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Toddlers Won't Play with Toys, Here are the 10 Reasons Why!

9 minute read

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How many times have you seen your toddler throw toys instead of playing with them? Or how many times have you observed your child more interested in the toy box rather than the toy itself? 

Believe it or not, many parents experience the same predicament. But, what hurts most (our feelings and our budget) is that we still hear our kids complain and say:

"I wish I had more toys!"

No matter how fantastic the latest toy we got them is, kids do have a way of losing interest in them — fast! 

So what seems to be the problem?

I've scoured the world [wide web] to find out why toddlers won't play with toys, and we found ten valid reasons from experts and parents alike! Here they are: 


You might also like: What Are Open-ended Toys and Why Are They Important?


10 Reasons Why a Child Doesn't Play with Toys

Toddlers Won't Play with Toys, Here are the 10 Reasons Why!

1. Is the toy the 'end' or a 'means to an end'?


One question I always ask before I give a toy to my child is, "would this be an 'end' or a 'means to an end?' 

In other words, is the toy the primary source of amusement, or is the toy a tool that kids can use to create their own fun?

This question is crucial because most toddlers dislike toys that do all the work. No matter how eye-catching the lights are in that auto-moving action figure, if it can function without your child's participation, it would cease being enjoyable if your kid discovered all its features. 

A means to an end kind of toy actively needs your child's involvement. It won't function alone unless your child plays with it. These toys are much more enjoyable for kids in the long run!

Some examples of this toy are portable kids' microscopes, wooden building blocks, or magnetic tiles


2. The toy must have lost its value


Unless a toy keeps your child on their feet through critical thinking, imagination, and problem-solving, it's bound to lose value. A toy that encourages independent learning rarely loses value.

Some toys are only good as long as there are functionalities that children discover or explore. But once all projects inside that, say, toy kit is consummated, there are no more reasons to keep the toy around, let alone use it to keep your child entertained.

A few examples of this kind of toy are those STEM or craft kits that contain limited projects. They are enjoyable and engaging while they last, but they lose their value as soon your child goes through them all.

That's why companies sell expansion packs!


3. Are the toys age-appropriate?


You might overlook the apparent reason that your child does not yet meet the cognitive and developmental level the toy requires. Indeed, toddlers won't play with toys they couldn't understand.

Give your toddler a Rubik's cube, and they'd assume it's a colorful throwing device rather than a fun, mind-boggling puzzle. Trust me. My toddler threw everything when he was a kid!

Look for the label written on the box or read the toy's description online. Stores indicate the appropriate kids' age that should use their products. Otherwise, steer clear from them if you don't want to be the target of your kid's throwing sessions!


4. Overwhelming choices


Can too many toys cause problems? Yes.

One simple reason why toddlers won't play with toys may simply be because they're overwhelmed. So, if there are too many selections available, your child might take some time before they can choose one to start with.

Moreover, when toys are abundant, your kid might latch on to some and ignore the others. This scenario is a gentle reminder that "quality is always better than quantity." 

So how many toys should a child have? That depends. 

Just make sure to prioritize open-ended and engaging toys rather than those single-serving-use ones.


5. Is there enough room to play?


Another non-apparent cause might be the playroom. For instance, if mobility is limited, especially when your kid wants to play with a huge toy they anticipated to occupy much space, then the area may cause their reluctance to play.

Consider taking the toys out into a new room. If your toddler decides to play after transferring them into an open space, then it's safe to deduce that the old playroom is the culprit.


6. Are the kids dependent on others to play with them?


All parents are taught to be hands-on in raising their children. Therefore, sometimes, we incessantly check up on them and involve ourselves in all their affairs, no matter how simple. 

The intention is good, but I'm afraid I disagree with the process.

Kids might develop a natural dependence on parents on everything, including play if you don't give them time to enjoy their own company. Play is supposed to be their thing. They take the lead, and you are an assistant only when they need help.

Otherwise, your kid won't enjoy without you, or their friends, or any relatives playing with them. 

If you're stuck in this situation, try slowly separating yourself in their playing sessions until your input is no longer necessary. Doing this will help them feel self-confident even when they play independently.

Plus you can keep your toddler busy for hours as you go about your other tasks for the day!


7. The child is getting older


Children grow incredibly fast. Their physical and cognitive development experiences rapid growth, especially during their early years. 

That said, it's only natural for your child to outgrow some of their toys. For example, you won't expect a 5-year-old to enjoy ring-stacking toys as much as they did when they were still babies.

Toys that challenge them mentally or pique their curiosity may remain on the roster. Otherwise, they would stop playing with them. 

Outgrowing toys is a natural tendency of children. But if the toys are still developmentally appropriate for their age and your child is still reluctant to play with them, then the other reasons listed here might be the cause.


8. The toddler is just having an off day


How many times have you felt lazy to do anything on some occasions? Probably more than you can count.

Remember that children are human too! Sometimes we forget that toddlers also have their likes, dislikes, preferences, and moods. 

That said, they might be less interested than usual in toys now, depending on how they feel. So this is not a cause for worry. It's a natural human thing.

Although it's a different story if your child goes on a streak of disinterest for weeks at a time, consider checking the other reasons in this list on which apply to them.

When my kid went on a toy-dislike phase, I tried re-introducing various toys to him weekly. I did this to see which piqued his interest the most, and I found out that STEM toys caught his attention best.


9. The toys are not engaging enough


Every toy seems engaging to a toddler when they first get a hold of it. But this level of intrigue fades away when it doesn't need your child's help when playing. Toys that do all the work are the first to lose their value in a child's eye. 

Try to buy open-ended toys that demand your children's participation when playing in this situation. The more kids feel needed (even by their toys), the more engaged they remain.

On the other hand, your child may lose interest in a toy if it sits for too long in the playroom. That explains why other kids may take an interest in your child's toy, and your child takes an interest in other kids' toys. 

They are simply too familiar with what's theirs that they want to try new playthings. 

So what's the solution? Buy more toys! Just kidding, although that's what this consumerist society might want you to do.

The secret here is to rekindle the interest via toy rotation. Try hiding some toys and re-introduce them after a week or so. Then, you'll once again witness the sparkle in your child's eyes!


10. The presentation is uninviting


Do you know why museums are irresistible, no matter how many times you've visited? Because curators do their best to exhibit the artifacts as artistically as possible.

Applying the principle of museums is one parenting hack I've learned through the years of being a parent!

So, if you want to make your child's toys irresistible, be that playroom curator! Master the art of strewing (or scattering their toys on a surface), and make sure to leave their toy room as eye-catchy as you can! 

I doubt your toddler won't play with toys when they see how inviting you made their playroom be. Of course, if this doesn't work, then it really must be their toys, but props for the effort!


The Secret to Endless Fun

Children playing with open-ended STEM toys

We've mentioned this a couple of times above, but the best kind of toys are those that require your child's involvement when playing. These are called open-ended toys.

The remarkable thing about this kind of toy is that it taps into children's natural curiosity and inquisitiveness. As a result, your child remains in control of the toy rather than the toy dictating your child's actions.

Some of the best examples of open-ended toys are STEM toys that effectively engage your child's senses. Essentially children learn as they play, and they take the lead throughout the playing session.


Rekindle Your Child's Love for Toys!

Child playing with the STEMscope Kids Microscope

There are many reasons why a toddler won't play with toys. Some are due to your kid's preferences and interests, others deal with the presentation. But we can never rule out the possibility that the toys themselves are to blame for your child's disinterest.

If you're looking for open-ended educational toys to get your child engaged and learning simultaneously, we have an excellent recommendation. The STEMscope kids' microscope is a great place to start in getting your child acquainted with STEM while re-claiming their control over how kids should play with toys!

Our 90-Day Science Kid Guarantee means you don't have to worry because if our product doesn't engage your child, you can return it within 90 days for a full refund! 

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