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Too many toys can have a negative effect on children

Published: Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Updated: Wednesday, February 24, 2010 14:02


Limiting the amount of toys children have encourages imagination.

Toys make up a multi-billion dollar industry in the United States. Most children today have an abundance of toys because they are cheap and extensive. When one breaks, it is easily replaced with another. There was once a simpler time when children owned just a few toys that they admired and treasured. Now, children have entire rooms devoted to their play things.

The Guardian recently published an article examining the effects of children having too many toys. As you can probably guess, the results are not positive. The findings were that an overload of toys can possibly hinder child development and creativity. Also, having too many toys can affect the child's attention span and leave them giving up on an item quickly.

I was raised by parents who did not believe in spoiling my brother and me and shooed us outside to play as much as possible. I quickly realized that this was not the normal situation among the rest of my friends. We did not even have cable until I was in middle school. Often when I was at my friend's houses, I begged to experience Nickelodeon and even the luxury of Nintendo.

While I despised my parents for it at the time, I must admit that it was beneficial in the long run. My father built us a tree house in the backyard and that was where we were expected to play, using good old-fashioned imagination. Of course, I did have toys, many more than generations past, but we mainly received them on our birthdays and holidays. Parents should encourage children to play outside and limit the number of toys that they can have at a time. This will allow kids to think creatively and become more resourceful with what they have.

Rainer Strick and Elke Schubert, two German public health workers, conducted an experiment in which they removed all toys from a kindergarten classroom for three months and observed what happened. The children used their basic surroundings to invent games and used imagination in their playing. Strick and Schubert have also theorized that there could be a link between children having too many toys and being more inclined to form addictions later in life. 

By limiting the child's choices in material objects, they then must resort to more thoughtful ways of entertaining themselves. The kindergarteners in the study used chairs and tables to make forts and invented imagination games.

Another type of play that I think can hinder child development is video games. I have friends that say they grew up playing Nintendo 64 and, when game consoles improved, their parents would buy the newest update. I do not think that video games should be completely removed, but the time spent in front of them should be limited. If kids are constantly sitting in front of a television interacting with a fantasy world, they will not learn to interact in a social environment, which can hinder their ability to develop a range of other skills including problem solving.

Child development experts Dr. Anita Gurian and Dr. Alice Pope have written about the benefits of child social interaction. They have attributed childhood friendships to a greater chance of success academically and in social situations during adulthood.

Children should have boundaries for when, where and what toys they can play with. By encouraging children to play with friends and to play outside, they become more imaginative. I once was forced to turn off the TV and put away the toys to go play in my backyard and now I rarely touch the TV. I am glad that my parents would not allow my time to be occupied with constant distraction, so that now I have more imagination and independence in the choices I make.

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