Holidays, snow, decorated trees, family gatherings… and presents of course! It’s one of the loveliest times of the year, a picture many of us are familiar with.

We devote weeks to preparing, carefully planning the perfect, age-appropriate, intellectually stimulating, exciting, surprising, you-name-it gifts for our children. Unfortunately, the novelty soon wears off the best of presents, and all too quickly, with so many others to play with, many are forgotten.

So, how many toys should we really be giving our children?

Experts hesitate to put a number on the amount of toys children should have, however it is generally agreed that fewer toys are better than too many.

Through play children learn to interpret the world around them, enriching the development of their cognitive, emotional, social, and physical skills, and ultimately their well-being. An article published in 2017 in the journal, Infant Behaviour and Development states that “When given only four toys to play with, the children played with each for twice as long, thinking up more uses for each toy and lengthening and expanding their games, allowing for better focus to explore and play more creatively—qualities that benefit children in the long term”.

Children that have fewer toys to play with are obligated to use their imagination more. As a result, they are presented with the opportunity to look for and develop new skills and talents. Furthermore, when kids have too many toys, they give up too quickly on a toy that challenges them, replacing it instead with an easier option. In the process, they miss out on the opportunity to learn patience and determination. Those with fewer toys learn to take better care of their things, they also tend to spend more time reading, writing and creating.

Having fewer toys sets the tone for healthier habits, as children who enjoy an abundance of possessions give less value to the things they have and also tend to be less inclined to share.

The Holidays present an opportunity to spend quality time with family

Kathy Sylva, a professor of educational psychology at Oxford University studied 3,000 children from the ages of three to five and found that “those children with fewer toys, whose parents spend more time interacting with them, surpass kids with greater means for personal computers, video games etc., in several areas of emotional and social development.” The reality is that the positive effects a parent’s direct engagement seems to beat any toy or screen.

Happiness is derived from experiences, not things - let’s spend more time playing with our children!

Researchers from Cornell University found that, “People are more grateful, and even more generous, when they enjoy experiences rather than material gifts”.

Experiences can be far more enriching for kids than toys can. So, let’s use the money we might have spent on extra toys for a trip to a theme park, a local market, the cinema to see their favourite movie, the zoo, the aquarium, or picnic in the park.

Memories of the experiences children enjoy last much longer than the excitement of the toys they receive during the holidays.

Happiness is derived from experiences, not things - let’s spend more time playing with our children!

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