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My husband and I have decided to minimize the number of toys for our daughter for a variety of reasons... we have a small house, I am unemployed also we see how greedy many children who have everything are. With that being said, I feel like there are some toys that are developmentally important to stimulate her and encourage development. How do we know how many toys are enough and at what point does it become too much?

At this point she is too young to ask for things (5.5 months) so it is not an issue of her asking for toys. I really want to provide her with all advantages to develop without creating a culture of excess in our home.

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5 Answers 5

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Remember that quality is more important than quantity!

I think it can be a bit easier to go overboard with toys for infants and toddlers, due to the volume you may receive from adult friends during baby showers and early birthday parties that may be more geared towards your family and friends than the baby's friends.

Some toys naturally become favorites (a preferred stuffed animal, for example). Others can be picked specifically for their educational value. You want to make sure that whatever toys you have can keep the child's attention. However, each child has a different attention span, so that can be hard to judge. It can also be helpful to have something that is familiar (and therefore reassuring), such as the stereotypical "security blanket".

The most important thing to realize is that you don't have to buy toys, ever. There are always ways to entertain a child, regardless of the age, without going out and purchasing some fancy toy. A big cardboard box is likely to provide as much entertainment as a $30 electronic gadget (much as I love me some electronic gadgets!), and will stimulate more use of creativity and imagination.

I suggest that as your child gets older, you focus on picking toys for their meta value. Crayons, legos, building blocks etc. are fun not for what they are, but what you can make out of them. Particularly if you combine them with other objects (example).

As for how many toys is "too much", I think the real issue you are asking about is more a function of how your child perceives the toys, rather than how many are there. If your child has 200 toys, but doesn't have a huge attachment to them, shares well, and doesn't throw a tantrum when she sees one she doesn't own, then I'd say its not too many (although where and how you store them may disagree!).

Unfortunately, I've seen the opposite happen, where parents were really careful not to overwhelm their child with tons of toys, and the child wound up coveting any toys they saw, and getting really upset when told they couldn't take them all home.

Remember that the toys are marketed towards the children as much as the adults, and most manufacturers know that getting the kid to do the sales pitch for them can be the most effective method of selling their product. Reducing exposure to commercials aimed at children's toys may help.

For the record, so far one of my son's favorite toys is a remote control for a DVD player we don't use anymore.

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I love the meta-value comment, I had never thought of those toys that way. –  Sarato Sep 22 '11 at 18:44

A way I found to help reduce clutter is to reduce the number of types of toys.

Do your kids like dinosaurs? Let people know that they do, so that most gifts are dinosaur related and can go into the dinosaur bin. Do they like cars? Dolls? Trains? Same thing.
Especially Lego and Playmobil are great in this respect.

This doesn't address all aspects of your question, but it does help reduce clutter.

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4 things here

1) aesthetically speaking, i don't believe that a 6mo old baby can have too many toys. you don't know what they like, they don't know what they like. variety will let you discover that.

2) you will however see what they don't like; they simply won't play with it. you can easily focus the collection by identifying these things. do not hesitate to lop off toys one at a time. or even bag and take a huge swath of the collection to Salvation Army. you can do this guilt free up until they're about 4-5 and then you'll have to start explaining it.

3) just like everything else in the relationship, you're the parent. you're the one running the relationship and you're going to do what you can to provide them with what they need to become a productive, honorable citizen... i mean this... you wouldn't be here asking the question if you weren't trying.

therefore, do not hesitate to modify the collection as you see fit. add/change/delete the collection whenever you think is best however you think is best.

4) toys are NOT the be all end all of baby stimulus. more valuable than the best toy is sitting in your lap fighting with you over the remote. toys on the floor are great, and pretty much a required part of babyhood (they gotta learn mobility). but remember that most of what a person learns comes before age 3, and that solid interaction with you showing them how to operate the bandsaw or calculate the circumference of an ellipse will have more of an impact than a splendiferous baby toy.

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Is your baby learning to operate a bandsaw and do complex geometry before the age of 3? Impressive. (+1 for the suggestion of ditching toys they don't play with, that will really help with clutter.) –  Sarato Sep 23 '11 at 17:22
    
Yeah we had to ditch the bandsaw. it was fun at first but i pretty much drew the line when he threw a tantrum cuz we wouldn't hang his mounted catfish that sang "all shook up." –  monsto Sep 24 '11 at 2:56

The main point is that kids crave and need stimulation and it's important for their development that they get it. So if they are not getting it from toys or from television they need to get it from somewhere.

The best place to get that stimulation is from their parents. So if you don't use the alternative this can be a big task; it can be tiring and draining, but ultimately its very beneficial to the child to spend plenty of time with their parents.

Some suggestions:

  • Involve your child in household activities this helps them feel valued
  • Not sure what space you have, but a pet is a gift that keeps on giving. We have chickens and my son loves them. He can collect eggs, feed and help cleaning
  • Friends and family are very generous, we have rarely bought toys for my son and we never buy Christmas or Birthday presents for him because our friends are so generous. In return we are also generous back (this is important). This means our son is not used to us regularly buying stuff for him, but he is used to regularly giving and sharing.
  • Buy toys that challenge and also can be played over and over. My son loves jigsaw puzzles, LEGO etc.
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+1 for involving them in regular household activities. –  milesmeow Dec 25 '11 at 23:37

First off, I really like your motivation. My daughter is 6.5 months, and we don't have many toys for her (her toys could probably all fit in a grocery bag), but I am already thinking we have too many.

I was talking to a friend of mine with 8 kids, and I think she has the right idea. She told me that she didn't go and buy special things for her kids to play with, she just let them play with things they already owned. Her youngest boy's favorite toy was a whisk from the kitchen. He'd drool all over it, and then she could wash it and throw it back in the utensil drawer.

Stimulation is important, but if you're a little creative, you can do it for little or no money. I suggest you compile a short list of toys that are important for development. Like:

  • a mirror
  • something that makes noise
  • something that she can chew
  • something that encourages fine motor skills

This isn't an exhaustive list, but you get the point.

Next, you need to decide if you need to buy something new for each item. Maybe you don't want to let her play with the glass hand mirror you have, but do you get her a $20 hungry hungry catterpiller mirror, or a $2 plastic locker mirror? You can also throw some dried beans in a cylindrical tupperware, and let her chase it around the floor. (This last would be good for fine motor skills, because if she wants to grab the container, she has to do so gently or it rolls away.)

As your daughter gets older, she'll hopefully imitate your creativity and invent some toys of her own.

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+1 for using things around the house as 'toys'. My niece loved boxes (she loved a big diaper box that we used to push her around...to her it was a vehicle), empty containers (she would put things in and takes things out), she loved banging on pots... The nice thing about this is that you stimulate their imagination and creativity...and maybe even resourcefulness (if that's at all possible for younger kids) :) –  milesmeow Dec 25 '11 at 23:40

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