The 13 Best Minimalist Toys Every Child Should Have and Why

By Paula McLaren •  Updated: 09/24/21 •  12 min read

If you’ve joined the thousands of households who run a minimalist lifestyle then you know the benefits you’re getting. Calmer spaces, less clutter, more love for fewer things and a smaller household running bill.

And contrary to popular belief, the benefits of minimalism also stretch to raising our children and offering them amazing play opportunities!

Because here’s the truth…

Being minimalist DOES NOT MEAN limiting your little one’s playtime or opportunities to develop and grow.

In fact… it’s the complete opposite…

But before you head out to buy the ‘latest and greatest’ minimalist toys, you may want to learn a little about which toys are best for your child, what they do, and what type your family requires.

Minimal toys or minimalist toys?

MINIMAL toys mean you have fewer toys…

MINIMALIST toys mean you have toys that are minimal in design but offer endless opportunities to learn…

Minimal toys and minimalist toys go hand in hand offer developmental opportunities without the clutter, breaking the bank or offering one-time entertainment.

Because the truth of the matter is… 

Children need far fewer toys than we think and in fact, there are many developmental benefits to having fewer toys! (I will take about the 8 magical benefits of raising a child with minimal toys later on, so keep reading to discover those!)

The Only 13 Minimalist Toys You Actually Need

For many, minimalism is a way of life that is practised across the board. 

BUT even if living minimally is not your chosen style or belief, having less is DEFINITELY more when it comes to your children’s toys.

Firstly, knowing the essential types of toys your child needs at each age is the best place to start.

It will also benefit your child if you implement toy rotation to ensure that your little one is not exposed to lots of unnecessary play options which can dilute how effective and beneficial specific toys can be.

Here is a list of basic toy categories that I believe is all that your little one needs to thrive!

REMEMBER: Having minimalist toys is about keeping things simple and not having too many of one type of toy. This will also help you to not feel overwhelmed by that dreaded toy clutter!

1. Plush or Stuffed Toys

Stuffed toys are always lovely for young children to play with. They are tactile and offer children comfort and plenty of opportunities to engage in imaginative play. 

However, it is very easy to let the soft toy department get out of hand so I would say that two or three stuffed animals and a favourite doll are more than enough.

2. Blocks

Blocks are an absolute staple minimalist toy and come in various forms. They are excellent for developing your little one’s fine motor, cognitive and imaginative skills. 

If you only have one set of blocks, they should be wooden, in various shapes, sizes and colours and be kept in a wooden walker to help baby learn to walk too.

The downside of blocks is that they can easily get messy, so use boxes and a designated area to keep the mess contained as best you can!

Top Tip: You don’t need a huge number of different types of blocks for your little one to play with and you should try and only use one set of blocks at a time.

3. Push and pull toys

Wooden push and pull toys are ideal minimalist toys and have a very long play life (essentially how long your little one will continue to play with them as they grow up). 

Aim to have one that can be pulled along with a string and a couple of others with wheels that can be pushed. Including two or three of these types of toys in your minimalist toy collection will help your child’s fine and gross motor development from very early on and they will remain popular toys for years to come.

4. Figurines

Figurines are great for role play and imaginative play!

Have a solid set of wooden miniature people and another set of animal miniatures to help your child about different creatures, relationships and encourage their imaginations! (are you noticing a wooden theme yet…?)

5. Dress Up

Having a dressing up box is a wonderful idea for toddlers and preschoolers but you need to keep it under control with regular clearouts to stop things from getting out of control. 

You don’t need to spend lots of money on specially made dressing up clothes… some hats, scarves and old tops of various sizes and colours are enough to spark your children’s imagination.

Top Tip: If your dressing up box needs refreshing, second-hand charity shops and car boot sales are the perfect places to find a few ‘new’ pieces.

6. Puzzles and Shape Sorters

Puzzles and shape sorters are another group of minimalist toys that are very important to your little one’s development but remember, you don’t need many to get the full benefits of this play!

One good shape sorter is fine and two to three age-appropriate puzzles are more than enough. 

As your little one progresses, it is best to upgrade the puzzles, put away or donate old puzzles and only keep the ones that are age-appropriate.

Top Tip: I would also consider including an activity cube or table if you have the space too.

7. Books

You can NEVER be minimal with books. The only restriction will be the amount of space you have!

Having a variety of books will only enrich your child’s development and reading together is a wonderful way to bond with your little one.

There are endless morals, skills and stories to be learnt by reading books and I will NEVER suggest that you restrict this development opportunity for your little one.

To keep books within the minimalist principle make sure you have adequate storage such as a good bookcase and teach your children to respect and take care of books, ensuring they learn to put them away after they have been read.

For a full list of my favourite books for kids, check out my Books page in the Parenting Toolbox for a comprehensive rundown!

8. Art and Craft Supplies

Art and craft supplies are another essential for your little one’s playbox.

It is helpful to have a drawer or cupboard where you keep the craft supplies in one place but just like books, encourage your child to care for the supplies when they’re using them.

To keep art and craft supplies minimalist, I would avoid gimmicky craft supplies such as pipe cleaners, googly eyes, glitter etc and stick to versatile items such as:

These craft items are more than enough to let your little one’s imagination run wild, create masterpieces and have an amazing time whilst doing so!

9. Musical Instruments

Musical instruments provide great entertainment and plenty of creative and developmental opportunities. A drum, tambourine, simple keyboard and a couple of shakers are all the minimalist toys that you need to have musical fun. 

10. Balls

Having a small selection of balls is also an important part of your minimalist toys collection. A fabric ball, one that can be held easily and one that can be kicked outside are more than enough to provide endless play opportunities.

11. Bath toys

When it comes to bath toys you do NOT need toys specifically designed for playing in the bath.

Plastic containers and kitchen items such as colanders, sieves and a plastic jug make AMAZING bathtime toys. 

If you do decide to have a set of toys just for bath time, then do not have too many and keep them in a suitable container so they don’t end up all over the bathroom!

12. Ride-on toys

Keeping your outside toys minimalist is also important. In addition to playing with balls outside, having one solid ride-on toy is a fantastic idea! Your little one will learn to develop their gross motor skills and balance from this toy too.

Top Tip: Apart from a ball and a ride-on toy, your little one needs very little else to play with outside. Encourage them to help in the garden, run, climb and play hide and seek instead.

13. Sand and water play equipment

They are by no means essential, but if you have the space, then sand and water play equipment are a lovely addition to your minimalist toy collection.

Water play can be as simple as having a bowl, some bubbles, a few containers and pourers and your child will have the best time! 

As for sand play, if you don’t have a sandpit, then just give your little one a miniature gardening set or a bucket and spade and let them help you in the garden.

Printable Minimalist Toys Checklist

Here’s a handy printout checklist to ensure you have everything you need and nothing you don’t when it comes to creating the perfect minimal playroom for your little one!

Minimalist Toys Printable

Top 10 Minimalist Toys Tips

Here are my top minimalist toys tips to help create the perfect minimalist playroom:

REMEMBER: Creating a playroom full of minimal, minimalist toys does not need to be complicated. Find a few simple, adaptive and long lasting toys and you’ll be good to go!

The 8 magical benefits of having a minimalist toy collection for your little one

Having fewer toys benefits your child’s development in many important ways. Children who are not overwhelmed by having too many toys have:

1. Better social skills

It has been proven that children with fewer toys develop better social skills and relationships with others. Not constantly hopping from one toy to another with constant stimulation means they have time to notice others and interact with them.

2. Are more creative

As with developing better social skills, children with more space in their lives (i.e ones with less full-time entertainment)have time to explore their creativity.

3. Can concentrate for longer

If children have to spend more time with an activity or one toy they will gradually learn to concentrate and persevere with what they are doing rather than quickly moving on to a new toy or activity.

4. Learn to care for their toys better

If your child has fewer minimalist toys, they will learn to appreciate what they have and care for it better as they will know that there is not always a replacement at hand.

5. Play outside more and enjoy nature

Children with fewer toys also tend to be more motivated to play outside and connect with nature.

6. Are better at problem-solving

Fewer toys mean that children have to become more resourceful and solve problems rather than give up on what they are doing and move on to something else.

7. Share more

Children who have too much and feel that they can have whatever they want, whenever they want, are naturally more selfish and possessive. 

Therefore, children who have less are more appreciative of what they have and are more ready to share.

8. Are less materialistic and value what they have 

If you have less, you value it more. This is a wonderful mantra to nurture in your children as it will teach them the value of their possessions. 

The fewer toys your children have, the better care they will take of them.

Minimalist Toys Recap

Having minimalist toys will be an asset to your family.

By owning a few beautiful, versatile and long-lasting toys, you are offering your children the opportunities to truly appreciate these toys, recognise their own abilities to be resourceful, keep your home tidier and above all, provide your kids with high-quality learning opportunities to develop within.

Remember, having minimal, minimalist toys does NOT mean you are reducing your child’s developmental opportunities… 

If anything, you’re enriching them.

I hope you have enjoyed today’s post about minimalist toys and if you enjoyed this content, feel free to share it around for others to read!

If you have any further questions about minimalist toys and their impact on development, be sure to drop me an email at [email protected] and ask away! I would love to help.

As always, thank you for reading. And until next time, with love and support, Happy Parenting!

Paula McLaren

Paul Mclaren - Norland Nurse NNEB RSH is the founder of Teething to Tantrums and has been in the child care industry as a Norland Nanny since 1982. Since then, her mission has been to help parents become the best they can possibly be. And each year, she continues to help more families understand their child's development, the trials and joys of parenting and of course, how to care for their little ones.

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