When you’re a first-time parent, you may not have any qualms about burning a hole in your pocket as you buy the latest toy craze for your child. Electronic gadgets, Lego, cars, robots, building blocks, Barbie dolls, stuffed toys, balls, story books, musical toys – when you see all of these items in a one-year-old’s playroom, you will soon realize how much money you actually spent on buying toys!
Considering all the other expenses that you would have to shoulder over the next few years as you raise your child and give him or her a good education, you would really think twice about forking over a huge amount of money just to buy toys.
The good news is that there is no need for you to deprive your child of the pleasure of owning and playing with toys even if you have a very limited budget for it.
By simply implementing ways to save money on kids’ toys, you can still fill a child’s playroom with numerous items but without breaking the bank.
The First Step: Calculating the True Cost of Kids’ Toys
Before swiping plastic to buy the hottest musical gadget for your child or going overboard with a toy shopping spree for the holidays, there is one thing that parents need to learn first: how to calculate the true cost of kids’ toys. For now, forget about the unit price of the toy. What’s important is to determine the true cost of the item, based on the number of hours that your kid actually plays with the toy.
For example, if you bought a train set for $50 and your three-year-old son ends up playing with it for more than 50 hours, you can simply divide the cost of the toy with the number of hours that it is played with. For the train set, that’s $50 ÷ 50 hours = $1 per hour.
On the other hand, if you purchase a $15 stuffed toy which your son will play with for only thirty minutes before getting bored with it, the stuffed toy will turn out to be more expensive than the train set.
This is because the toy train set kept your son occupied for numerous hours before getting bored with it, as compared to a less expensive toy which will only be played with for a few minutes.
As such, when buying a toy for your kid, do not always look at the unit price. Consider the number of hours that the toy will keep your kid occupied. Even if its initial price turns out to be more than a cheaper toy, the fact that it will turn out to be the item that your child plays with the longest will make it worth every cent.
This means that you should be able to determine which toys will capture the interest your child for a longer amount of time. Here are a few tips on how you can do just that:
The toy should be interactive
The number one characteristic of a good toy is that it should be interactive. For little girls, dolls which talk, cry or walk may seem fascinating for a few minutes. But once they discover all the tricks that the doll can do, they will easily get bored with it.
Compare this with a Barbie doll which does practically nothing. Despite the fact that there are no bells and whistles to the toy, the doll becomes a girl’s favorite because she can create stories with it, make it walk, talk, dance, sing and do a bunch of other stuff. This is what creates that lasting bond between the toy and the child.
There should be more than one way to play with the toy
Why do you think Legos and other building blocks are considered classic kids’ toys?
These are called open-ended toys because they can be stacked together, thrown, built into a house, decorated, used as forts or bridges for toy cars – the possibilities of how kids can play with them are practically endless.
As such, when you buy a Logo or a building blocks set for a higher price than ordinary toys, you can still get the best value for your money because your kids will play with them for a very long time.
The toy should allow kids to exercise their imagination
Good toys should also allow kids to exercise their imagination. A painting set, a wooden toy plane or ship – it sometimes pays to go back to such basic items rather than fill your kid’s rooms with a bunch of electronic gadgets.
There are simple toys which fuel your child’s imagination, and that is something that even the most expensive gadgets cannot buy.
More Ways to Save Money on Kids’ Toys
Now that you already have an idea about how to calculate the true cost of kids’ toys, here are more tips on how you can save money when buying these items:
Borrow instead of buying toys
You probably have an older sister, a best friend or a close relative who has a stack of old kid’s toys which are simply stored in the attic. Parents typically store these for future brothers or sisters. While they’re happily waiting for a new addition in the family, why not borrow the toys for your own kids in the meantime? You will be surprised at how generous some people can be, especially when it comes to items related to raising kids.
Recycle the toys for toddlers
One problem that most parents have when buying toys for toddlers is that the little ones easily get bored with the set of toys that they are currently playing with.
To make a batch of the same toys look fresh or new in their eyes, remove a select number of toys from the box. Keep them in hiding for a couple of weeks. Once you bring the toys out back from the storage closet, they will look new in your kid’s eyes and the ‘recycled toys’ should keep them occupied for a good couple of weeks.
Host a toys exchange party
If you know a bunch of new parents in the neighborhood, invite them over for a toys swapping party. The attendees would be asked to bring a bunch of their own kid’s toys which they are more than happy to exchange with other parents.
To make the toy-swapping activity more fun, prepare snacks, games and decorate the venue with materials that can be readily found in your home.
After the party, everybody comes home with new toys for their own kids to play with.
Know where to shop for cheap or second-hand, good quality toys
There are many parents who buy more toys than what their kids would actually need – so there are plenty of slightly used or even unopened toys that you can get your hands on. For parents of video games-crazy kids, check out websites like GameStop. You can buy gaming consoles and games at lower prices than the original.
If you need to rent sporting goods for a one-time event for your child, check out Play it Again Sports. It’s a retailed which sells sporting equipment for kids and grown-ups at affordable prices. You can also get cheap second hand and brand new toys at thrift shops, flea markets, consignment stores, yard sales, etc.
Sign-up for newsletter alerts and flash sale websites
When you go online to shop for kid’s toys, there are plenty of websites which offer discounts by simply signing up for their newsletters. Take advantage of this. There are also flash sale sites that allow parents to shop not just for toys but also clothes and other accessories for kids.
How about going old school when buying toys for your kids?
Kids today are bombarded with electronic gadgets, robots and all the high-tech toys that manufacturers can come up with. When you buy one or two of these high-tech toys, the purchase will burn a hole in your pocket.
So instead of going high-tech, why not choose the old school route instead? Introduce your kids to the toys of your childhood, like Mr. Potato Head, Etch-a-Sketch and many other classic toys.
Board games for older kids are also a great idea. You can even go for toys like basketball or baseball bats which allow kids to actually go out and enjoy the outdoors while playing – instead of merely staying indoors as they fiddle with the screen of their gaming console or tablet computer.
It’s also a good idea to buy toys which are made from eco-friendly materials. If you have a huge stack of kids’ toys at home, donate them to a local shelter or a children’s home.
Related: 11 Easiest DIY Toys Anyone Can Make
Finally, always rein in your want for more stuff. When you need less, you would not have to spend as much on kid’s toys, save a lot of dollars in the process, and teach your kids the value of wise shopping.