How to be intentional when buying children’s toys

I’m sure like me you often look around your home and feel like you are drowning in toys. Having children is like experiencing a recurring tsunami of clutter. Being more intentional when buying your children’s toys can bring many benefits to your home and the whole family.

Here are some steps to help you think more intentionally about your children’s toy needs.

**This post contains affiliate links, and if you choose to buy a product I’ve recommended I make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Before buying

1. Declutter your current toy stash

The best way to plan your next gift list for your children is to take stock of what they already own. There are countless occasions and holidays where they are given an excessive amount of toys, and if you don’t keep on top of it, it can soon consume every room in your house.

Go through the toys together with your children and ask them to help you decide what toys you plan to keep, and which they might consider donating to another family who might actually play with them. 

Decluttering will teach them the benefits of embracing a more simple life, appreciating what you have, and being selfless in passing on.

Let’s face it – too much choice can be overwhelming for children.

“You own all of these toys, and you’re telling me you’re bored?”

Do you find yourself saying this to your children?

When you stop to think about it, if there were fewer toys in the house and less choice there would be much less analysis paralysis. 

It isn’t boredom they’re feeling, but more likely overwhelmed.

I know if I’m in an environment with too much stuff, I have sensory overload and can think much more calmly and clearly when there isn’t a huge amount of ‘stuff’ everywhere. It’s the same for kids!

I would highly recommend not doing this without your children. Although it might seem difficult if they want to keep everything, (even though they haven’t touched it in at least six months!) it’s important that they learn the process with you. It can teach them to process emotions and attachments to material things and to be more creative when playing.

2. Organise your toys

If you’re struggling to declutter, categorising the toys in your home will help you see where you have an abundance of stuff and where you think your child may benefit with a gift in another category. 

After thinking about my own children’s toys and reading Izabel’s post on this subject, I’ve borrowed her list as she’s covered all of the bases and I couldn’t top it – so full credit goes to her!

  1. Art – Paints, crayons, scissors
  2. Building – blocks, legos, magna-tiles
  3. Dramatic Play – dress up, animals, babies
  4. Fine Motor – pegs, tongs, bead lacing
  5. Gross Motor – ride, jump, climb
  6. Logic – puzzles, board games
  7. Math – sorting, nesting boxes
  8. Music – pianos, shakers, clappers
  9. Science – gears, simple machines
  10. Vehicles – cars, planes, boats

3. Plan for the future

If you have children who are about to leave a certain age category, for example toddler to young child, then it doesn’t make sense to buy more toys for that age group. I have a daughter who recently turned five, so I’m not likely to be buying any more toddler centered toys for her. 

A good question to ask is why should I buy this toy? What benefits will it give to my child? This might be a good way for you to clarify your need for this toy for your child, rather than just a want.

When buying

4. Choose open ended toys

Open ended toys, in my experience, are played with way more often than a close ended toy. 

What’s the difference? 

A close-ended toy is one that serves a specific purpose, or can only generally be played with in one way. 

For example, board games, shape sorters, children’s science experiments and puzzles.

There are some benefits to close ended toys, and I encourage you to keep some within your child’s collection. It can focus your child to complete a task that will have a specific outcome.

Open ended toys are toys which can have endless uses. My son’s favourite open ended toys are his duplo bricks, which he creates all sorts of buildings, garages and bridges out of. He also loves to play with his grimm’s rainbow set, which can act as tunnels, animal houses, and baby rocking chairs to name a few.

5. Quality over Quantity

We’ve all heard of that saying – you buy cheap, you buy twice. It couldn’t be more true when it comes to children’s toys. I’ve often tried to save a little money on a toy by buying the same but knock off version. 

Often it doesn’t stay in one piece longer than the birthday party. And so it is money wasted, and also now you are left with a disappointed child.

Most toys have to be viewed as an investment. There are many beautiful wooden toys which are open ended, and though they cost more money today, they may last for generations to come – you may even see your grandchildren playing with them one day. 

It’s also more responsible for the planet and reduces landfill waste. Even when you donate toys, unfortunately they are more often than not going to be taken to the tip.

6. Consider the toy shelf life

Consider how long you think your children will actually play with this toy. Your little one may love Paw Patrol right now, but what about in six months after you’ve spent hundreds of pounds buying him every single pup and every single play set? (I’ve clearly had some experience in this area)

Avoid buying a lot of toys which are probably fads. Stick to general themes rather than specifics that your children will undoubtedly lose interest in.

In the future

7. Try real life activities- not pretend toy versions

This point is particularly good for teaching your children life long skills, as opposed to keeping them out of your way with pretend versions. 

If you find yourself standing on lots of small pieces of wooden play food every single day, why not encourage your children into the kitchen with you when you’re cooking or baking? If their needs of being creative with food are being met in a real life scenario, they may not want to play with their pretend kitchen. 

Instead of buying pretend wooden gardens, though cute, it could be far more beneficial for them to learn about gardening and growing their own fruits and vegetables. It will help promote a healthy lifestyle, whilst also allowing your children to nurture and care for a living thing.

8. Buy second hand

I’ll say it again, in case you haven’t heard me say it before…

THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH BUYING OUR CHILDREN SECOND HAND GIFTS!

If it is in good and safe condition, clean and in working order, then your child will not care if it comes in it’s original box or has a tiny scuff. They will love their new toy which has just been given a second chance rather than sent to landfill. 

It probably also cost you only half or less of the new version on amazon (yass!)

Save money, save the environment, buy second hand!

9. Toy Rotation

This is something that I need to practice more than I preach, but on the few occasions that I have tried this, it has worked really well.

For the same reasons that when you try and part with the toy your child hasn’t played with in a while and they suddenly fall back in love with it all over again. It’s because it has become a ‘new toy’ all over again.

You can bundle your toys together in categories, and put one or two of each toy in a certain category in your child’s main play area where they can access it the most often.

The other toys in each category can be put in an area that is used less often, and these can be rotated on a bi-weekly to monthly basis.

10. Repeat

  • Declutter often
  • Always re-evaluate your child’s interests and needs
  • Invest in quality

Practicing buying more intentionally when toy shopping will become more intuitive over time. Take a step back from the mass marketing every holiday and think about your child, not the latest craze of the season. They will thank you for it.

Remember, your children do not need a ton of toys. They can find happiness in frugal activities. They will find the most joy in spending time with their parents.

One thought on “How to be intentional when buying children’s toys

  1. I couldn’t agree more with you on this. I know for a time our basement room, which the main purpose is a playroom for my son, was so filled with toys and he barely played with most of them. Decluttering was a huge task back then when he was younger but now that he is older it’s gotten much easier. Not buying toddler toys when they are transiting into a young child is so important. Keeping all of the toys organized makes such a huge difference as well. These tips will really help those families struggling with toy clutter.

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