How To Choose Toys Kids Will Actually Play With

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A 2020 survey showed that the average ten year old has £7000 worth of toys, but plays with only £330 worth.

Yep. You read that right. £7000. Seven thousand actual pounds. For a ten year old.

Now, I’m too busy picking up toys (while muttering under my breath that nobody in this house appreciates my tidying up) to tot up their cumulative worth. But there’s no way, no how, that my kids have toys amassing that kind of value. I don’t know the exact figure, but I imagine it’s in the ball park of £7000 combined between all three of my kids! The reason children are only playing with such a small fraction of their toys is that us grown-ups possibly don’t know how to choose toys that kids will actually play with. We fall into the trap of thinking more means better, when actually a few well-chosen toys are all they need.

How to choose toys kids will actually play with…

It breaks my heart to think of the wasted money people have poured into toys for my kids over the years; toys that have been ripped out of the box then cast aside. With this in mind I’ve come up with a few tips that I use when buying gifts for kids. I hope they’ll help you when you’re choosing toys in future!

Buy from a respected retailer – I always shop with retailers who are specialists in brilliant kids toys. They’re full of inspiration and will give you ideas for cool toys you might never have considered. Websites like Wicked Uncle are experts and make the decision-making process much easier!

Choose age appropriate toys – A lego set is great fun for a six or seven year old but a younger child might need lots of help and get frustrated if they don’t yet have the fine motor skills required. Bear age and ability in mind when browsing for toys. Pretend play toys are great for younger children but might start to feel a bit babyish as they get closer to age nine or ten.

Ask what they’re into – Don’t be afraid to ask the child or their parent what type of stuff floats their boat at the moment. It shows you’re really interested in buying them something they’ll love… and as someone who once spent a fortune on Frozen merch that my friend’s daughter already had, I learned it pays to check before purchasing!

Buy activity toys – The best value-for-money toy I’ve ever bought was the kinetic sand kit I bought my little one in the first lockdown. The hours he spent playing with that were invaluable in allowing me to get on with some work and/or homeschool the eldest two! I have always found that activity toys like sand, lego, construction sets, mosaics, art kits etc get much more use than say action figures or toy vehicles that seem to lose their attention pretty quickly. Outdoor play toys are also a winner if you’re buying for kids who love being active.

Now you know how to choose toys kids will actually play with, it’s time to get brutal and make some tough decisions on the ones they’ve already got…

Chuck or Charity?

There is nothing that brings me more joy than a good old playroom or bedroom ransack. Ok, that’s a lie… spa days bring me more joy. But seriously I get one hell of a kick from rolling up my sleeves and performing a thorough toy audit. Anything broken or with bits missing goes the journey. Anything still in good condition which my own kids have grown out of gets cleaned up and given to charity. There are also some great Freecycle style sites and Facebook groups where you can pass stuff on for free to other families. There’s something so lovely about knowing there are children out there who will give new life and love to these toys, instead of having them just gather dust shelves isn’t there? There’s a reason those Toy Story films were so endearing!

Out of my three boys, the middle one is my very own ‘hoarder next door ‘. Just the sight of a black bin bag can reduce him to tears because he knows there’s a strong chance some of his old toys will be going the journey. He doesn’t want to actually play with them, you understand… oh no, they need to be kept ‘just in case’. Because really, you never know when you might need a half-missing game of Buckaroo, do you?

I’m trying to drill into my kids the pleasure you can get from re-gifting toys (and clothes for that matter) which are still in great condition. With utility bills sky high and the cost of living crisis raging, birthday and Christmas expenditures are going to be particularly tough to take this year, so filling the charity shops with great toys that still have lots of life in them, will give cash-strapped parents more financially savvy options. Plus, recycling and passing on those toy treasures is good for the planet too, since it leads to less waste and less landfill. What’s not to love about that?

***Liked this post? Then you might enjoy this one too! It’s all about parenting a middle child.

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