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How many toys should a child have?

by ines.wurbs@icloud.com

Yes, too many toys can harm our children. We mean well and like to spoil our children, doing so with toys can harm our children. But don’t panic, I’ve got tips and the most important information on the subject for you here.

What do children need to play?

Again and again, we read that children don’t need toys. However, I see this as a big mistake. You may not need a store-bought toy. But, kids need things to play with!

Wood or plastic?

From a purely developmental point of view, it doesn’t matter for our children whether you buy wooden or plastic toys. Children like both and usually enjoy playing with both materials equally.

The ecological point of view and sustainability are of course different topics. However, that is the issue for us adults, not that of our children. That means you have to decide that for yourself. But neither wood nor plastic has a better promotional value or is more instructive.

Everyday objects

Children of all ages can certainly be inspired by everyday objects. Namely, when these are misused. Suddenly, a saucepan that serves as a drum kit becomes the new favorite toy. The napkin, which serves as a hiding place for any objects, can also be shaped into a rose or blown on and held in the air as a flying cloth.


Children love games where ordinary objects suddenly become interesting because they are used differently than usual.

Natural materials

It doesn’t have to be store-bought toys for our children. The well-known saying of grandparents: “We didn’t have anything like that before” is not wrong, but not the whole truth either.

Toys have been documented in old records and photos since the earliest human history. They were just commonly made from the resources that nature offers us. Straw dolls, for example. I have an instruction from Martha Steward here.

But most parents know it anyway. A nut, a stone, or just plain mud can inspire children to go on the wildest adventures and keep them busy for hours.

Even if we parents google what kind of toys we might find on the internet to replace the nut or stone, it probably won’t be very successful. The fantasy game starts at the age of two, and that is important. Store-bought toys take a lot of the excitement out of this game. 

Age-appropriate toy

Children need to have toys available that correspond to their age and thus their interests.


When analyzing the age information for toys, I found that when you are a baby or toddler, you can safely add 1 year to the age information on the packaging.

From the age of 4, the age specification is more of a guide value, which varies greatly from person to person. So, it’s also worth taking a look at toys that are only specified in 2 years and assessing the situation for your child individually.

Of course, children can also play with the toy before, but they usually cannot use the toy’s potential. Due to the constant availability, the toy may be no longer interesting for your child when it can finally be used.

So that you can get a feeling for what is suitable for which age, here is a brief overview of age-appropriate toys up to school age:

Which toy is suitable for which age? Which toys are age appropriate?

AgeMatching toy
From the 3rd monthEverything that has to do with grasping and putting in the mouth: rattles, grasping toys, cuddle cloths, O-Ball, Montessori Mobile
From the 6th monthEverything that has to do with cause and effect is now exciting: rattles, squeaks, toys that you can press and that make noises or lights, building blocks to knock over, play arches, lights on and off, light games, hand puppets, stacking tower 
Approx. 1 – 2 yearsFirst instruments, such as drums, carillons, loading, and unloading drawers or boxes, balloons, rolling balls, larger building blocks, motor skills loops, first thick pencils or painting mice, water mats, pouring cups for the bathtub, runways, first vehicles, first dolls, everything to push: such as doll prams, shopping carts, figures on a push bar, climbing triangle, soap bubbles, threading games, kinetic sand
Approx. 2 – 4 yearsFirst trains, first dolls with additional functions, workbench, children’s kitchen, water rides, children’s instruments such as children’s piano or guitar, mosaic cubes/ picture cubes, first puzzles, modeling clay, slime
Approx. 4 – 6 yearsBoard games, memory, matching toys, jigsaw puzzles from 12 pieces, plug-in games, Lego, Matador, construction games, plaster casting sets, mosaic
Toys for children up to school age

As you can see, the age at which children use the toy is often far beyond this information. However, if your child plays with it very seldom, it may be enough if it can play with the toy when it is visiting younger children or something similar.

Why are too many toys bad?


But now back to the heart of the matter. Too many toys harm our children because they sometimes take away their creativity. You are overwhelmed by too many stimuli. 

Our children learn by storing individual experiences, information, and conclusions and then networking them with each other. This means they deepen their knowledge and can deduce one thing from the other.

In some areas, however, this can only be done step by step and takes months or years. Depending on what is learned. Free play is an essential area for our children to succumb to this deepening.

They try out a lot while games and thus gain more experience, especially when our children fully immerse themselves in the game. Too many toys can be a hindrance because it interrupts this process. Too many toys encourage our children to always switch to another toy. As a result, your child will not be able to immerse himself in his game. And as a result, it does not deepen its experience and knowledge.

It also hinders exploration and creativity. According to the motto: if I get bored with the toy, I just take the next one. But if there aren’t endless possibilities, then your child simply has to think of something to combat boredom. Your child then gets creative because the need arises. 


There is also some impairment in self-regulation, the ability we need to control our emotions. This is also about enduring boredom and distracting yourself. However, self-regulation is only affected to a limited extent, since taking toys and dealing with them is itself an independent occupation. However, it is tied to toys, and some children may experience less with other activities if they have too many toys.

Sensory overload from too many toys

Our children’s senses are also overstimulated by too many toys. Most store-bought toys offer many features that appeal to multiple senses. On the one hand, this is good because these things offer many opportunities for discovery. On the other hand, our children can easily become overstimulated by too many toys in this category. Children are more sensitive than we think. Overstimulation is a common cause of tantrums and sleep problems.

The brain is busy with so many stimuli that it processes them well into the night. This is the case with children anyway through everyday life. If, in addition, our children are exposed to constant noise and constant visual stimuli in the form of flashing lights, then our children are simply overwhelmed. It’s too tiring for them. 

I recommend a good mix of all. There is a mixture of handicraft and painting materials, games with everyday objects, natural materials (i.e. sticks and stones used as toys outdoor), and toys that primarily only appeal to one sense and leave room for imaginative games (here cars and dolls are the classics), role-playing games, board games, development games, of course also movement games and some of these super great toys that our children are magically attracted to. 

Not everything, not every day. But a fine selection that can be cleared out if necessary, but also increased.


From time to time, put some toys away and leave them in the closet and bring them out again after 3-4 weeks. So, the selection is a little smaller, but the joy of rediscovery is all the greater.

Reduce toys

In our society, however, most children have more toys than they need. It is advisable to clear out toys from time to time and thus reduce them.

Of course, this is easily done without your child. But it has the disadvantage that you are hiding something from your child, and it can harm your parent-child relationship.

I recommend clearing out the toys with your child. Explain why this is important, and perhaps provide an incentive. Maybe you can sell the used toy and give your child the money. Or their favorite toy has more space and can perhaps remain set up.

My child keeps changing toys

This can be a sign that your child probably has too many toys.

The main problem is that children are easily enthusiastic. Perception is strongly controlled by our eyes. What your child sees will quickly give them good ideas.

Also, while playing. Playing with something, looking up, and being distracted by other toys. Not unusual, but your child should also be able to play with the toy in depth.

Children around 2 years of age should also have the opportunity to get involved with a toy so that the world around it becomes blurred. They usually do this with surprising perseverance and, above all, with great joy and motivation. If that doesn’t work, it may be due to the distraction of too many other toys. Try it out and let your child play in a “non-stimulating” environment. So, somewhere where it is not constantly distracted by other things.

I have summarized tips for you on what you can do if your child is not happy about presents.

How long do children play with toys?

Children play with toys until about the age of 12-13. Very few favorite pieces usually manage to get a place in our children’s room for a longer time.

During puberty, interests shift much more to friends and toys quickly take a back seat. But especially when our children spend time alone in the room in the evening, you can occasionally see them digging out the last of their favorite toys. Younger siblings are also often used as a justification for themselves to play with toys from time to time.

Overall, the length of time that purchased toys are interesting for our children is around 2 years. After that, interests and, above all, needs changing so much that the toys are interesting only for a very short time, when they are discovered at the back of the box after a long time, but are otherwise no longer used.

Of course, there are often a few favorite pieces that we parents should not put away without asking and that are played on for much longer. Our children also like to keep these favorite pieces. Often into adulthood. Take good care of these pieces.

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