Kristen Magee, Occupational Therapist
If December meant an influx of new toys to your home you may be thinking, now what do I do? While initially exciting the overabundance of toys can quickly become overwhelming. Too many toys and a cluttered environment can actually have a negative impact on the quality of a child’s play. Having access to fewer toys enhances children’s cognitive and neurological development according to the findings of a study conducted by the University of Toledo that was published in The Journal of Infant Behavior and Development.
When surrounded by too many toys you may find a child distracted and jumping quickly between toys with little time spent fully exploring a toy for its intended purpose. In cluttered spaces you may see a child move to a new space altogether because they don’t know what to do in the chaos. By offering fewer toys at a time in a space with less clutter, children can better explore, create and reap the developmental skills a particular toy or activity offers. A few ideas to help with that holiday haul of toys:
- Clean up the play space together. Give your child a calm play space to work on important developmental skills. They can help you separate the toys into piles of new vs old, toys that make noise vs toys that don’t, or sort them by size.
- 1 in 1 out. Rotate toys in your collection. Put some of the old toys away in a box or closet. You or your child can pick a select number of toys to leave out in a play area. In a few months rotate the toys in and out. For older children you may also be able to create a home library and involve them in the process of “checking in” and “checking out” a toy. The novelty will help your child create new ideas and renewed fun when an old toy is new again.
- Pick a toy to donate. Involve them in the process of picking a toy or toys to donate. Older children can even help you decide on a place to donate when presented with options.
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