Study Shows Playing With More Toys Can Negatively Affect Children

New research suggests that playing with fewer toys helps kids focus and play creatively.


A new study suggests that children’s imaginations benefit from having fewer toys to play with on a regular basis. Research published in the journal Infant Behavior and Development shows that when kids have fewer toys to play with they are more likely to sharpen their focus and play creatively, a finding that should encourage parents who feel pressured to buy the newest latest toys.

In order to see how the kids’ playtime habits would change with a different number of toys, researchers observed 36 kids between the ages of 18 and 30 months in two separate play sessions. One session involved 16 toys while the other involved just four. According to the findings, the children did play differently based on the number of toys. The fewer toys there were, the more time they were likely to spend with each individual toys. They also found that with fewer toys, children were more likely to engage in “higher quality” play — using their imagination to play with the toys in ways beyond their intended function.

Alexia Metz, a doctoral student at the University of Toledo and the lead author of the study, concludes, in part “this suggests that when provided with fewer toys in the environment, toddlers engage in longer periods of play with a single toy, allowing better focus to explore and play more creatively. This can be offered as a recommendation in many natural environments to support children’s development and promote healthy play.”

This may seem mostly intuitive – obviously, a child who has fewer toys will play with a toy for longer – but combined with the “higher quality” play, the study may is arguably showing that giving kids fewer toys can genuinely give them a better sense of focus. A sense of focus is something that children often lack, especially at a young age. The research also suggests that giving children fewer toys could equip them with the ability to think of things in new and creative ways, allowing them to look at things from perspectives they would not have with more toys to play with.