When it comes to play and toys, I like to keep things as simple and down to earth as possible. Afterall, nature, natural elements, the ‘real world’ and everyday activities are rich in play opportunities and what some refer to as ‘un-toys’. I love to improvise, re-use, re-cycle, re-invent, swap, borrow, loan, choose ‘2nd hand’ and pre-loved wherever possible.
It’s also true that we live in an era where planned obsolescence is the rule rather than the exception in all manufacturing; where toys are actually designed to break, fall apart and become ‘waste’ sooner than ever before, making quality toys rare and expensive.
Add to that the fact that we live in a disproportionately privileged society, where we regularly give and receive plenty of toys, and I am left feeling like the whole idea of ‘toy buying’ is a potentially superfluous first world ‘problem’.
Nevertheless, I do love toys, so, in order to reign in my temptation to Buy! Buy! Buy! … I have taken to forcing myself to ponder a number of questions before pulling out my wallet, filling up our compact little apartment and adding to the planet’s enormous ‘hard rubbish’ situation.
Questions to ponder when toy buying:
1. Is it available for loan from the toy library, or would a friend be willing to loan one to you for a while, perhaps as a temporary toy swap?
2. What other similar toys do we own? Would we be doubling up here?
3. Could we have just as much fun (maybe more?!) and practise similar skills with a home made version of the toy?
4. Is it likely to be played with a LOT?… Is it versatile? eg. How many ways can it be played with and can it be adapted for different ages? Could it be used for imaginary play after it has been used as a puzzle? How many skills can it help kids develop?
5. How expensive is it?
6. How much space does it take up? Do we have the space for it to be packed away easily?
7. How durable does it look?
8. If it’s a ‘big ticket’ item, could it be a birthday present? If so, maybe other family members would also like to contribute?
9. Have I seen my child play with this toy or similar? – what level of interest was shown?
10. … and then, there’s the whole ethical shopping issue to consider of where it was made, by whom, under what conditions, with what materials….?? … hmmm…
11. Finally, have I slept on it? Often a little time thinking about these questions helps put it in perspective.
Sure, I’d be lying if I said I always consider all of these questions before buying anything, but I certainly try – and I think that’s what matters!
I’d love to hear from you about toy buying in your family!
Do you have toys exploding at the seams of your house? Are you a sucker for the spontaneous, impulse buys? Do you have a secret, effective way to limit and thoughtfully go about toy purchases?