Too many toys may affect attention?! 

How many toys does your child own?

Do they switch quickly between them?

Do they seem not very motivated by these toys?

Do they seem to have a short attention span?


Focused attention by definition means the ability for the child to actively engage in a task and ignore irrelevant objects and events that surrounds them (Fisher, Godwin & Seltman, 2014). When they are playing with a toy truck, the sound of the clock, other people talking, background television noise and even sight of other toys can sidetrack them. So the environment set-up is extremely important at a young age.

Research by Dauch and colleagues (2018) have shown that fewer toys had led to higher quality toy play. When children were only given 4 toys, they played LONGER and more FOCUSED on the single toy, more CREATIVE by exploring and experimenting with different ways to play (e.g. making noises, stacking) and more sophisticated play emerged (e.g. pretend play). When the children were given 16 toys, the children switched frequently and quickly between the toys and toy exploration was very superficial.

Toddler with Toys

In light of this research and with our observation of our children's play time, we can REARRANGE our environment by RE-ORGANISING the toy area to increase their attention, play and motivation in 6 easy steps.

Limit toys


Have only 4 to 8 toys available in the play area at ANY ONE TIME.


Have variety of toys to promote different types of toy play: educational toys (puzzles, books) , pretend play toys (figurines, costumes), action-toys (blocks, legos), manipulatives (cars, toys with buttons etc).




Observe which toys your child spends longer time playing or shows interest in (smiles, looking relaxed).

Put half of these preferred toys on a shelf/in a box, so they can still SEE it and out of reach.

This can promote language skills and teach requesting for toy “I want to play with ____”, ‘Can you help me?”



Half of the preferred toys can stay in the bottom shelves that the child can get and play at any time they want.

Incomplete Giraffe Puzzle


Make some unpreferred toys freely accessible in the bottom shelf to give them opportunity to play with it.


Switch & Repeat


Switch the top shelf toys with the bottom shelf toys every three to four days. This is enough time for children to play exploratively and yet keep the interest for the toys!


Dauch, C., Imwalle, M., Ocasio, B., & Metz, A. E. (2018). The influence of the number of toys in the environment on toddlers’ play. Infant Behavior and Development, 50, 78-87.

Fisher, A. V., Godwin, K. E., & Seltman, H. (2014). Visual environment, attention allocation, and learning in young children: When too much of a good thing may be bad. Psychological science, 25(7), 1362-1370.

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