There are days when I walk into my living room, and I’m simply overwhelmed by the number of toys strewn around the room. I have 2 kids, a boy and a girl, and the sheer number of play things they own is astounding.

But how many toys should a child have? Is there a magic number? Is too few depriving them. Is too many spoiling them?

These are factors that we as parents must consider. While there’s not black-and-white answer to the question of how many toys should a child have, there is good guidance out there to be followed. I’ve pulled together some ideas from different resources. Check them out below.


Know This First: It’s Never Enough

It’s important to realize that it’s never “enough.” That goes for adults just as it goes for children. I’ll never have enough clothing for the perfect wardrobe. I’ll never have enough photos of my family on the walls. I’ll never have enough money to buy and decorate the perfect home for my family. If I had a million dollars, I’d think of something more that it wouldn’t buy.

The same goes for children.

Our kids will never have enough toys. I’m reminded of a time on vacation when I let my son get a fire engine at the toy store. From then on, in every store we went to, he wanted something else. It was never enough. There’s power in saying “no” and making getting a toy a special occasion for your kids.


Toys Coming From All Directions

Here’s one of the big problems: If you have a group of family and friends big enough, the toys come at you from all directions. There’s stuff that turns up when grandparents and family friends come to visit. There are things they get at birthdays and at the holidays. And then there are the little things that are grabbed just to appease them during trips to Target or the grocery store.

These toys add up after a while. Because they’re always coming in and they are rarely going out. That’s not a good thing. You’ll eventually be overrun.


Depriving Your Children of Creative Time

The worst part about this deluge of toys is that it deprives our children of the opportunity to be creative. Store-bought toys prevent us from creating our own toys out of sticks and newspaper and other items found around the house, both indoors and out. And time spent playing with store-bought toys is time that kids are not spending playing make-believe and inventing worlds on their own.

Here’s a good rule of thumb when it comes to encouraging children to play creatively and to invent their own games and toys. Give them just enough that store-bought toys can play a supporting role in their games rather than a starring role.


Give Your Kids 4 Toys at the Holidays

I heard a holiday gift-giving rule once that I love, and it’s one that I try to follow. This rule suggest giving your kids 4 things: something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read.

It makes perfect sense. And, in the absence of a better formula, it’s a great way to moderate toys during the consumer season. Give your child or children the one things they’ve been dreaming of, give them something they need but wouldn’t think to ask for, give them a nice article of clothing, and then pick them out a good book. You can’t go wrong with this approach.


Focus on Education and Passion

When in doubt, focus your gift giving on one of two things: 1) Things your children are truly passionate about, and 2) Things that will help your children learn.

My son has gone through many phases. He has loved trucks, and then he set aside trucks for dinosaurs. Then he cast away dinosaurs in exchange for trains. And now he’s finally getting into the Lego period. These are things he is passionate about, for lack of a better term.

My daughter is the same way. She’s been into baby dolls, and now she’s really into purses — just carrying things around on her arm. At this age, she’s about as passionate about those things as she can be.

This is where I focus my “what they want” gift giving. And then there are educational toys, things that help them learn to read and count, and things that help them test, discover and create. There’s truly no cap on these things at our house.


Taking Care of the Mess

So, how many toys should a child have? There’s no hard and fast rule. There are the guidelines above, and then there’s my ultimate guideline: All the toys need to have a happy home. That is, they need to be able to be put away. When there’s not a spot for a certain toy or many toys to be put away, it’s time to make a run to Goodwill or the Salvation Army.

This is a good thing, though. Help your kids choose what they want to give up, and make sure you’re emphasizing this as generosity and sacrifice. When you donate toys, they find new and happy homes, as well as new owners who appreciate them. Better yet, get involved with a local program that always needs toys — maybe a foster care program or a child’s ministry. Having too many toys is a good opportunity to introduce your child to the concept of giving to and serving others.

Do you have a better rule for how many toys a child should have? If so, let us know in the comments section — or, you can get in touch directly through our contact page.