There is a growing movement that advocates for the use of more simple, basic toys in a child’s play. The argument suggests that simple toys help to stimulate a child’s imagination more effectively than more modern, themed or complex toys do. An active imagination is something that every child should have and so we should always look to foster that imagination where possible. With that in mind, should we be encouraging our children to play with simpler toys?
While supporters of simple toys argue that, by definition, their simplicity demands a more imaginative style of play, it is important to note that a child’s imagination is not always at the same level of capabilities. For example, a very child can use their imagination, but to do so they will require more accurate, physical props to help stimulate their minds. In the absence of these props, they can lack the mental creativity to believe in and subsequently engage with their imagined world.
This would suggest that while simpler toys have a big role to play in stimulating our children’s imaginations, it is important that very young children are provided with the tools in order to cultivate that imagination from a young age. Older children are more capable of taking a simple toy and using their imagination to create something far more exciting and engaging for play time.
However, there is one major oversight that many people tend to overlook when considering this argument, and that is the number of toys available to a child. Consider a child who has extremely modern and complex toys. These toys are expensive, and as such parents that can afford them can also afford to buy more toys than is needed. As such, children with more complex toys tend to have a greater range of toys available to play with.
This is a crucial factor. Often, the stimulus to engage in imaginative play is not the simplicity of the toy to hand, but rather the scarcity of toys that are available to a child. If a child has a toy room full of toys, it won’t matter whether they are simple or complex. The child’s attention will ultimately be attracted by a different toy, and the need for imaginative play is lost. This, more than any other factor, is one of the biggest hurdles that we must overcome. Our children do need access to every single toy that they want. A smaller selection of toys, simple or complex, will encourage children to use their imaginations and be creative in their play.