Study: Giving Your Toddler Too Many Toys To Play With Could Be Hurting Their Creativity

Feeling pressured to buy your kids a gazillion toys this year for Christmas? Phone filled up with list after list of possible toys the wee darlings might love, link after link to the Best Christmas Present ever that could very well leave you broke and miserable come January? Well, science might be about to let you off the hook in a major way. A recent study found that having too many toys could hurt your kid's creativity, which means you can save your gold doubloons for another day, perhaps. Or use it for a trip or something... I don't know you, but I feel like you deserve it.

According to a recent study by the University of Toledo, which is scheduled to be published in the February edition of Infant Behavior and Development, researchers found that toddlers with fewer toys exhibited heightened creativity. The authors of the study invited 36 toddlers to two separate play rooms for half an hour; one play room had 16 toys and the other only had four toys. After recording the toddlers' behavior and play habits for the 30 minutes, researchers came to a conclusion, according to the report:

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.
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Lead author of the study Dr. Carly Dauch noted that the higher number of toys seemed to inhibit the children's ability to focus. According to the New York Daily News, she explained:

The higher number of incidences of play in the 16 toy condition did seem to interfere with duration and depth of play. Other toys present may have created a source of external distraction.

Dauch went on to note that the children's attention spans were also affected by how many toys were at their disposal for play, with the children in the four toy group spending at least twice as long on each toy. The children were also found to come up with new and inventive uses for the few toys available to them.

During toddlerhood, children develop, but may not have mastered, higher level control over attention. Their attention, and therefore, their play may be disrupted by factors in their environments that present distraction.

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Now before you get ready to toss out all of your kids' toys in the hopes that they will become more creative and have better attention spans, the study noted a simpler solution, according to Parents:

One recommendation may be to opt for having fewer toys available in a play environment for any one play session. When there is an abundance of toys, small collections can be rotated into play while the majority is stored away, providing opportunities for novelty without creating the distraction posed by having too many toys available.

You could also consider a toy rotation, or maybe even a toy swap with friends to keep the creative juices flowing. Besides, focusing on having fewer toys could be considered a win-win situation for the whole family. According to, parents spend around $6,500 on toys for their children, and there are approximately 71 toys per child, per average household in America.

And I'm sure there are other parents out there, like myself, who have gone a little hog wild with the toys during the holidays, only to find my kids literally weeping in frustration at the sight of their bounty. Kids get overwhelmed, parents get stressed out buying toys; perhaps this study is just what parents need to hear as the holiday season kicks into full gear.

Fewer toys, better attention span, more creative kids, and parents who can give themselves a break. Not such a bad way to spend the holidays.

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