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The Problem with Too Many Toys

Did you know we weren't always a Montessori family? Some of you might if you have been reading long enough or if you dig around long enough in the archives. But, it's true. When Henry was born I didn't even know Montessori existed beyond being that "weird little preschool in that one church basement." We collected every mainstream baby toy, contraption, distraction, and junk known to man. We had it all. And, it was awful. People who are new to Montessori may wonder, what exactly is the problem with too many toys?

What is the problem with too many toys? From a Montessori perspective too many toys can interrupt a child's sense of order, create stress and is downright overwhelming. Here are some reasons it's a problem to have too many toys.

Montessori playrooms, homes, and classrooms are just sparser than their mainstream counterparts. It's an easy difference to see and one that makes a HUGE difference to a child. But, seriously, why is having too many toys a problem in a Montessori home? 

The Problem with Too Many Toys


Well, there are a few reasons. Any number of these reasons is reason enough to take a hard look at how many toys you have out and whether it's working for your children.



Overwhelming


One, a room full of toys is overwhelming to a child, especially a baby or toddler. It can be difficult to choose anything to play with when there are so many choices. So, what value is there to the child if the child is unable to actually use it? I think many of us have experienced a child walking into a playroom, sifting around for a bit and then claiming to be bored.


"We must therefore create a favorable environment that will encourage the flowering of a child's natural gifts. All that is needed is to remove the obstacles." Maria Montessori

Before Montessori, I would see Henry do this and assume his boredom meant he didn't like what we had. So, I would buy another toy, gadget, or container. It never once occurred to me that he may just be completely overwhelmed by the choices.

What is the problem with too many toys? From a Montessori perspective too many toys can interrupt a child's sense of order, create stress and is downright overwhelming. Here are some reasons it's a problem to have too many toys.

Related to this, what fun is it to play with a puzzle, if you have to search for the pieces first? Or if the parts to the stacker are at the bottom of the toy box. It's almost physically impossible for a young child to focus on one activity if they have to gather everything from a crowded room or bin.


Order


"The little child’s need for order is one of the most powerful incentives to dominate his early life." Maria Montessori 

Next, rooms full of toys can disrupt a child's sense of order. The sensitive period for order starts at birth and continues until between age 5 to 6. It peaks somewhere between 18 months and 2.5. When we have things everywhere, children are unable to maintain the natural order they crave so much. Without this order, they can seem sort of lost.

What is the problem with too many toys? From a Montessori perspective too many toys can interrupt a child's sense of order, create stress and is downright overwhelming. Here are some reasons it's a problem to have too many toys.

When that sense of order is disrupted, so is their concentration, and independence. This sense of order produces a natural happiness for children. It helps them to orient themselves in their environment, it literally stitches together the entire environment and their own relationship within it.

Stress


Practically, it can just be a source of stress -- for both the child and the parent. How much time is spent just trying to keep the room somewhat usable? How much struggling between the parent and the child is done to maintain the area? Or, the amount of time at night I spent cleaning up after Henry went to bed.

What is the problem with too many toys? From a Montessori perspective too many toys can interrupt a child's sense of order, create stress and is downright overwhelming. Here are some reasons it's a problem to have too many toys.

Now, I'm not saying that Montessori will cure all of these issues and your kids are going to magically start cleaning everything up, but it has made a huge difference. When there is a place for everything and everything in its place, it really is so much easier for everyone to maintain that order. And so many of those struggles disappear.

Beauty


Finally, it's usually just not beautiful. I know my playroom wasn't before Montessori. It was dread. It was stuff thrown everywhere in bins, along the walls, on the floors. It would get so messy Henry couldn't walk. You couldn't find pieces, toys randomly started making noises, I got foot injuries from stepping on the junk. This is a clear issue.

"The child should live in an environment of beauty." Maria Montessori 

When toys are everywhere, it doesn't call to the child. It doesn't suck the child in. It doesn't invite the child to work. All of which is so so important for you and the child. And if it isn't beautiful, then you know it's not working.

And, the solution, is to get rid of those toys!

What is the problem with too many toys? From a Montessori perspective too many toys can interrupt a child's sense of order, create stress and is downright overwhelming. Here are some reasons it's a problem to have too many toys.

Once you recognize the problem with too many toys, how do you fix the problem? Here's how to purge your toys keeping Montessori in mind!


Comments

I love this post! Thank you so much! Very encouraging. Can I ask you what is the toy used in the last photo? The one that forms hexagons?
Anonymous said…
Also interested in where to purchase the hexagon structure?
Audrey said…
Yes yes and yes! We went on the same journey and even having decluttered in the extreme to shift overseas, I still want to get rid of more and tidy it all up. Beautiful rooms by the way xox
Nicole said…
Your rooms are certainly an inspiration! This one especially! May I ask about the toy barn on the right in the bottom image? I am searching for a well-made barn toy for my toddler. Do you have any details about the barn, so I may research it's availability? :)
Unknown said…
I am wondering where you found those white shelves! Wide base, adjustable shelves, low height - what is not to love?! 🤣
Unknown said…
Hi Nicole! Thank you for being willing to share with the rest of us! I see that you didn't start Montessori with Henry from birth. I have a 12.5 month old and only found Montessori a few months ago and have since tried to implement it. At what age did you start with Henry? Do you have any tips or advice for someone starting late? Sometimes I feel behind, especially when it comes to effectively observing my son. I am not sure what he is ready for or what toys will interest him. He is very interested in gross motor right now- fine motor activities frustrate him and he tosses things like peg work, ring stackers, etc. Any advice for effectively observing?
Unknown said…
I saw that you replied to the amazing hexagon toy inquiries with saying they're from Magic Cabin - thank you for your willingness to share!! I've been looking through their website for quite some time though trying to find it, and I can't seem to find it on there. Do you happen to remember what it was called or which section of the website it was on???? I think my girls would really love it. Thanks so much.
Unknown said…
I saw that you replied to the amazing hexagon toy inquiries with saying they're from Magic Cabin - thank you for your willingness to share!! I've been looking through their website for quite some time though trying to find it, and I can't seem to find it on there. Do you happen to remember what it was called or which section of the website it was on???? I think my girls would really love it. Thanks so much.
Abi said…
I found it by just searching "climbing." It was one of the first things that came up. :) Good luck!

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