Do you often see toys you would like to get your child, add to cart, and then pause, thinking — don’t they have too many already? They don’t even play with the toys they have!
If you can relate, you are not alone. A UK-based survey showed that most children get bored of a toy in about a month. As you buy them new toys, the playroom gets cluttered and things get harder to find. This leads to your child getting distracted, frustrated, and losing interest in a toy even more quickly. Boredom and buying new toys becomes a vicious cycle.
But this neither means that your child dislikes their toys or that they’ve outgrown all of them. This can be the result of something rather simple — habituation.
What is habituation?
Habituation is a decreased response to stimulus after repeatedly being exposed to it. When a child gets habituated with a toy, they will want to move on because it no longer surprises or excites them the way it used to.
When you walk into a restaurant, you will notice all the sounds and people around you for a minute or two. But once you settle in, you will tune out the noise and focus on your food and the company you are in. This is habituation.
Habituation is a decreased response to stimulus after repeatedly being exposed to it. When a child gets habituated with a toy, they will want to move on because it no longer surprises or excites them the way it used to. This can happen within a few hours, weeks, or a month.
Does that mean you need to keep throwing out old toys every month and getting new ones? Of course not!
Your child can play with a toy for years if you are able to keep them interested in it. Let's look at some ways you can do this.
How do I keep my child interested in a toy?
1. Buy open-ended toys - Many toys in the market come with certain expected ways to play and fixed outcomes. Such toys can quickly become boring once your child masters how to play them. This is why we at shumee believe that play is 90% child and 10% toy. If you give your child an open-ended toy that has multiple ways to play and minimal instructions, they have to actively engage themselves to find new ways to play with it. This will keep them interested for longer.
2. Introduce new ways to play - If your child is habituated with their toys, they won’t find them mentally stimulating. You can tackle this using dishabituation. Add a small change and reintroduce the toy to them. For instance, if there’s a story you always read to them that they are bored of, next time, try it with puppets and funny voices. Another time, do a role play where you and your little one take parts.
Our toys easily offer multiple ways to play with them. For instance, you could play a game of chess with this unique set or use the individual pirates and royals pieces to pretend play. You can play a board game with this Thirsty Crow set or use the crows to tell stories and make up other games!
3. Swap 'em out - If you have close friends or family who have children of similar ages, you can swap a box of toys with them every once in a while. This will help you avoid throwing toys away and reduce the toys you buy. Your child could still play with the toys when they visit these homes!
4. Introduce toy rotation - One of the most effective and popular ways to keep your child interested in their playroom is to rotate their toys. Here is how rotation works: keep only a few toys out at any given point and store the rest away. Change the toys that are out every once in a while. Read on to know the benefits of toy rotation and how you can go about it.
Benefits of toy rotation
1. Increases focus - If your child only has access to, say, a dozen toys at a time, they will play with each toy for much longer. This increases their ability to concentrate and focus for longer periods of time.
2. Gain more from fewer toys - Open-ended toys are designed to offer multiple benefits for children, but it will take your child time to gain everything they can from a toy. The more they play with such toys, the more ways they will find to play with it. This will help them gain the full range of a toy’s benefit.
3. Less clutter around home - A room filled with toys is not only hard to play in and clean up, it will be overwhelming for your child. Less toys will offer them a clean and organized space to enjoy their playtime. A clean playroom will also be less frustrating for you to walk into!
4. Builds appreciation - When your child gets a toy that they have not seen in a while, they will be excited to play with it and able to appreciate it more!
How do I rotate toys?
1. Take stock of all your child’s toys
The first step to prepare for toy rotation is to go through each toy in your child’s playroom. Organize the toys into categories, make note of any broken toys, favourites, or ones that your child may not be ready for yet. If your child is a toddler or older, make sure you include them in the process and tell them what you are doing. Children are highly perceptive and will surely notice and throw a tantrum if their toys vanish overnight!
2. Create toss and donate piles
Throw away toys that are broken or completely worn out. If there are toys that your child has outgrown or that they have more than one of, put them into a box. You can donate this box or swap toy boxes with friends.
3. Separate toys into groups
It’s good to have about 10-15 toys out at a time. If you have more than one child, you can have a slightly higher number. Keep different types of toys out so that there is something for every mood. For a toddler, a few pretend play sets, a couple of puzzles and blocks, and a few books would be a good start. If there are any large toys or evergreen favorites, consider leaving them out at all times. Store the rest away in a cabinet or some space where your child cannot reach.
4. Plan a rotation schedule
How often you rotate the toys is entirely up to you. You can change the toys every couple of weeks, once a month, or once in two months. Remember, what’s important is that you give your child the time to play with and fully enjoy each toy that they have.
5. Display toys prominently
Rotating toys is a great start but it’s equally important for your child to have easy access to the toys that are out! Make sure that the toys are clearly displayed on bottom shelves and other spaces within their reach. This will nudge them to constantly reach out and explore!
If your child is still bored...
If your child is clinging to you and following you around or they still complain of being bored, there are a few ways to tackle this!
Consider whether they need a little help to enjoy their toys. Show them how to play with the toys they have and how much fun they can be.
Storyteller and theatre artist Vikram Sridhar also talks about how boredom is a great space for imagination. Sometimes, it is perfectly fine to let your child be bored so that they can tap into their incredible imaginations and find ways to keep themselves entertained!