Fewer Toys Leads to Higher Quality of Children’s Play

Children can discover so many things to do in nature

Children require very few toys or resources to create a rich, imaginative world.

It is very common place that children’s bedrooms and toy rooms are over run with toys.

In a study of 32 middle class American families, researchers reported that family homes had an average of 139 toys visible, with most homes having at least 100 and some as many as 250 toys.(1)

What toys and why they should have those toys are questions that many parents are asking.

Toy manufacturers have promoted the idea that children need to be surrounded by stimulating, colorful “educational” toys and materials.  What children play with and the resources that are provided for them are driven largely by corporate interests. In the United States, $24 billion is spent annually on toys with $3.1 billion specifically for infant and preschool toys.

Our message is that walking in the park, playing in the back yard with sheets and sticks to make a cubby house, and making mud pies have a far bigger contribution to make to  children’s well-being at little expense.

An excellent study on the influence of the number of toys in the environment on toddlers’ play looked at whether the number of toys in toddlers’ environments influenced the quality of their play. They tested the idea that fewer toys in children’s environments would improve the quality of play.

The study looked at children’s play in a room with four toys and then with sixteen toys. With fewer toys present, the children engaged in longer periods of play. The time children spent playing was twice as long in the fewer toys environment.

What can parents do?   Children’s creativity and well being can be supported by opting for fewer toys in children’s play environments through

  • Packing away excess toys.  Some families have had success by rotating toys, putting excess toys in a black plastic garbage bag and putting out of sight of the children.  If the child asks for a particular toy, then that toy can be ‘found’ and returned to the play space.
  • Selecting open ended toys like tree blocks, pine combs, baskets of shells and simple cotton or natural fabric cloths.  These ‘toys’ provide many opened ended play possibilities for children.
  • Choosing toys made of natural materials rather than brightly coloured plastic toys.  Bright colours can overstimulate the child leading to distracted play.  Plastic as a substance has no natural warmth to it so children don’t feel such a connection.

To read the Fewer Toys study – The influence of the number of toys in the environment on toddlers’ play

More information on how to set up a simple nature based play corner will be covered in forthcoming blog.  It is also covered in our book ‘Parenting as an Art’.

I’m grateful you’re reading this blog.  Please let me know if you have any questions.

Have a wonderful day!

with warmest wishes,

Jane Hanckel


(1) Dauch, C. et al, , “The influence of 2018 the number of toys in the environment on toddlers’ play” 2018

Education for a sustainable future – holistic & mainstream education

Waterhole, Borroloola

Lillies at waterhole, Borroloola. Photo Jane Hanckel

To reach real peace in the world, we will have to begin with the children.

It is hard to conceive of a different model of education when our lives have been so deeply shaped by our own upbringing and education.  Often through traveling we see other alternatives although more and more western mainstream education has come to dominate even the remotest corners of the world. In one of the remotest towns in the Northern Territory, Borroloola, South East Arhnem Land, I witnessed a distressing disconnect between mainstream education and Indigenous education. The elders were in great dismay of not being able to pass on their knowledge, wisdom and cultural practices to the next generation.

Rhoda making fire Borroloola

A chart from UNESCO’s Teaching for a Sustainable Future program provides a insightful comparison between ‘Indigenous’ and ‘Scientific’ Knowledge..

Below is a chart adapted from UNESCO’s program that articulates the differences between the two styles of education.

Comparison Indigenous Knowledge and Mainstream Education

Children across the world are falling through the cracks partly because the current mainstream education system does not encompass holistic approaches to learning. Children are experiencing high rates of stress, anxiety and depression with children being diagnosed at younger and younger ages. Recent research has found that, in less than a decade, mental health presentations to some emergency departments have tripled among those aged 10 to 19.

There urgently needs to be a rethink of education.  In the early years education the over emphasis on early literacy and numeracy, the disappearance of play based learning are of particular concern.  In the primary school years there is the over focusing on prioritizing STEM technology at the expense of quality relationships and learning in natural environments.

Oral storytelling is one of the key features of 21st C/Indigenous education. The power of oral storytelling and handing down of cultural knowledge is discussed  in “The Science of the Dreamtime”.  ABC interviewer and author, Richard Fidler, talks with Patrick Nunn, author of The Edge of Memory.

Patrick has spent his career looking at the scientific evidence of catastrophic natural events that occurred thousands of years ago, like extreme rises in sea levels. He found that many of these disasters were witnessed by people and their stories were memorized and handed on for thousands of years. Patrick says it’s now recognized by science that many of the stories once thought of as ‘folk memories’ were actually eyewitness accounts, based on observations of a geological phenomenon. Aboriginal people recorded the rise in sea levels that resulted in the drowning of the Australian coastline, at the end of the last Ice Age. Patrick says the evidence for the factual basis of these events was always there in the stories but, until now, nobody was listening.

I believe we need to integrate aspects of indigenous education into 21st Century Education in order to prepare children with the skills they need for humanity to flourish.

What are your thoughts?

with warmest wishes,

Jane Hanckel


About Jane Hanckel

I help educators and parents discover innovative ways for children to thrive for humanity to flourish. Through our seminars, workshops and our innovative early childhood education programs I inspire new possibilities for us to be the change we wish to see in the world.

Send me an email to find out more about our seminars, workshops and how to help children reach their full potential.

I’m also an artist, community singer, and author of Growing Greener Children & creator, illustrator and editor of Parenting as an Art, part of our Eco Parenting Series of books.

jane (at) inspirededucation.com.au

Patrick Nunn’s book, The Edge of Memory is published by Bloomsbury

How School Diminishes Kids Creative Intelligence

Eddy, a 19 year old technology entrepreneur talks about the process of creative intelligence in action and how schooling is diminishing the children’s creative intelligence. “You can create, you can innovate…no one has ever changed the world by doing what the world has told them to do”  Eddy strongly believes that the education system diminishes creativity and confines children to a certain path towards success.

Eddy is the founder of Leangap, a summer program that helps high school students start their own companies Eddy is an aspiring technology entrepreneur and the founder of Blanc, a smart-watch company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His ideas have been featured in numerous publications and he is passionate about empowering youth to think differently. Eddy is the founder of Leangap, a summer program that helps high school students start their own companies.


#FoundationCI #education #children  #holistic  #school  #Learning  #inspiration

Sir Ken Robinson’s Next Act: You Are the System and You Can Change Education

cropped-smaller-banner-for-web1.pngKen Robinson is a tireless campaigner advocating for an education revolution.  In his latest book is for parents on how to raise capable children who thrive in school. You, Your Child and School,”

We have to recognize that education is a human system, and there are conditions under which people thrive, and conditions under which they don’t.

“Competition in itself is not a toxic dynamic. But like most things, there are good and bad versions of it.”

Ken Robinson


You, Your Child and School Ken Robinson