Toys aren't actually that fun, except if they're good ones


My ten year old said this to me recently: "Toys are fun at the beginning. And then at the end they all end up as rubbish."

I looked at him with new-found respect. 

"Yes, you're right," I said. And then because I can never resist using what parenting books call a 'teachable moment' I added, "That's why you've got to make sure that you only buy things you really, really want or need. Otherwise it's a big waste of resources that isn't good for the environment."

I think by the time I'd finished, he was half-way down the stairs, but hey, I'll still try, right? The reality is, though, he'd figured it out anyway without a lecture from me. 

New stuff gives you a buzz at the beginning. And then (at least most of the time) it doesn't. You use it until you get something else new to replace it and then you whinge about having to take a trip out to the tip to get rid of 'that old thing'.

In the end, just like my son said, it goes in the rubbish.

In decluttering our house and lives over the last 18 months it's been important to only bring in new things that we really, really want or need. We look at what we've already got. Can we still use it? Can we upcycle or renovate or change things around so we don't need to get a new one? Can we get it fixed? Can we borrow it from someone, or get it from the library? Can we use something else instead?

Every so often I go through the children's toys, re-sorting, re-organising, and of course, re-homing. I'm very happy to let go of toys that haven't been played with in months. Usually they are of dubious quality, or bought by someone who didn't necessarily inquire as to what the children would like. They begin as a cheap thrill but they make the inevitable trek to the rubbish heap pretty quick.

Conversely It's interesting to see which toys continue to be played with year after year. They are all good quality, they lend themselves to imaginative play, particularly with others, and they are what the children are interested in. The toys that they really, really wanted are the ones that go the distance.

Hang on, I feel a teachable moment coming on. 

It's so easy to let glitz and cheap thrills take over, in every area of life. We can get an easy excitement fix from shopping (or whatever) but it doesn't last, it uses valuable resources and it ends up in a pile, cluttering up our lives. It takes a lot more investment and dedication and decision-making to hold out for the things that are going to bring quality, enrichment and real enjoyment to our lives.

Oh, and another teachable moment: find out what children actually want for their birthdays.*


*In case you're wondering, Tracey Island from the Thunderbirds would be number one on the list in our house.

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