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Balancing Between Rewards and Too Many Toys


Parents and other family members are typically eager to recognize and reward kids for their achievements and successes. This inclination towards positive reinforcement can do wonders for a child’s self-esteem and overall perception of themselves. However, rewards in the form of new or more toys can quickly throw things off-balance for you and your child.

Can Kids Have Too Many Toys?

 A large part of a healthy and productive childhood involves playing with toys. This is especially true when it comes to toys that foster creativity, imagination, cooperation, and learning. However, there are situations in which kids can have too many toys to play with, and this can be counterproductive to the benefits of playtime.

There isn’t a specific number of toys that indicates “too many.” Instead, this is often dependent on a child’s age, personality, developmental abilities, presence of siblings, and other individual factors. Parents can, however, watch for signs that their kids have more toys to play with than they can handle.

Here are some of the indicators and effects of having too many toys:

  • Kids of all ages can become overwhelmed in terms of choice if they have too many options for playing. This can lead to frustration and less productive playtime if they have too many toys.
  • Just like any item, the more people have of something, the less they tend to value it. When kids have too many toys, they tend to feel less appreciation for them individually.
  • Too many toys can undermine the chance for children to develop their imaginations and natural curiosity.
  • Kids who frequently and regularly get new toys tend to expect to receive them even more often. This can begin a cycle of impatience and entitlement, with the expectation of automatically receiving the most current and/or upgraded toys.

If your child has trouble choosing a toy to play with, undervalues what they have, expects the latest products, or doesn’t seem to use their imagination along with toys during playtime, there is a chance that they are overwhelmed with the number of toys available to them.

Differentiating Between Rewards and Toys

One way to avoid an over-abundance of toys for your child is to differentiate between rewards and toys. Parents and other family members may decide to reward certain behaviors and/or milestones achieved by their child with a new toy. For example, kids are often rewarded with a toy if they try new foods, use the toilet, lose a tooth, or even for “good” behavior during an outing.

Unfortunately, using toys as rewards results in rapidly diminishing returns. With each new achievement or milestone, kids will expect greater rewards, and this means bigger and/or more expensive toys. In addition, the message of rewarding a child with a toy for something they are expected to do, within reason, can be very confusing. A similar situation might be if parents received a prize every time they stopped for a red light.

Ultimately, children don’t need material items to feel rewarded or reminded that they are special and loved. In fact, kids thrive when they see that their family members are genuinely proud of them, and they appreciate expressions of love that don’t come in the form of a bought toy that may soon be discarded or forgotten.

Here are some ways to reward your child without resorting to new toys:

  • Tell them directly and specifically why you are proud of them
  • Give them a hug or high-five
  • Make a progress or milestone chart and give them stickers to indicate successful achievements
  • Let them choose a favorite game or family activity to celebrate

Rewards are meant to be incentives, indications of appreciation, and/or acknowledgements of achievements. New or additional toys don’t adequately reflect or meet the purpose of rewards when it comes to children.

Finding a Balance

Parents and other adults buy toys for the children in their lives for many reasons. Of course, toys make excellent gifts for holidays, birthdays, and other celebrations. However, adults may buy a child a toy for more personal or complex reasons such as nostalgia for their own childhood, a tangible symbol to represent their love for the child, or even as a substitute for their time or attention. Though none of these actions indicate bad intentions, overbuying toys can set a negative precedent in terms of what children expect from adults as well as confusion about the meaning of gift-giving.

Therefore, it’s important to find a balance between giving a child a reward and giving them gifts in the form of toys. Here are some suggestions:

  • If you are considering rewarding your child with a toy, take a moment to think about your reasoning for doing so and whether a toy is a productive choice.
  • If you have friends or family members that give toys as rewards, consider involving them instead with an experience that allows them to spend meaningful time with your child. A day at the park with grandparents can be much more memorable than another toy among many.
  • If your child truly wants a particular toy, consider allowing them to “earn” rewards before they receive it. This can foster a sense of pride as well as patience and meaningful commitment.
  • If your child receives more toys than you feel is healthy for their playtime, consider setting up a “one in, one out” system. For each new toy, perhaps they can choose an existing toy to donate to someone less fortunate. This enhances their spirit of generosity and appreciation.

One of the best ways to reward your children is to spend time together learning and having fun as a family. At Cognisprings, we support parents looking for educational toys that encourage family participation, making memories, and exploration of a child’s surroundings as well as independent and imaginative play. That’s why we provide games, books, and puzzles that are thoughtfully designed and unique to enhance children’s critical thinking, creativity, and curiosity. Our products also allow children and their families to share rewarding experiences, connect and learn with each other, and create lasting memories by prioritizing excellent options for screen-free fun, healthy cognitive development, creativity, and expression.