Somehow, we ended up in the toy aisle, probably something to do with it being located right next to the kids pyjamas. My son was examining a display of dinosaurs from a well-known movie franchise.
“I’d really like one of these,” began his spiel.
“My friend Johnnie has one of these. He has lots of cool toys; way more than me”.
This was the first time Mr 6 had volcalised a difference I was wondering if he’d notice – most of his friends have more toys than he does, some have a lot more.
A forlorn expression sets on his face. Is he just putting it on or is my minimalism harming his self-worth? I stop freaking out and give him the facts, he likes facts.
“Johnnie does have more toys than you,” I tell him. “But, did you know those are the only toys he gets to play with? He doesn’t get to go to the toy library and choose new toys like you do.”
“He doesn’t get to go to the toy library?”, my son replies in concerned disbelief.
“No,” I explain, “You’re lucky you get to go to the toy library. What would you rather have: all of Johnnie’s toys or go to the toy library?”
“Toy library, definitely” is the firm reply.
We’ve been using the toy library regularly since the wee guy was six months old (not that he had any interest in toys then – just as well we didn’t buy any!). He loves it – every couple of weeks he gets to pick out new toys to bring home. I love it too. If there’s a toy library near you, I highly recommend using it – even if you have too many toys already.
Benefits of using a toy library
Essentially, being a member is like having a big storage locker of toys – except it costs a lot less and you’re not responsible for looking after it.
Our family enjoys many benefits from our membership. We get to:
- play with quality toys for a fraction of the cost
- access to a wider variety of toys than we would ever buy
- have fewer toys in our home
- take annoying toys back after a couple of weeks
- try toys before we buy them
- avoid constantly buy and sell toys as our child grows
- reduce our environmental footprint
- meet others in our community.
Sounds good, right? But, not everyone thinks it’s for them. Common objections include:
“I can do without the hassle of having to round-up the pieces of all the toys”
One downside of the toy library is the chore of locating all the toys to return. Searching around for a lost piece of Duplo is not fun. But when is tidying up kids’ toys ever fun? Returning the toys provides a regular prompt that stops the bedroom from getting too out of control. Toy library day = room tidy day. There’s plenty of incentive to tidy your room when it means a trip to pick out some new toys.
Another common objection:
“Going to the toy library is just another thing to add to my packed schedule”
Another downside is that you need to make time every couple of weeks to go there, return toys and pick out new ones. For us, that takes about 45 minutes for a round-trip, although I usually combine it with other errands. This is time well spent, given the pay off. There is nothing quite like the bliss of a child playing quietly in their room with “new” toys. Every trip buys me at least a few hours of peace. In this respect, the toy library is priceless.
And the biggie:
“My kids already have too many toys”
This is probably the most common reason parents don’t think it’s for them. But, even if you seem to be drowning in toys, I still suggest you give the toy library a try for one reason.
It shows kids that the value of stuff is in its use not its ownership.
The conversation in the toy aisle that day started with me worrying my son felt deprived, but in the end, it made me smile. It shows he understands the fun in toys comes from playing with them not owning them. It’s a principle I hope will set him up for a more intentional life that questions mindless consumerism.
If that’s something you also want for your kids, consider joining your local toy library.
Find out out if there is one near you:
New Zealand – Toy Library Federation
Australia – Toy Libraries Australia
UK – widespread, Google “toy library” in your area
Are you a member of a toy library? What other tips to you have for managing toys in your house?