Want Your Children to Pay More Attention? Lose Some Toys!

October 30, 2018

Photo by Li Tzuni on Unsplash


Do you want your children to be more focused? Perhaps you should remove a few toys from their lives. That seems to be the conclusion of an article titled "The influence of the number of toys in the environment on toddlers' play" in Infant Behavior and Development published by a team from University of Toledo.


In this experiment, children were placed in a playroom with either four or sixteen toys. The authors observed the number of times children engaged a toy, the length of time they played with it, and the manner in which they played with each toy. Not surprisingly, children with fewer toys tended to play longer during each engagement and to explore each toy's "affordances" or the many different ways in which a toy can be played with.


The value of this study is that it supports the notion that our children need less stuff and an environment in which they can process all that's going on around them. Playing with fewer toys but in more creative ways is likely to facilitate stronger attention spans. And this world could use stronger attention spans from children and adults alike!


Even if you have a lot of toys for your kiddo, my guess is that playtime will be fruitful so long as only a few toys are out at once. At the very least, those of us who can't afford to buy our children a truckload of playthings can stop guilt-tripping ourselves for buying too few. We're just being responsible, right? (I'm sure our kids will love hearing that excuse at the store the next time we reject their pleadings.)


And how does this translate into the professional world? Maybe adults who are doing too much at once focus less effectively and get less out of what they do than those who choose fewer projects and explore those they undertake in greater depth.


In any case, I feel pretty confident that this study's findings reflect reality. One only needs to watch a room packed with children and toys to know that something bad is happening when the two are combined in too large a number.


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