This Year’s Hot Toy is Next Year’s Trash
Today was one of the busiest shopping days of the year. Many of my family members participated in the frenzy of finding the hottest toys at the “best” values this morning, but I sat home and did laundry. It’s not that I don’t find the Black Friday experience to be rewarding on a number of levels; It’s just that I didn’t care much this year.
Our commitment to saving money has always prevented my family from buying the current year’s “Hot” toys. Every year that I hold tight to the decision to avoid trendy toy fads like the plague is another year that I am pleased with the outcome. My children and my bank account appreciate it also. Here’s why:
Fads come, but they go even quicker. Raise your hand if your kid still plays with a JuiceBox. How about an original VideoNow? Anyone continue to be a B&W Pixter fan? I didn’t think so. While there will still be that occasional child that continues to play with the annual hot toy for more than a season or two, it is not without difficulty. Do they even make games or accessories for that 2-year-old toy? If it requires multiple players, would their friends at school care to participate? Unlike gizmos for adults (like DVD Players, cameras, and gaming systems), the Fisher Price Star Station probably won’t be fully supported 3 years from now.
Kids grow; Toys don’t. Your 8-month-old baby won’t care about that $80 electronic gymnasium next Christmas. I promise.
How much did you pay for your toddler’s gift? I’m not about to tell you the appropriate amount for a child’s gift, but I’ll clue you in on ours – It’s less than $50 per child. This guarantees that the hot toy is out of limits, but allows for some very creative shopping alternatives. And I never have to tell my family and friends that I overpaid on that must-have, sold-out gift by 200% on Ebay. I will not be making someone else that kind of money.
Tech toys are a trap. So you get a great deal on the toy. Your little one will be ecstatic, right? Wrong. Assuming the toy comes with everything needed to get started (games or cartridges or cords or whatever), how long will that last? The toy will need power (batteries, chargers, or plugs), and old games will need to be replaced with newer ones.
Feeding the machine is not a necessary evil. Sometimes it just sends the wrong message to buy that gotta-have toy. Telling your kids that the media and marketing are the best judge of what’s “hot” will cost many dollars down the road. It also sets a precedent for later years' shopping. If you get your child that hot toy this year, will they expect one next year?
So what’s a parent (or grandparent, aunt, uncle, or friend) to do? Think carefully about the child you are gifting to. What are they truly interested in? Do they love to paint? Do they enjoy nature? Is there a new hobby in their future? Taking the time to give a high-quality, open-ended toy that is personal to that child will mean more than you think. They may not reward you with the high-pitched squeal of, “OH MY GOSH!! THIS IS, LIKE, THE BEST GIFT EVER!” but knowing that you cared enough to give them your best should be reward enough. Really.