I don’t like buying my kids toys; I just don’t. It’s not me being frugal; I don’t like it when my kids get more toys from other people either. I’m not saying kids shouldn’t have toys in general, but they shouldn’t have so many.
Take a look around your house, and I’ll bet you can find no less than a gazillion toys your kids don’t play with regularly or even at all. It’s not that the toys aren’t any good or defective in any way. They just aren’t played with for one reason or another.
Kids are meant to play with toys, and toys are meant to be played with. Any toy sitting around not getting used is a waste of somebody’s money. There are much better uses for money that will benefit kids more than toys that get left behind. Here are my main reasons to stop buying toys, what you can do instead, and how you can start to declutter your home.
Toys Are Expensive
Toys aren’t cheap, and the ones that are, are cheap for a reason. Individually, it might not seem so bad. Adding up the value for all the toys lying around will add up pretty quickly. You’ll see that using that money elsewhere could make a significant difference elsewhere in a child’s life. It would be one thing to have a cheap toy go by the wayside, but more than likely, the toy represents a significant chunk of change.
Batteries Are Expensive Too
As if the toys themselves weren’t expensive enough, almost everything these days needs a few batteries in it, too, adding to the overall price tag. Most of us are not disciplined enough to take batteries out of anything when we aren’t using it, nevermind from our kids’ toys. Even when the toy is not being used, the batteries are slowly being drained. Kid’s have a knack for going back to the toy just as the batteries hit the point of no return. You replace the batteries with new ones, the toy is used for a day or two, and the cycle continues. This again is money that could be better spent elsewhere.
There Is Only So Much Time To Play
Believe it or not, most kids’ days are relatively full, even before being school age. Between naps, eating, running around with mom and dad, more naps, and everything else that needs to get done, there isn’t really that much time to play. With so many toys and not enough time, it’s no wonder most of the toys don’t get enough playtime. As kids get older, they spend more and more time out of the house, reducing the amount of time they are playing at home and the number of toys they really need.
They’ll Play With The Box
I know this sounds like a joke, but kids really will play with a box and be happy as can be. Cut a few holes in it, use a few crayons to customize the artwork, and they’re set. The box can become a racecar, a spaceship, a boat, or anything else they can imagine. It’s pretty close to being better than the toy itself. The point is, most kids will have a great imagination if given a chance to use it, and toys aren’t as necessary as you might think.
There Isn’t Enough Space
Space is just a matter of physics. Until we can send our things away into another dimension to be returned later, there is only a finite amount of stuff our living quarters can hold. With so many toys, it’s not unusual to not have enough space to store them properly. This can lead to a cluttered or messy place to live. It might not be noticeable, but that will have an effect on everyone in the household. Keeping the number of toys to a minimum will ensure there will be enough space for all of them and keep the house tidy at the same time.
There Are A Ton Of Benefits
Not every reason for giving kids less toss is me being a curmudgeon. There are a lot of excellent and scientifically proven reasons too. I’ll point out the high-level stuff here, but check out this article on the benefits of less toys for more info.
- Kids will learn to be more creative
- Attention spans will grow
- Kids will learn better social skills
- Taking care of possessions becomes a priority
- Kids will be more resourceful
- Siblings will argue less
- Kids will be less selfish
- You can spend more time outside with them
- Kids will learn to not live for possessions
- You’ll have a cleaner home
Even just a subset of these benefits would be totally worth it, and given the length of that list, fewer toys seem like a good idea to me.
What Should You Give Instead?
Donate to their 529b – Okay, so this one is a bit of a stretch and won’t win you any favorite gift awards (maybe from mom and dad, it will). Still, investing in a 529b is a better idea than you think. The compounding gains on your contribution will be worth far more down the road and it will be helping that child receive a better education when the time comes. Maybe this is one you give in addition to the others below.
Experiences – Think about what you have more memories of, certain toys you had growing up, or fun days you had. I bet most of us have more memories of the fun days. Make some of those memories possible by buying kids an experience somewhere they might not otherwise have.
Consumables – Kids like food too, you know. I’m not saying to go out and buy pounds of their favorite candy, but there are lots of fun foods to try or fancy versions of something they already like. Go out and get one of their favorites they can save for another memorable day.
Classes – Kids have lots of interests, and more than likely, there is a class specifically designed for kids out there for it. Find out one of their favorites and sign em up!
Memberships – Keeping with their interests, there might be something you can get a membership to. A zoo, museum, library (okay, that one usually is free), but you get the idea.
Any one of these gifts might be a lot for a single person. If that’s the case, make it a group gift.
How Do I Stop Giving Toys?
It’s easy; just stop! You’re not entirely giving up on giving a gift altogether. More than likely, you won’t be the only gift giver, meaning they’ll be plenty of other toys to open. Don’t get discouraged if they don’t get overjoyed by your gift at first; they are kids, after all. After the initial excitement of their toys has worn off, your gift will have its time to shine, especially if it’s something they can do several times. Not only will they look forward to their next class or trip to a special place, but they will have a ton of fun each time they go.
How Do I Get Rid of Toys?
Now here comes the hard part, getting rid of your existing toys. You have a few options here. Each will help you reduce the number of toys surrounding you in its own way.
Give Your Toys Away
Your first option is to give the toys away. It doesn’t have to be all your kids’ toys, and I would ease them into it if I were you. Have your kids pick out a few toys that they are okay with giving away. You’d be surprised how easily they will part with some of them. At that point, you can choose to either donate them to charity or find someone you know that wants them. There are also many places online you can post your toys for free to have people come and take them away.
Sell Your Toys
Similar to the previous option, but only this time, you’re trying to recoup some of the value for the toys. As long as they are in pretty good condition, many toys will fetch you a few bucks. Again, you can use many apps and websites to post the toys your kids are willing to part with and see what sells. This can also be a good way to start teaching your kids the basics of money.
Out of Sight Out of Mind
I’ll admit this option is a bit sneaky, but more parents than you think do it. Every so often, take a toy that you don’t feel is being used and put it somewhere the kids won’t go. The attic, garage, or any other area not typically visited by children is an excellent place to hide unused toys. After a certain amount of time, maybe a month or two, if no one notices the toy is gone, you can donate it under the cover of darkness. Or perhaps just wait for them to be out of the house, up to you. In either case, more often than not, the toy was long forgotten about before you removed it, and in the off chance it’s asked for, you play dumb and bring it back out later. If the toy is already gone, then you just shrug your shoulders, and it’s on to the next toy anyway.
This method doesn’t remove any toys entirely from your house, but it certainly helps in a few ways. With the toy rotation, you’ll make three or four different groups of toys. Only one of these groups will be accessible at any given time, and the others can be stored out of the way. Again, every so often, maybe a month or two, you rotate a different group of toys back in and put the current group away. Not only will this reduce the amount of clutter in your home, but by the time all the groups are rotated through, kids have forgotten what’s in them. It’s like they are getting them for the first time again when they are brought back out.
I think we can all agree that reducing the number of toys our children have isn’t all that bad. There are plenty of other gift options that will have many longer-lasting effects and provide more benefits to them than any toy could. Instead of continuing the trend and piling more and more toys on top of the pile, it’s time to do an about-face. Hopefully, you’ve gotten a few ideas you can use here to help you in your financial journey.
Jeff is a fan of all things finance. When he’s not out there changing the world with his blog, you can find him on a run, a Mets game, playing video games, or just playing around with his kids.