In the short time my son has been on this earth our home has been inundated with an overflowing number of toys. It is absolutely amazing how such a tiny little boy can attain so much. I’m a bit of a neat freak so I bought a storage unit to hold all of the toys in our living room, but that filled up quite quickly.
While it was cold outside I moved a bunch of items into our sun-room. It doesn’t have central heat so we rarely step foot in there in the wintertime. I began rotating his toys by moving a couple of things back onto the bookshelf and removing others so that he had new toys to play with every few days.
What I found is that my son’s interests change quickly. One week he is interested in blocks, the next he’d rather play with his toy kitchen or pretend to talk on the telephone. Some days he’ll pull out and complete all of the puzzles in the house and other days he won’t even look at them.
Even though he’s only eighteen months his interests are constantly changing. While I know children who play with the same toy day after day, my son becomes less interested the moment he masters one.
A few months after my son turned one I wrote about the financial lessons I learned from his first year. In that post I mentioned the importance of hand-me-downs. Six months later I now believe they are more valuable than ever. Ninety percent of the toys in our house were hand-me-downs, another 8% were gifts from friends and family and the remaining 2% were gifts from either my husband or myself.
I can’t imagine how much money we saved by accepting gently used items from friends and family. Many of the toys would’ve cost well over $20 to $25 new. It’s tough to buy a toy for that much money and than realize that your child will only play for it for a short period of time. At this age you never know what might interest a child. My son has played with toys for weeks that I never would have imagined he’d be interested in and ignored toys that I was sure he would love.
With hand-me-downs you don’t have to pay any money. (A win.) You don’t add any more trash to the landfill. (A win.) And if your child gets bored of a toy easily you simply pass it on to another child without feeling guilty. (A win.)
If you do have someone in your life willing to hand down toys make sure you profusely thank them for their generosity. Send pictures of your child playing with the toys and if they provide you with a lot of stuff make sure consider giving them a small gift to show your appreciation.
Of course, not everyone is fortunate enough to have friends and family members with toys to pass on. If this isn’t an option for you try visiting local consignment shops, online auctions and co-ops for good deals. Remember that at this age your child doesn’t know that a toy isn’t shiny and new.
If you have friends and family who want to buy your child gifts tell them to consider buying used too. Remind them that children outgrow toys quickly at this age and that you’d rather have them save the money. Of course, if you can convince them to avoid toys and provide a monetary gift towards your child’s education or savings all the better.
If they do want to buy a gift try to encourage them to buy something other than stuffed animals. Unlike plastic toys that can be wiped down and disinfected stuffed animals are often difficult to launder. Once your child outgrows these it is difficult to pass them on to another child. This doesn’t mean children shouldn’t have any stuffed animals, but rather that you might want to keep the amount to a reasonable number. Once my son filled a small box I began asking close friends and family members not to buy him anymore.
Lastly remember that kids don’t always need or want to play with toys. Children often make toys and games out of the items around them. There are lots of every day items that can amuse them. My son has just as much fun with real pots and pans, toilet paper rolls and cups filled with water then he does with the mechanical toys that eventually bore him.