New life out of old toys

You know the routine. Kid meets toy. Kid LOVES toy. Kid gets toy. Kid plays with toy nonstop and wont even put it down for bed. Kid and toy are inseparable…….for about a week. Kid meets new toy. Kid LOVES toy…

Probably every parent has witnessed some version of this scene. As a parent to a toddler I can attest to short attention spans. And I admit, it is fun for me to see my daughter jump up and down in excitement. So what do I do, indulge? Shall I frequently purchase new toys at the pace of a toddlers attention span? What if I get them used from a resale store or yard sales?

I hope you are giving me a firm head shake “no” right now. There are numerous issues with indulging in this way, the core of which is promoting rampant consumerism. Let us not teach kids that more stuff fills emotional voids. Let us not teach kids that easy dismissal of stuff has no ramifications (lets take a moment here to acknowledge the environmental issues of the over-flowing and proliferation of landfills). 

Although I fully encourage providing guidance so that kids grow into adults who appreciate what they have, who are creative thinkers, who find joy/excitement/happiness in non-material aspects of life, and who can responsibly utilize consumer markets, that isn’t what this blog is about.

I have two ideas about getting more use out of those already forgotten and dismissed toys.

1. Start a toy co-op

Invite other parents with a kid around the age of your little one. Have each parent (or if they are older, perhaps encourage the kids to take the lead) contribute 1 or 2 of their kid’s toys (labeled so there is no confusion later about what actually belongs to whom), and start a rotation. If the kids are young, maybe a bimonthly or monthly rotation would be best being that young ones do age out of some toys relatively fast. If they are older, maybe a 3 month or 6 month rotation would make sense. This gives the benefit of new toy excitement without the cost, promotes sharing and taking turns, and can give a kid a chance to try out a new toy if a parent is considering purchasing it.

2. Rotate in-house toys

Divide your child’s toys into two or three groups, or perhaps keep the favorite ones readily available and divide the rest. Keep one group out at a time and store the rest. Rotate at a pace that makes sense for your child and family. I have seen with my toddler, and have heard from other parents, that often when she has not seen a toy in a while, when she rediscovers it she is almost as excited as when she first acquired it. For a time she plays with it often. Again, younger kids age out of toys quicker and so a short rotation time might make sense. I am thinking about a monthly rotation for my two year old. This idea has the benefit of helping kids to get more use out of and enjoy more what they already have and discourages easy dismissal of previously enjoyed toys.

For both these ideas I think some toys are better suited. A set of blocks, for example, since a broad age span can play with them and the way they are engaged with changes over time. For instance, a baby learns to stack two or three blocks before the age of one but a five year old builds towers or castles. Maybe it would make less sense to rotate a rattle or a sit-and-scoot that is more quickly outgrown.

What ways have you helped your kids get more use out of their toys?

photo by Doc Searls (license)

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