We have some groundbreaking news: A new study from the University of Illinois Chicago has found that giving young children material gifts, like toys, makes them happy. Who knew, right!?
Okay, all jokes aside, while the study appears at first to not reveal any information that is that groundbreaking, there really is some interesting information in the study that can help parents become better gift-givers to their very young and big kid children.
The study used data from four other studies and studied children from three to 17 years old to determine the happiness they receive from receiving different types of goods. The results were not too surprising — the study found that when children are younger (especially aged three to five, but until they turn 12) they enjoy toys, goods, and items way more than experiences, but that the effect of the joy from those goods changes over time.
In fact, peak joy from toys is from ages three to five — meaning that you shouldn’t feel too bad about getting your kid yet another Fingerling or whatever the hot, plastic, disposable toy is that year — because while that joy is intense and materialistic, it’s also temporary in more way than one. The toy won’t last — and neither will your young child’s dependence on Barbies and race cars and Beyblades. (Am I showing my age here?)
In fact, your kid’s appreciation of experience gifts grows as they age, while their love of crap diminishes over time. This is a developmentally appropriate shift as children cognitively develop and begin to have stronger memories and theories of the mind. At some point, kids reach a tipping point where they enjoy experiences more than toys — because while their brains develop, they begin to fully comprehend the experiences they are gifted (Disney World! A family vacation!) more than they can when they are very young. These shifts help them enjoy the more experienced-based gifts — the ones that you’d wish they would enjoy more and that you remember enjoying so much as a kid.
Honestly, it’s really about the fact that kids are able to start remembering the experiences they are going through. Your 5-year-old won’t give a s*** about a trip to Paris, pardon our French. But your 15-year-old? Oh, yes. Still, big, outdoor, or public experiential gifts might not be the best idea during a pandemic anyway, so don’t feel too bad about the fact that your kid is a capitalist, toy loving monster, who only wants Things. We promise they’ll grow out of it eventually.