely to give up and go onto another, easier toy. They may have difficulty developing a healthy attention span, perseverance and patience.
As an entrepreneur I find it vital to the success of my business that I am capable of "thinking on my feet" and can resolve issues quickly and efficiently. I called my Mom to let her know that the way she raised me had actually set me up for success, and she said to me, "Oh good I'm glad, because I had no clue what I was doing!"
So you see, raising a child isn't necessarily about how much materialistic stuff you can give them, but instead about allowing them to think creatively that may influence them the most.