Hindsight can be a really wonderful thing. There are so many lessons that can be learnt from past mistakes and decisions. From someone who has in the past wasted money on toys and bought my kids things out of guilt, here are some things I now think about when buying toys for my kids and things I want you to know.
These things have helped me be more mindful and have helped create a toy collection for my kids that serves them well and will (hopefully) do so year after year.
1. What do you want your kids to get out of their toys?
The day that I realised my kids toys actually offered no value to them, was a game changer for me. I was also, just so over buying toys only to get rid of them or donate them to charity down the track because my kids had outgrown them or they became junk in the cupboard.
What DID I want for my kids with regards to play?
I wanted them to be able to create, explore, use their imaginations and think outside of the box. I wanted toys that would grow with them and not just be fun for them to play with when they are one but also when they are two, three, four and so on.
What you want for your kids might be different and that is completely okay but asking the question is a good starting point.
If I had asked myself this question when my kids were babies, I could have saved myself so much money. I feel like the phrase, 'begin with the end in mind', also rings true here.
2. How many ways can this toy be played with? Can it be used with the other toys they have?
Think about when you buy yourself a really good t-shirt and it goes with other things in your wardrobe. Because it goes with everything you now have multiple outfits and it becomes one of your favourite things to wear.
Toys kinda work the same way. Things like blocks, magnetic tiles, and playsilks are often considered good staples because they are open-ended (have no set way of being used) and can be used in multiple ways. They also pair really well with other toys and are going to grow with your kids. Even as an adult, I enjoy them.
For example, My kids have paw patrol toys that have been very well loved for many years but having some toys like magnetic tiles, that are open ended, have definitely help extend the ways in which the paw patrol vehicles can be used. They have also allowed my kids to use their imagination a lot more and they play for longer. This doesn't mean that all toys have to be open-ended but having some that are, definitely helps.
Animal figurines are also another good example. Whilst, I wouldn't really consider them open-ended toys, they can still be used in lots of different types of play. They can be used for pretend play, bath time, sensory play, bookish play, and more. We have even stacked animal figurines before. But they also pair well with blocks, etc.
When a toy can be played with and used in multiple ways, not only does it become more interesting, it has more value.
3. Quality over quantity.
Sometimes, you get what you pay for. That doesn't always mean the most expensive option is the best but I do strive for things that will last. Maybe even toys that could be passed down the generations.
Animal figurines and blocks are good examples of this. The super cheap versions probably aren't going to last too long, although are a good introductory point. A middle of the range price point will probably serve you really well though and be all you need.
But always live within your means. Buy quality where you can because I honestly believe it will last longer but at the end of the day kids don’t care. My kids frequently use things from around the house like back packs, containers, and old jewellery. There are so many great play options you can source from Op shops.
4. Less is more.
This is something I bring up alot in relation to different things. There are couple of quotes that I believe some this up well.
"The coolest toys don't have to be bought; they can be built. In fact, sometimes the only way they'll ever exist is if you make them yourself." - Adam Savage.
"The more the toy does, the less the child does."
"Give children toys that are powered by their imagination, not by batteries."
-H. Jackson Brown
Have you ever thought about why kids love playing with sticks?
5. Will it be special to them?
There are going to be those toys where the above doesn’t apply. For example, those fluffy unicorns my daughter loves so much. What is important here is that they are loved, cherished and well used.
6. Cost VS benefit.
There are some play related items that don't really fall into the above categories. Things that are for sensory play for example are sometimes single use. In this scenario I tend to think about how much things cost compared to the benefit and vice versa.
Overall, think about your kids toys as a collection rather than just individual toys. Having a toy library filled with the basics is the equivalent to having good staples in your wardrobe. They will never run out of play ideas, ways to play and my hope is, that you won't feel like you are regularly having to get rid of or upgrade toys.
I do believe that toys shouldn't feel like they are just junk in a cupboard, so I hope these help.