When my oldest was born, we had no toys yet.
I remembered when I was a kid, we had an entire basement full of toys that literally carpeted the floor. Most of which we didn’t even play with, we just threw them around in piles. Because it was the basement, my parents didn’t care what it looked like and we never had to clean it up (well, usually not). I vowed, as a new mom, that I would never allow my kids to have too many toys. What they did have, I would choose intentionally.
Four kids later, and we’ve dealt with toy soup plenty of times. We’ve had all kinds of toys that were given to us. Plus toys we chose on a whim from the thrift store littering our carpets. We’ve spent hours upon hours fighting over cleaning up those toys. It’s maddening and reminded me why I made that resolve almost 7 years ago.
When we lost our home and most of our things to mold a few months back, it was a chance to redeem ourselves on this issue. We got rid of most of the kids’ toys, keeping only those which could be safely cleaned and which we felt were most useful.
The truth is, there are a lot of advantages to choosing toys very carefully and intentionally, keeping the number of toys minimal, and spending a little more for quality. After having let it get so out of control before, I feel it even more strongly. We’ve been very intentional in what we’ve already chosen for our kids for Christmas, and in how we advised the grandparents (bless them — they ask what our kids could really use and don’t buy them junk anymore!).
Let’s look at 5 reasons why we should choose quality toys.
Reason #1: To Foster Imagination and Learning
So many toys today beep and flash and are made of plastic. They “do” only a couple of things, and beyond that? They’re pretty useless. Once kids learn how to do them, which usually happens quickly, they get bored with them.
In contrast, quality toys foster imagination and open-ended play. They allow children to learn. A quality set of wooden blocks could be built into a castle, a car, a fort, a wall, a tower, or any number of other things. Children learn how high they can stack the blocks before they fall over. They learn to create a wider, sturdier base if they want the tower to get taller without falling. They learn to stagger blocks to build a sturdy wall for their fort. Sets with different shapes allow them to learn which shapes stack together well and which don’t. There’s so much that they can learn!
My 5-year-old son loves Legos. Yes, they’re plastic, but they’re high quality and open-ended. He spends hours every day designing different types of spaceships and vehicles. Over the last few years, his designs have gotten increasingly complex. He never tires of it…he carries them with him from the time he wakes up, until the time he goes to bed (and often sneaks a small bag into bed!). This is the type of quality toy that will never get old, and will always lead to learning.
Reason #2: To Allow Endless Play
While those beeping, flashing toys will quickly lead to boredom, quality toys last forever. A solid wooden truck allows children to drive it around and imagine many games with it, leading to hours of play. (In contrast to a toy that talks or has specific ‘games’ in it, which is no longer interesting once those games are over. Studies have actually shown that when children are shown that a toy has particular functions, they will only use it in those ways and will not be creative with it.)
Toys that are quality will not be forgotten. They will grow with the child. Most of the toys in our home are for all of our children, who range from 20 months to almost 7 years. We could have a separate pile of age-appropriate toys for each child; but why should we? Quality toys are appropriate for many age levels and can be played with hours on end without boredom setting in.
Reason #3: To Last Forever
Cheap, flimsy plastic toys break easily. Kids can throw them or step on them, and that’s it — they’re gone. Quality toys are made much better, and will last through several kids, and can even be sold or passed down to grandkids or others some day. Solid wood toys are basically unbreakable and can last for decades. It’s much better — and really, cheaper, in the long run — to have a few sets of great toys, rather than constantly buying the latest, greatest plastic thing (that will break or be abandoned shortly).
Reason #4: To Support Locally-Made Items and Craftspeople
Many quality toys are made in the U.S., or even by local artisans. Why not support these locally-made or U.S. made toys? It helps our economy, it helps small businesses, and it furthers a mission of sustainability and quality. We love to work with small businesses!
Reason #5: To Keep the Toys Minimal
The truth is, quality toys are more expensive up front, especially if you buy new (as opposed to being lucky enough to find them at a thrift store or have them gifted to you). This means that you can probably not afford to buy as many anyway.
But since clutter leads to good toys being ignored, plus the frustration of a disorganized play area and fighting with kids over clean up…why would you want so many toys anyway? Stick to a smaller number of quality toys, which is better for everyone. Trust me — our kids have had a much better time with few, good toys than with a whole room full of “everything!”
Where to Buy Quality Toys
If you have any local toy stores, it’s a good idea to shop there and support those small businesses. Many people, however, don’t have such an option. That’s where Play It Safe Toys comes in.
Play It Safe Toys carries only high-quality, safe toys. These include wooden toys, Waldorf-inspired toys, art supplies, puzzles and games, and more. They’re all finished (if applicable) with safe oils and paints, so that little ones who put everything in their mouths won’t be harmed. These toys come in every price range, from under $20 to quite expensive — depending on the item!
They have toys for all ages, too. They offer quality wooden teethers, stacking and sorting toys for infants; plus wooden cars, toy kitchens, activity cubes, blocks, puzzles, dollhouses, and lots more! (I kind of want some of these things!) Plus, quality art supplies, like beeswax crayons, modeling clay, and more. In the “under $20” category, there are building block sets, stacking rings, wooden dishes, Earthworm racers, boats, cars, and more — more than 60 options in this price range. I know where I’ll be doing some shopping this year! 🙂
Play It Safe Toys is a great place to start your holiday shopping, where you can support a small business; find educational, quality toys; and find budget-friendly options.
Do you prioritize quality toys, or limit your kids’ toy selection?
We have also struggled with Toy Soup. I think an important step in avoiding it is making sure every toy has a place, then encouraging (or requiring) frequent cleanup. I find otherwise they just toss things around and don’t even have space to be creative in.
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I would love for you to follow up on this with an article about toy libraries. Perfect fit! My business is Toybrary Austin. Thanks!