There are lots of things your young child needs, but there are probably lots of things he doesn't need (but still has). Some of them are just unnecessary, but some may even be detrimental to his development.
Young children are 24-hour need machines. They need attention, affection, constant supervision and lots of love. But many of them have a whole lot of things they don't need. Here are a few of them.
1. Electronic gadgets
It's not unusual to see preschoolers with iPads and games consoles, and lots of moms have more child-friendly games on their phones than useful adult apps. But young children don't need these devices, and their development could be suffering because of them.
A recent Huffington Post article argued that handheld electronic devices should be banned for all children under 12. I doubt that many 11 year olds would agree, which is why it makes sense to restrict exposure to electronic gadgets when your kids are very small and you still have a say in it!
We all go overboard on buying toys for our kids and then complain when they'd rather play with a cardboard box or our pots and pans. There's nothing wrong with kids playing with ordinary household objects and you'll save a ton of money if you don't do overboard on the toy shopping.
In fact, imaginative play is good for kids (and has some seriously positive cognitive benefits). Studies suggest building a blanket fort in the living room (or a den in the woods) is probably better for their development than you buying an expensive doll house or custom-made tree fort.
It's tempting to let your little one watch the same movies over and over, especially when it seems to comfort them. Just be aware that screen time needs to be balanced with other activities that support healthy brain development.
A four-year-old doesn't care what the label on his clothes says ... He can't even read! It doesn't hurt to put your kids in cute designer clothes of course, but it's not necessary, and you'd probably be wise to save your money and spend money and fancy clothes when they're older.
5. A stroller
Many of us hang onto our strollers long after our child no longer wants to sit in it. We hang our bags off it or balance the heavy cooler on it when we're going for a picnic. But most healthy kids of three and up don't want to sit in a stroller 'like a baby'. If you're on your last child and they've hit the preschool years, it's time to donate your stroller.
6. 10 pairs of shoes
Again, it doesn't hurt, but it's not necessary. Shoes are actually one of the few items of clothing that do need to be high quality for an active child, so you're better off buying just two pairs of good ones than several pairs of cheaper ones.
Family physician Peter Larson, suggeststhat "children should play in their bare feet or in activity shoes that complement natural foot development and proper biomechanics of movement." Having a pair of shoes for every activity discourages the healthy practice of playing in bare feet.
You do need at least one spare pair (little kids get their shoes wet a lot) but that's probably sufficient. Remember the vast majority of events in a preschooler's social calendar are sneaker-friendly.
There's evidence that kids of all ages are committed to a schedule packed full of organized activities. In this Psychology Today article, Polly Young-Eisendrath, clinical psychologist and author of "The Self-Esteem Trap", claims that over-scheduling can be a real problem. She says that "before age 11 or 12, when children begin to develop self-consciousness, activities risk distracting children from their natural development."
Preschoolers benefit from lots of free play and downtime - free time lets them exercise their imagination. By all means, book a couple of regular activities they enjoy, but don't fill every day with rushing from your Gymboree class to ballet to swimming lessons. Space things out and keep the pace more relaxed.
By cutting out things your child doesn't need, you'll have more money, time and attention you have to give to what's really necessary.