How Babies Learn Through Play and the Benefits of Having Less Toys
As easy as play sounds, the moment that comes when it’s just you and baby can be nerve-wracking, especially regarding what to actually do; however, babies are much simpler than the mass toy market conveys. Toys are important, but the number of toys is a critical component to making the most of your playtime with baby. As the saying goes, “quality over quantity”.
Sure, it can be easy to be tempted by taking a stroll down your supermarket toy aisle or finding a flash sale online; however, your child best learns from a simple, minimalistic environment. Various studies show, fewer toys allow for more creativity to be expressed and an overall higher quality play for baby. As you continue reading, keep in mind that playing is learning, and learning depends on efficiency in both resources and time.
Do you really need a baby play pen, play gym or play group?
You’re probably wondering why we, a toy company, advocate for less rather than more. However, our purpose is not just to sell you on a product; rather, our goal is to help you develop a strong relationship between you and your child utilizing a strategic and limited number of toys.
In a 2017 study performed by The University of Toledo, it was found that “with fewer toys, participants had fewer incidences of toy play, longer durations of toy play, and played with toys in a greater variety of ways”. Less stimulant allows for easier concentration on what is in front of your child, especially when your child is just learning his/her surroundings.
A surplus of toys surrounding your child can often be more detrimental than beneficial despite societal pressure to constantly buy your child more and more. Learn more about why less is more when it comes to toys!
Play to learn using the five senses
Unlike you and me, babies are just beginning to explore their environment, learning to process various sights, smells, textures, tastes, and sounds. As adults, the five senses allow us to navigate and evaluate both social and physical situations, skills that are just as important for babies as they are for you.
Testing various foods and flavors allow you to bond further with your child(ren) while also learning what they enjoy for future snack and mealtimes. For example, spending time eating a banana together explores a variety of stimulants for your child. The taste of banana, the texture of both the peel and the banana itself, your facial expressions, baby’s mirroring of expressions, and even the simple act of being close together provide your child with an experience that will further their development all through a basic, but beneficial activity.
The importance of maximizing eye contact in play-based learning
Just like adults, eye contact is a key element to play. Babies are learning through every stimulant around them, including your reactions and expressions. For quality play time, engage with baby directly. Sometimes, your smile is the only “toy” you need. It sounds simple, which in a way it is, however, the importance of eye contact cannot be emphasized enough. Giving your child your direct attention, providing them with emotional support, and reacting to their own actions are three ways you can easily play, making the most of small moments throughout your day.
Create connection over distraction to help your baby play, grow and learn
When thinking about toys, it can be easy to utilize them as a way to distract baby rather than engage with baby. Life happens and sometimes a distraction is needed; however, we challenge you to shift your focus away from distraction and onto connection.
In terms of toys, it has been found that an abundance of toys can actually have a negative effect on relationships between parents and children, siblings, and family. Too many toys can cause kids to have lower attention spans, needing new stimulants at a higher rate than kids who only have few toys to focus their attention on. Kids can develop aggressive tendencies resulting from feelings of both frustration and boredom, creating stressful and emotionally taxing situations for both you and your child.
By limiting toys in your household, your child will have more time for social interaction with you and other members of the household, an increase in fostering their own ability to create entertainment with what is available around them, and a heightened ability to focus on one task for a greater period of time.
Of course don’t forget to smile when learning through play
Reminder: have fun! It is easy to be overwhelmed by research, the latest trends, and the newest “must have” toy. If you are feeling stressed, your child will most likely pick up on this, causing both of you to experience negativity instead of enjoying your time together. Rather than viewing this time as playtime for your child, reframe your thinking to consider this playtime for both you and your child!
In parenthood, these moments are precious and quickly passing, so don’t get caught up in the clutter of flashy plastics and flickering lights found in every toy store. By limiting the number of toys in your home, you will be greatly enhancing the learning environment for your child in a multitude of ways, ways that will also benefit your own relationship together!
As a parent, it can be difficult to know what is best for your child(ren), especially with most toys claiming a new benefit for your child on a daily basis; however, as controversial as it sounds, the most important component of play is simplicity. Equipped with this knowledge, make the most of your time with the little that is needed.
If you want to learn more about how to play with your baby or toddler, check out our Guide to Baby & Toddler Play!
Dauch, C., Imwalle, M., Ocasio, B., & Metz, A. E. (2018). The influence of the number of toys in the environment on toddlers' play. Infant behavior & development, 50, 78–87. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.infbeh.2017.11.005