This Year’s Hot Toy is Next Year’s Trash

by Linsey Knerl on 23 November 2007 4 comments
Photo: Ibrahim Iujaz

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.

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Jon A

I think it's always best to look at our experience as children when looking for toys that will make lasting gifts. Most of us has fond memories of plastic blocks (I won't use any brand names, since the particular brand doesn't matter). I've even heard stories from my high school students about how they still bust them out once in a while with their friends.

Here are some of the winners from my childhood and toys that my own boys still play with even though they've had them a couple of years:

1. Plastic blocks. For the relatively low cost of small new sets add novelty and renew interest. My son is really into that red movie car, so he'll be getting a small set blocks based on the movie.

2. Wooden railroad sets. Again, both name brand and non-branded ones are available. When the kids are older, you can even make or buy some wooden projects that could go nicely with them.

3. Art supplies. I'm a big fan of buying these when they are on sale--last year's hot product tie-in can usually be had for less than the non-branded ones at clearance time. We have a big bin of odds-n-ends that we sporadically restock.

4. Tactile learning puzzles. Tangrams, sliding car puzzles or the like, marble mazes, and the like can be found at teacher-supply shops and entertain my kids for hours. Most good ones can be added on to by buying new puzzle cards or pieces, stretching the life of the initial purpose. Like other toys, the boys interest in them comes and goes, but I find that when they are interested, it's for a pretty intense few days.

Linsey Knerl's picture

You just named the all-time favorite toys at our house....

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Rob in Madrid

I commented this on another blog but being gone for almost 10 years now and then back in the UK for a weekend I really noticed how over hyped Christmas is. It's a real eye opener. If you want to experience a real traditional Christmas than live in Germany for a few years, beyond few white lights, a small tree and a FEW gifts Christmas would pass almost unnoticed. Personally as a Christian I think the best thing Christians can do is not bring Christ "back into Christmas" as the popular saying goes but to boycott it all together. Christmas in America has nothing to with Family, gifts giving (and has even less to do with Christianity) it's all about spending consumption, debt interest charges and most of all, profits for the retailers.

Rob "just call me scrooge for the next two months" in Madrid

PS I don't have kids, can you tell:)

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Leah

I realise this is an old discussion but I will still post my comment for the benefit of anyone else who may stumble across this article. As a Christian I don't see the benefit in boycotting Christmas. What does that achieve? It avoids the pitfalls of Christmas but it avoids the benefits too - drawing people's attention to Jesus and what he did for us; time with family; exchanging gifts as a symbol of love and affection for each other.