Too Many Toys? What to Know about Toy Minimalism

A personal confession

I admit it. I was one of those parents. I worked, I traveled, and I was away from my young son quite often. When I would return from a trip, or sometimes after an especially long stretch of late days at the office, I would surprise him with a small toy, just to let him know I had been thinking of him.

He didn’t always have my presence, so I compensated with presents.

Eventually, between my random gift giving, birthdays, holidays, and gathering every fast-food collectible known to mankind, my little one had amassed a collection of toys that overflowed even the largest of toy chests.

I saw my son’s brimming toy box as evidence of our love and affection for him. What we didn’t realize, though, was that all those toys were doing him more harm than good.

Less is more 

It’s only natural to want to indulge our kids with tangible expressions of our love. But, even though our hearts are in the right place, our children are better off with just a minimal number of quality toys. Here’s why.

A recent study at the University of Toledo found that fewer toys actually led to a richer play experience.

The study’s principal investigator and mom of twin boys, Dr. Alexia Metz, had herself experienced what she called the “proliferation of toys phenomenon.” She wondered if there was a risk in having “that much stuff.”

Dr. Metz assembled a team of graduate students to figure out if children played differently when they had 16 toys to play with versus just four. Indeed, they did.

It turned out that fewer toys led to higher quality play—a child stayed with a toy twice as long and played with it in more creative ways. Conversely, having too many toys limited creativity, stifling a child’s imagination.

Having too many toys also causes a child to lose focus. As the Guardian reports, children bounce from toy to toy, becoming overwhelmed and overstimulated. Ultimately, they simply shut down.

Getting a fresh start with fresh toys  

So, what’s the solution? For promoting healthy, creative play, child development experts suggest starting with a small collection of carefully chosen toys. These toys should be well constructed and appealing, ensuring that they’ll have both a long shelf life and will age well as your child matures.

ParentPal’s Learning Essentials Guide includes curated sets of age-appropriate toys and books, meant to fully support your child’s developmental journey from birth to age 5.

What’s more, the ParentPal app provides hundreds of age-appropriate, research-based activities for these toys and books, helping you guide your child’s play and learning effectively.

To prevent boredom and toy overload, each curated toy or book is rotated into, out of, and back into your child’s toy chest—typically four or five times across a span of two to three years. Whenever an item is rotated back in, ParentPal provides a fresh, age-appropriate activity for that toy or book.

ParentPal Learning Essential Gift Guides by Age

Best Toys & Gifts for Age 0-6 months

From first words to first smiles, encourage your infant’s cognitive and physical development with our curated list of toys and books for ages 0-6 months.

Best Toys & Gifts 7-12-Month-Olds

Your infant is exploring and learning about the world around them. Encourage your child’s exploration with our curated list of toys and books to support your 7-12-month-old’s development.

Best Toys & Gifts 12-18-Month-Olds

Perfect for little hands and growing brains, our curated list of Learning Essentials will keep your toddler engaged and entertained while developing key skills.

Best Toys & Gifts 18-24-Month-Olds

Introduce concepts of empathy, fairness, and sharing with ParentPal’s Learning Essentials, our curated list of the best toys and books to support your 18-24-month-old’s development.

Best Toys & Gifts for 2-Year-Olds

From shape sorting to healthy eating, keep up with your 2-year-old’s developmental skills and interests.

Use our coupon and save

Make the most of your curated collection of playthings with a subscription to ParentPal. Use coupon code HOLIDAY30 to save 30% on your first year of ParentPal.* Shopping links and activity ideas for each toy are provided in the ParentPal app.



*Coupon codes can only be used for ParentPal subscription purchases made via the ParentPal website, Coupon expires December 31, 2021.