Hundreds of pounds are spent every year on toys by families in the UK. British people spend an average of 508 pounds a year per child on toys, which is the second highest figure in the world. The question is, should we really be spending such shocking amounts of our hard earned cash on toys for children that are quite often not valued, or even wanted?
In this article we shall examine:
- The reasons that we spend so much money on toys
- How to get the most value from a toy
- What kinds of toys are best for children
- Whether educational toys for toddlers are really necessary
- How toys can be made at home
- Places to find low cost toys
- How travel is great for children
Kids’ toys can cost a fortune
It is a fact, that raising children is expensive. If you were to honestly examine the toys in your child’s toy box, how many of them are played with regularly? How much did you spend on the whole lot? Once these points have been considered, it is easy to see where a lot of unnecessary expense is incurred by buying toys that are not appreciated, appropriate or useful in any way.
Parents feel pressured into getting their children the latest “dream toys” that are on every child’s Christmas list. Some parents pay exuberant prices on eBay or foreign websites in order to secure the latest fad toy for their children. According to UNICEF’s well being reports, British children’s happiness is lower than in many other developed countries.
Could the reason for this be that parents are giving in to hard core marketing from toy companies and forcing children into developing compulsive consumerism habits from a young age, making them miserable? There is no doubt that children need toys to keep them amused and encourage emotional and mental stimulation, but we do not necessarily have to pay a fortune for these and can still fill their toy box with loads of goodies at much less cost.
Here is a way to calculate the true cost of children’s toys
We all want value for money and here’s a good way of calculating the value of a toy. The way that you can determine this is to see how many hours your child plays with it. Here is an example.
If you were to buy a brick building set for 50 pounds and your child played with the set for 50 hours, by dividing the price of the toy by the amount of hours that were spent playing with it you could say that the toy cost you one pound for every hour. Alternately, if you paid 15 pounds for a teddy bear that your child played with for 30 minutes before becoming bored and never played with it again, then the stuffed toy would end up costing a lot more money, in value, that the building bricks did.
This means that when you are selecting toys for your children you should not always look at the price. More expensive toys will work out better value in the long run as your kids will enjoy and play with them for a longer period of time. Here are some tips on choosing toys that will hold a child’s interest for longer.
Toys should be interactive
Avoid the urge to buy the fancy doll that can poop, cry, walk and talk. Although your child will be fascinated for a while, once she has discovered all the things that the doll can do, she will become bored very quickly with it. Instead, choose something like a classic Barbie doll that does nothing outstanding. These toys will always be a child’s favourite because Barbie can be made to do virtually anything through play. She can create her own stories where Barbie can walk, run, cry, scale a mountain and marry a Prince. This is what makes a toy special to a child and creates a bond between them.
Consider toys that can be played with in more than one way
It is no surprise that Lego and other building blocks are considered classic children’s toys. These kind of toys have endless possibilities as to how they can be used. You can build anything you like with them including bridges so that cars and other toys can be interacted. So when you see the high price tag that these kind of toys have, just think of the years of enjoyment that they can get out of them, which in the long run will make these toys value for money.
It is no surprise that Lego and other building blocks are considered classic children’s toys. These kind of toys have endless possibilities as to how they can be used.
Toys should encourage children to use their imagination
A toy that allows a child to use their imagination is always a good buy. Painting sets and play-dough, or wooden toys can all fire kids’ imaginations more than a room full of electronic beeping toys. Hours of fun can be had by creating and drawing as opposed to playing with electronic substitutes that will not hold their attention for a long time.
Are brainy toys a waste of time?
New parents can be overwhelmed by the need to buy a load of expensive mobiles and electronic rattles order to stimulate their children. Fear of not giving their newborns the best start in life when the brain is developing, can send them off in a panic to the shops in search of the latest educational toy, or to spend ridiculous amounts of money on baby Mandarin and gymnastics classes.
Papers published in the 1990’s and a campaign by Hilary Clinton to back these theories led to the common belief that a child’s brain was at its most productive in the years between 0-3 years old. This led to manufactures labelling products with names like “Baby Einstein” and “Baby Genius” and led to parents spending small fortunes on their products.
Recent neuroscience research indicates that this 3 year window is a myth and that the brain continues to grow and develop into old age. It also found that early depravation can have negative effects on children and that over stimulation can actually make children and adults very stressed. Affectionate interaction with children, by reading, singing and playing with them, without the need for special equipment, is far more stimulating and better for a child’s health.
So what have we learnt so far?
- British people spend a fortune on their kids’ toys
- Most people would be surprised to learn how much they have spent on toys
- Children can feel pressured to have the latest toys
- More expensive toys can have more value for money
- Toys should encourage children to be imaginative
- Buy toys that can be played with in more than one way
- Over stimulating a child can cause stress
- Children need their parent’s attention
Make your own toys
It’s amazing how many things that you could make with your children that could give them hours of pleasure and the bonus of spending more quality time with you. Websites such as Pinterest are full of ideas for home made toys from household items, that will give you and your child hours of fun. If you have the space outside, then a sandpit or a tree house are great projects that children can get involved with making and have hours of fun playing with afterwards. Gardening projects are also a great idea for children who will be amazed the results they can enjoy from planting and nurturing plants.
Look out for places to buy cheaper toys
Some toys will have to be bought, whether it be for your own children or as presents for friends and relatives. While we can look at a piece of plastic junk and see it for what it is, to a child who has their heart set on it, it can mean everything. All the big retailers hike up their prices around Christmas time when these toys are in demand. By taking advantage of flash sales and 3 for 2 price offers that take place throughout the year, you can make substantial savings.
Amazon has a price tracker that shows you the prices for an item through out the year. A toy costing 30 pounds in September can go up in price by as much as 20 pounds by late November, so you have to buy early. Most big stores have promotions in early autumn, so the trick is to buy then. By signing up for company e-mails they will notify you when they have offers. Remember to shop around and check the prices of the toys that you want from store to store, as their prices can vary greatly. Don’t forget to take advantage of summer sales and put things away.
Does a toy have to be brand new?
Second hand toys can be God send when it comes to saving money on children’s toys. So many people buy expensive toys that are not to their children’s liking and you can pick up these at great prices. It’s amazing what a cleaning wipe and a bit of cleaning fluid can do to an old toy to make it bright and shiny again.
Places to find second hand toys
Ebay and other on-line market places are full or toys, often in pristine condition, selling for unbelievably low prices. Car boot sales and charity shops are also good places to check out on a regular basis. Some people hold “swap parties” where they invite friends and neighbours round to their house, prepare some refreshments and let the children exchange their unwanted toys for some new ones. Family and close friends often keep expensive toys for future siblings and if you asked them nicely to borrow them, then many people would be happy to let your children get some use out of them too.
You can recycle toys for toddlers
Small children can often be inundated with toys around the holidays from grandparents and loved ones and can be a little overwhelmed. It is a good idea to remove a large portion of these toys and bring them out on a rotation basis, so that they will feel as if they have got some new ones that will perk their interest once more.
Spend the money that you save on toys and travel with your children
Who doesn’t have fond memories of family holidays? It does not necessarily have to be expensive holidays abroad, small trips to the country can stay with children forever and form long lasting, fond memories. Holidays are great stress relievers and give us something to look forward to. They force families, who are increasingly fiddling with their gadgets, (not just the children), to spend quality time together and share experiences that will stay with them for years to come.
It is important to remember, when planning a family holiday, that high culture trips will be incredibly boring for your children, although educational. The trick is to focus on what will keep them amused and get the balance right when it comes to sightseeing. There are plenty of interesting things to see and do that are child friendly. The time that you will invest in your children and the interest that you will show in keeping them happy, will bring them more joy than many toys ever will.
So what can we conclude about saving money on kids’ toys?
Toys that must be purchased from stores can be bought at knock down prices, if you are looking out for them. Make sure that the toys are stimulating, so that they will hold the child’s interest and play with them for longer, giving you more value for money. You can find great second hand, nearly new toys that are just as good as the boxed kind. Your time and attention is more important for a child than any toy.