I’ve already started writing about the ten things you don’t need for your baby. But it shouldn’t stop there. What about the top 100 things? Top 1000? I don’t think it would be a list terribly difficult to populate.
It’s not just about specific items they don’t really need, it’s whether they need everything new, everything branded, and everything child specific.
- Does your 5 year old learn to read faster when they read from a $20 book bought new from Amazon, or when they read from a $1 book bought second-hand from The Salvation Army?
- Does your 6 month old seem happier when they wear $60 dresses from Country Road, or free dresses from your cousin’s older baby?
- Does your 2 year old get better nutrition from $5 mini rice cakes, or $2 medium rice cakes?
I’ve seen kids that have every modern whiz-bang toy on the market who don’t know how to play. Don’t know how to play! Can you imagine it!? It’s because the toys mostly play with themselves and the kid watches, or barely interacts, or the parents who worry about being present and involved play with the toys to show the kid how to have fun.
Fun for free?
My brother used to sit by himself for hours with old boxes and sticks and tape and glue and bottle lids and whatever else he’d scrounged up, creating, thinking, exploring, learning, and playing. He called it ‘Making’. He was in heaven when he was Making.
I once spent weeks devising a trolley cart to carry my toys up and down three flights of stairs. Then they’d go on picnics complete with teeny weeny sandwiches wrapped in infinitesimally tiny squares of cling wrap.
I’m not talking the good old days, I’m talking about the 80’s (Ah, they were the good old days!)! These days kids don’t seem to make and create as much fun, not anywhere near as much as they used to. It’s all bought and paid for and pre-packaged and unwrapped and observed and absorbed and thrown away.
A cheaper way?
How many presents did your kids get for Christmas? What about their last birthday? Did it even stop then? How often do you or others buy things for them? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against buying things for children. But are we thinking it through? Are we buying things too automatically, and forgetting all the other options and how they have benefits as well?
Instead of buying child-specific, branded, new things for your children:
- Buy second-hand
- Swap with other families
- Borrow from libraries
- Make things from cheaper or reusable items
- Share with other families
- Use things you already have
- Use cheaper more versatile items
Outside the box
Without a toy that walks around and makes noises while he watches, your child will have to think outside the box to find some fun. Forget outside the box, think Inside the box – give them a box to play with!
It’s a place to put things in, to decorate, to build with, to hide in, to imagine with. It’s a dollhouse waiting to happen, it’s a car waiting to be designed, it’s a cave waiting to be dreamed up, it’s a cubby house waiting to be decorated…
If you think your child needs something, or you’d like them to have something – Please don’t think I’m suggesting you deny it them.
But add a thoughtful step or two to the process,
- I’d like little Smoggins (yes this imaginary parent named their child Smoggins) to have a dollhouse and some yoghurt.
- Is buying a new, expensive dollhouse and miniature, expensive yoghurt pots my only or best option?
- Might Smoggins enjoy the cheaper, identical except-for-the-size yoghurt I eat? And might Smoggins and I enjoy and learn from building a dollhouse out of recycled materials together?
What you decide is entirely up to you, but being more thoughtful about the things you buy for your children can’t be wrong, can it? :