Why is my toddler not playing with toys? Use these 7 tips

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  March 30, 2020

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It's not often you hear a parent say, "Gosh, I wish my kid had more toys."

After all, moms and dads spend a lot of their days cleaning up clutter and tripping over Lego, right?

Don't be too disappointed if he doesn't seem to know how to play with new toys himself.

And, don't fall into the trap of thinking "he shouldn't like it" when he's not playing with toys.

In this article, I want to talk to you about the possible reason your toddler isn't playing with toys and some tips on how to do something about it, from play routine to deconstruction (don't worry, I'll explain what it is in a minute).

Help my toddler not play with the toys

Why doesn't my child play with toys?

When a toddler isn't playing with toys, it usually means he doesn't know how to play.

When kids don't know how to play, we should teach them just as we should teach them everything else.

But there are quite a few parents who wonder:

Why doesn't my child play with toys?

Your child may not know where to start, how to play with the toys. Then you will have to demonstrate it yourself, or show it in a different way. It may also be that you just have too much choice of toys.

Can you have too many toys?

If you're up to your head in the toy, then you may want to take the age-old lesson of quality over quantity.

That's because the problem may not be in how many toys your child has, but whether or not they are the right ones, says Dr. Christopher Willard, author of Raising Resilience: The Wisdom and Science of Happy Families and Thriving Children.

Children, especially toddlers, naturally want to learn to master their toys, trying the challenges it presents them over and over again.

That is also why the boring repetitive game for you is so much fun for them, as I have written about before in how to play well with your toddler.

They don't need superficial relationships with as many possessions as possible.

Toy reviews & comparisons

You probably noticed early on in your child's life that kids want the same books and games over and over again.

The repetition can drive us adults crazy, but it is actually crucial to a child's cognitive development.

Willard points out onderzoeken which show that when children have too many toys, even more than five at a time, they can focus less on learning and mastering them.

You've probably also seen how creative and engaged children become when they have to come up with new toys and games out of practically nothing.

If necessity is the mother of invention, boredom may be the father.

Making your toddler more interested in toys

Let's take a look at the ways you can make your toddler more interested in toys.

Good example to follow

So ... get yourself ready, lie on the floor and play with the toy yourself.

That's what many toddlers need before they understand how toys work.

This takes some effort, but it pays off!

Playing routine

If your child still doesn't really want to play after demonstrating it yourself (with enthusiasm), you may want to tweak your play strategy.

You teach a child to complete a play routine instead of playing a little with a toy yourself.

By creating a small play routine that is short enough for them to keep their attention, they can see how something works from start to finish.

And then do it again, and again, and again, and again.

That's where they learn and maybe can hold the interest in the toy, the power of repetition.

The construction

One of the things that works best for toddlers who don't play with toys starts with a strategy I call deconstruction.

It shows how to take a toy apart instead of putting it together.

I don't mean demolition of course, but there are tons of construction toys out there (we've already had wrote this whole article about all kinds of nice construction packages) that you can also put together, and then show you how to take it apart.

This way your toddler can already see what it should look like, and then be amazed that it can come apart again into blocks, or pieces or radars.

Addressing interests

You can start piquing your toddler's interest in certain play items by choosing items that appeal to their specific interests.

You don't want to just buy the latest toys without a plan that come out because it looks interesting.

If you don't already know about your child's specific interests, you can find them by exposing them to different play choices as well as play areas.

By paying close attention you can see what your child is most attracted to, even without toys.

Match toys

In this way you mix and match toys that match their interests but still stimulate the different senses and development phases.

You can also rely on seemingly everyday toys, such as dolls and trucks, to help build group dynamics and interpersonal skills.

Children often use them to help see their own place in life.

In addition, board games can also help children to grow, for example, by teaching them problem solving methods, cooperative learning, and other educational skills.

Too many toys are counterproductive

You can always clean up your house a bit from too many toys.

For example, if your child likes to tinker and your shelves are filled with the remnants of half-used kits.

Have your child indicate which of those projects was the most fun and fulfilling and offer to buy refills for that project. The rest can go.

The fact that they are allowed to participate in decisions and with the knowledge they bring forward from the previous art effort can make it easier for your child to say goodbye to the unused playsets.

Tips for disposing of toys

If your kids aren't interested in certain toys, you may want to encourage them to get rid of them by appealing to their imaginations and of course, compassion.

For example, ask which toys are lonely or which hugs are happier (and can bring happiness) in a new home.

If they imagine the story of that toy's next journey, it can make saying goodbye a whole lot easier.

Alternate toys

Another thing we often do is to alternate toys that they all still like.

We then alternate those sets from time to time to keep it interesting and not have too much swinging at the same time.


The key, it seems, to finding the best toys for your child is to not only hold onto your child's interests, but use a little bit of your bargaining power as parents.

Always something to do for the holidays or rainy day?

Play Choice now has the ultimate activity book collection, with over 60 pages of fun coloring pages and educational puzzles.

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Speelkeuze.nl is a content marketer, father and loves trying out new toys. As a child, he came into contact with everything around games when his mother started the Tin Soldier in Ede. Since 2016, he and his team have been creating helpful blog articles to help loyal readers with fun play ideas.