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How to find balance when choosing toys.

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What to consider before parting with your cash…

There’s something that has been troubling me for a while…

…and that is the perception that you HAVE to buy certain products in order for your children to have an enriched learning experience. You absolutely don’t, but let me go into more detail.

When we moved in to our new apartment in January, the only toys the children had for six weeks were the ones they received for Christmas. Amongst that collection was a small but quality selection of open-ended toys and a box of craft materials. To add variation, we made DIY toys and activities which the children LOVED. This got me thinking about the toys I buy for the children and whether they necessarily need everything on the wish list.

You see, balance is everything. If you want to start investing in wooden toys, then that is great (I do too) but unless you are super wealthy then you will also need to be resourceful and creative in other areas.

Here are the six main lessons I have learnt over the years. I hope they will help you too…

1. Before you buy an expensive product, consider your own motives…

Do you know why I originally bought the Grimm’s medium rainbow? It was because I saw it constantly featured on my Instagram feed. It looked pretty and I was sucked in. I never even considered how my children would play with it initially. As it turns out, it is a great open-ended toy but the point is, don’t buy a toy for your children based on how pretty it looks.

2. Only buy what you can afford…

This seems like a no-brainer and I hope I’m not coming across as patronising but seriously… do not go into debt because you see certain ‘must have’ toys on your Instagram feed. I know Afterpay and other services make it super easy to impulse buy but that is a slippery slope, in my opinion. Please also keep in mind that a lot of influencers are gifted items from companies in exchange for a photo or two*.

3.Save big ticket items for Christmas or Birthdays

There’s no denying that wooden toys are great quality and can last a very long time, so if you do choose to buy, why not save for Christmas or birthdays? You can even ask grandparents to contribute towards a gift rather than buy something separate too. Most of the big items you’ll see on my own feed have been bought for special occasions.

4.Plastic toys don’t have to mean ‘bad’ toys

If you’ve made the decision to ditch the plastic toys, great. I also made that same decision a few years ago but you will still see some items crop up on my feed. Why? because we didn’t throw them out! I personally didn’t want to add to landfill by throwing away toys that were perfectly good plus in certain countries (I’m from the UK originally) charity shops don’t actually want unboxed toys anymore. Both of my youngest two have absolutely loved playing with the Fischer Price Little People farm so it would be silly to just throw it out.

5.Raid the charity shops!

Okay so don’t actually raid them, but get to know the good ones in your area. Charity shops (or goodwill depending on where you are from) can be a treasure trove of amazing resources. Think outside the box with what constitutes a toy. For example, wooden curtain rings, bangles or even kitchen utensils all make excellent open-ended toys that children love. Just make sure that you check items for splinters or damage first and never give young children an item that would be considered a choking hazard.

6.Get creative with everyday items…

What do you already have around the house that could be considered a ‘toy?’ My children, for example, really enjoy playing with wooden spoons and pots from the kitchen. More recently, an old landline telephone that had been in the back of a cupboard has become the favourite ‘toy’ for my middle child.

There are plenty of ideas you can try for DIY toys both on my own feed Teach Investigate Play and Everyday Play Hacks which I co-host so go check them out after you’ve read this article!

*From time to time, I am asked by brands to feature their products on my feed. When an item is gifted to me, I will declare ‘kindly gifted by…’ along with the hashtag #gifted. On the occasions I have been paid to write articles, stories or posts, I will write #collab or #sponsored. I only ever choose to work with brands when I’m already a fan of the products. You can read more in the ‘Privacy Policy’ section of the website.

Sian Thomas

Sian Thomas

Sian is the founder of Teach Investigate Play. She helps parents navigate the early years by providing meaningful and simple activities. She also owns 'Get Set Social Media' - a social media consultancy for small businesses. From the UK, now living in Vienna (via Australia). About page has more!

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