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The truth about toys that have "too many pieces"


I am a parent too.  I understand the frustrations that come with having a lot of toys around the house that have "too many pieces."

I am also a toy store manager that believes in the importance of toys that have "too many pieces."

This past holiday season the most common remark I heard from customers had to do with this issue.  Grandparents claimed their children would disown them if they gave their grandchildren a gift with multiple pieces and parents would quickly walk right by the boxes of building toys, puzzles, and games saying that they didn't want to deal with the mess such toys create.  I understand the concern but I am also worried that if we continue this trend, we might be depriving our children of a type of play that is crucial for their development while also missing out on opportunities to see a side of them that iPads, tablets, and toys that are already put together and serve more as entertainment don't inspire as easily.

Here are my thoughts about the good that comes from letting our kids play with multi-piece toys:
  • They are crucial in helping children develop fine motor skills.  Grasping, lifting, fitting pieces together, turning, screwing...all of these are touched on when playing with other toys or with pieces of technology but I don't believe it's to the same extent.  Our children get much less physical opportunities to move these days - I believe that any amount of movement, even if it's on a smaller scale, is beneficial.
  • Watching children play with toys that have small pieces can give you a glimpse into their minds and can reveal some of their talents and gifts that you might not see otherwise.  Maybe they'll latch onto a building toy that is very engineering or physics oriented and you'll find yourself amazed by their ingenuity.  Or maybe they'll put on a rock show with their Playmobil figures that will blow your socks off.  Maybe they'll combine play foods in a way that could eventually get them onto the British Bake Off?  Who knows?  
  • Seeing what they can create using small pieces, creativity, and ingenuity can give kids such a priceless sense of pride.  I think it's important to give them opportunities to feel this way whenever we can.  I have been so tickled and impressed to see children in the store combining different toys to create a whole new world.  In the photo below you'll see that my daughter combined Keva building planks with frogs from Think Fun's "Hoppers" game and then proceeded to have the frogs interact with one another within her newly built Greek-style temple.  Why not, right?  And she is obviously very proud of what she did since the first thing she does when she walks in the store after getting done with school is to check and see if anything has fallen over and needs to be rebuilt.  
    Keva planks + frogs = a froggy Greek temple?!?
Kids generally spend a lot of time in school learning how to follow directions to the letter.  Play is a time for them to think outside the box.  Toys with small pieces open up so many different play opportunities.  It gives them the freedom to come up with their own worlds without worrying about if it's the correct way to play.  I encourage parents and caregivers to be brave and let the too-many-piece toys into your house.  There will come an end to the days of stepping on little pieces on the ground and pulling your hair out in frustration, I promise!

Stay tuned for my next post which will have some thoughts about dealing with all those little pieces so they don't drive you crazy.